Suchitra Vijayan sits down with author Jessica Namakkal to discuss her book “Unsettling Utopia”. The book presents a new account of the history of twentieth-century French India to show how colonial projects persisted beyond formal decolonization. Through the experience of the French territories, Namakkal recasts the relationships among colonization, settlement, postcolonial sovereignty, utopianism, and liberation, considering questions of borders, exile, violence, and citizenship from the margins. She demonstrates how state-sponsored decolonization—the bureaucratic process of transferring governance from an imperial state to a postcolonial state—rarely aligned with local desires.
Jessica Namakkal is associate professor of the practice in international comparative studies; gender, sexuality, and feminist studies; and history at Duke University.