The contested city: Speculative fiction and metropolitan imagination in colonial Bengal


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Speculative fiction emerged in 19th-century Bengal as a mode of narrative engagement with the city’s colonial modernity during its contact with British colonialism. This fiction, however, was essentially a city-based enterprise interacting with, and moulding, the imperial city of Kolkata in myriad ways. The interaction gave rise to dissenting voices within the gradually emerging educated class of Kolkata. This article explores such intersections of the city and speculative fiction with the aid of two conceptual arcs – morality and corporeality – and argues that, located within divergent imaginaries of representing the city, they construct a contested cityscape. These arcs produce an alternative metropolitan imagination that subverts the colonial imaginary of the city. The article examines two early speculative texts written by Kylas Chunder Dutt and Shoshee Chunder Dutt to explore the nature of this imagination. The colonial imaginary of Kolkata within this speculative textual space offers a locus distinct from the colonizers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-838
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number6
Early online date26 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Indian speculative fiction
  • colonial urban literature
  • Indian writing in English
  • metropolitan imagination
  • Kylas Chunder Dutt
  • Shoshee Chunder Dutt


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