Philipp Sperner
ifk Junior Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2021 bis 30. June 2022

»Never A-part«. Narratives of Friendship and the Political Imaginary of Postcolonial Democracy


Provided democracy is not just a form of government but primarily »a mode of associated living,« as B. R. Ambedkar argued, the task is to inquire how this concept relates to cultural artistic representation and production. Both in India and Europe, the idea of friendship helped elucidate the democratic idea of universal equality as an articulation of individual and singular intimacy. What does the narrative of friendship say about our notion of democracy? This question lies at the heart of my research project on the »Politics of Friendship« in twentieth-century India. Next to recounting a culturally specific history of (democratic) ideas in and through literary texts, the project also explores the possibilities for new democratic narratives beyond Eurocentric limitations and with a global outlook.


Philipp Sperner studied comparative literature and South Asian studies in Innsbruck and London (SOAS). He is a doctoral student at the DFG-funded research training group »Literature and Globalisation« at LMU Munich. His dissertation explores the political imaginary of democracy under the conditions of postcoloniality, particularly in modern India. More broadly, Philipp Sperner’s research interests include global intellectual history, postcolonial and political theory, deconstruction and 20th-century Hindi literature.


»A Perpetuity of Lesser Emptiness: The Social Space of the Post-Colonial Small Town and Vinod
Kumar Shukla’s Naukar kī kamīz«, in: Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 8:3, 2021, S. 380 - 395; »Harmful
Speech and the Politics of Hurt Sentiments: Censorship as a Biopolitical Project in India«, in: Economic and Political
Weekly (EPW)
, 51:44–45, 2016, S. 109–116; »Literarische Solidarität im globalen Kontext«, in: Martin Mader (Hg.),
Arbeiter(kultur) in Literatur, bildender Kunst und Film, Innsbruck 2014, S. 119–149.

20 December 2021
  • Lecture
Philipp Sperner

Von der Freundschaft zwischen Maus und Krähe oder die Erfindung der indischen Mittelschichtsmoral


Für die Maus ist die Freundschaft mit der Krähe eine sehr riskante Angelegenheit, die nur mit Klugheit gelingen kann. So suggeriert es die Fabel aus dem altindischen »Pañcatantra«. Doch geht es hier nicht (nur) um Tierbeziehungen, sondern auch um die Geschichte der bürgerlichen Erziehung sowie der nationalen Selbstbestimmung in Indien.