Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 210 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Bret Benjamin

Committee Members

Paul Stasi, Glyne Griffith


Allegory, Contemporary Literature, Marxism, Neoliberalism, Post-colonialism, South Asian Literature, Neoliberalism and literature, Postcolonialism in literature, South Asian fiction, South Asian fiction (English)

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Asian Studies


In his book After Critique, Mitchum Huehls writes that neoliberalism is “the socio-cultural dominant” of our contemporary moment. In this study, I ask: if neoliberalism is indeed the socio-cultural dominant today, how have contemporary South Asian fictions responded to it? Drawing upon Fredric Jameson’s hypothesis that all literary works are allegorical, I argue that in contemporary South Asian fictions, the representation of neoliberalism has often taken two different historical trajectories: apprehension of it as a structure of feeling, and critique of its corrosive effects on society and the planet. Drawing upon contemporary scholarship, I outline a Marxist theory of neoliberalism. In the body chapters, I engage with South Asian fictions from writers such as Akhtaruzzaman Elias, Aravind Adiga, H. M. Naqvi, Mohsin Hamid, Arundhati Roy, and Amitav Ghosh, whose works offer representations of some the most pervasive features of neoliberal capitalism: the monetization of consciousness and the subjugation of affect; uneven spatial development and the suppression of utopian impulses; the financialization of economy and the systemic production of the surplus population. In my concluding chapter, I point towards a paradigm shift, suggesting that the destruction of the planetary web of life and the systemic production of xenophobic racism allow us to see how the effects of neoliberalization have snowballed into a set of calamitous crises in today’s late neoliberal era—crises that have been compellingly explored by some recent works of fiction. Standing amidst the ruins of neoliberalism, I argue, South Asian fictions in the last three decades have provided penetrating, and at times conflicting, accounts of our lives and times. The neoliberal allegories I analyze in the dissertation, afford us a critical vantage on the contemporary modes through which capital relentlessly exploits labor; they also bring into purview the “optimism of the will” of the ordinary people who dare to envision a post-neoliberal future and put in efforts to create a world built on the foundations of economic justice and empathy.