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Sikander, Maryam (2021) Oudh Punch (1877-1915): Satire and Parody in the Colonial Contact Zone. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis looks at the transcultural life of a British magazine—Punch (1841-2002)—in India. From the rich variety of dozens of Punches that cropped up in late nineteenth-century India, it examines the first period of a late nineteenth-century Urdu Punch called Oudh Punch (1877- 1915). How did Punch’s visual and textual idiom travel and get reconstituted across what Mary Louise Pratt has conceptualized as the colonial “contact zone”? Extending current scholarship on cartoons in India, this thesis moves beyond narratives of original and copy, precedence and causality, and examines the Urdu weekly Oudh Punch (1877-1938) as a fundamentally recontextualized and tactically agentive response to a colonial text and cultural form. The colonial contact zone of which Oudh Punch was a part involved a three-sided-engagement— on one side, there was the British Punch, which produced its own visual and textual narratives of India. The second side was formed by the Anglo-Indian Punch, The Delhi Sketch Book (1850-57), which nostalgically harked back to its “esteem’d progenitor” Punch. However, at the same time, it drew comic mileage out of the social and linguistic unevenness of the colonial contact zone, and marked out its difference as an “Indian Punch”. The third node was Oudh Punch which used resources of parody to resemiotise both text and imagery from the other two Punch-archives. Parody is key to my conceptualization of the colonial contact zone. I conceptualize it as a playful, overtly intertextual and self-ironic mode of imitation. The first chapter examines The Delhi Sketch Book through Linda Hutcheon’s theorization of irony as a trans-ideological resource. Ironic utterances like satire and parody that are both formally and ideologically dialogized make the contact zone come alive to possibilities of interlocution. This explains why cartoons from an Anglo-Indian magazine could speak to people on the other side of the colonial power equation. The second chapter, therefore, shows how cartoons were transculturated across the cultural divide and were repurposed to unanticipated uses in the regional Oudh Punch. Within the larger narrative of Urdu public sphere and Muslim revivalism in north India, I argue that Oudh Punch finessed a codified and tactical vocabulary of dissent in an increasingly censorious regime that watched the regional press closely. The third chapter examines the different, often inter-medial and shape-shifting genres of Oudh Punch that negotiated between old and new literary and social sensibilities while expressing self-ironic cynicism at the rapid Anglicization amongst the Urdu-speaking elites especially the intellectuals of the Aligarh Movement. Finally, the last chapter of the thesis shows how parody –of both text and genre—allowed a panoply of genres to get “novelised” in the yet indeterminate format of the early Urdu novel.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Francesca Orsini
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2021 16:49

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