The Thrill of Emergency and the Chronic Crisis of Corruption

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the increasingly urgent public debates on India’s democracy, the Emergency (1975–77) is emerging as an important interpretative site: an exceptionally violent episode marked as a one-off crisis that also allows for an ongoing renegotiation of a modern Indian polity and culture. Manohar Malgonkar’s The Garland Keepers (1980), a little-known, fast-paced and highly entertaining political spy thriller, provides one entry point to situate the Emergency within its larger geopolitical and historical contexts of colonial rule, Partition, the Cold War and India–Pakistan relations. The article demonstrates that the crisis of the Emergency functions simultaneously as exceptional and non-exceptional, unexpected and yet familiar. Attention to narrative form and the various genealogies of the spy thriller and in India allow for an exploration of the relationship between genre and politics. I argue that even popular genres carry political meaning, revealing the tense negotiations between crisis and continuity, ultimately critiquing both the one-off Emergency and the iterative emergency of ongoing corruption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-685
Number of pages14
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 South Asian Studies Association of Australia.


  • Crisis in literature
  • Indian Emergency 1975–77
  • Indian novel in English
  • Manohar Malgonkar
  • genre fiction
  • political corruption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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