Literary Texts and the Peasant Movement in Odisha: A Discussion

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW.

In 1989, Biswamoy Pati published a paper in EPW, which outlines the way the peasants and tribals figured in the Oriya literature of the 1930s. Pati’s article sheds light on five literary figures of Oriya literature as he traces the shift in the treatment of the figure of the peasant in Oriya literature. The illustration of each writer through a brief description of some of their best works, attempted by the author, is a delightful feature of the article and aids preliminary understanding of the literature that emerged out of Orissa in the 1930s.  

Pati’s article elicits authors Rabi Shankar Mishra and Jatindra Kumar Nayak’s interest as they enter a discussion with Pati. The discussion spanning over five articles, Mishra, Nayak and Pati highlight the intellectual challenges of treating literary texts as source material for a historical analysis. Mishra and Nayak choose to focus on Pati’s treatment of Fakirmohan's Chha Mana Atha Guntha in order to highlight the flaws in Pati's use of literary texts for understanding Orissa's history/society. Through the means of Fakirmohan’s Chha Mana Atha Guntha, the  authors Rabi Shankar Mishra, Jatindra Kumar Nayak and Biswamoy Pati weave a complex debate regarding the plurality of reading literary texts as a means to study history and society.

Although not a part of any major literary movement in Orissa, the literature in discussion had links with the growth of a progressive writer's movement in Orissa in the 1930s. This literature is extremely valuable, both for its literary content as well as for providing us with clues to the perceptions of the intellectuals of peasants and tribals in society, their world views and the changes that were taking place. The discussion embodies the anxieties of an interdisciplinary endeavour attempted by Pati. 



Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—“Literature and Society”


Curated by akankshya []





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