MELUS-India:MELUS-India was founded in 1997, by a handful of faculty members of the English Department of Panjab University, Chandigarh. It began as the India Chapter of MELUS, the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the USA, the second MELUS Chapter set up outside the USA (the first being MELUS-Europe, now called MESEA). Part of an international chain, MELUS-India expresses the collective desire of students and scholars from India to form a global network for mutual interaction. It encourages the pursuit of art and literature across barriers of race, class, gender and nationality. MELUS-India has a membership that runs into hundreds and the numbers are steadily growing. It meets every year and has already conducted several successful well-attended national and international conferences. MELUS-India wishes to provide a common forum for intellectual exchange, to expand the canon of American Literature, cut across boundaries, de-center the given canon, and establish an international network of scholars who share mutual interests. At the same time, one of its goals is to encourage comparative perspectives and turn to multi-ethnic literatures of India with a keener interest. So, on the one hand, while the Society looks outward, establishing connections with the wide world outside, it also takes a look at Indian literatures and places them in a global context.AND NOW, MELOW: Although the activities of MELUS-India were very satisfying, the feeling has steadily grown that doing American literature is fine but a comparatist perspective is needed: American literature needs to be evaluated vis-à-vis other literatures of the world. Where does it stand in comparison? How does America relate to what is going on outside its borders? The members of MELUS-India felt that an association just for the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the USA was not enough: it failed to satisfy their intellectual / scholarly aspirations and research interests. Something more was needed. For this reason, MELUS-India opened up its frontiers, included mainstream American literature, too, in its conferences, and also invited papers on Canadian literature, and literatures from South America. But the desire to reach out farther, across all borders was great and the limits unbounded.At the same time, it could not be denied that the ‘American Studies’ scenario in India had changed steadily. It was different from what it was fifteen years ago, when everyone was doing American Studies and happy enough with American Studies per se. But, with the emergence of new areas of study, and with the academic focus shifting to fresh, unexplored areas, it was not longer possible to remain isolated from what was happening in the world; one would like to remove all blinkers and look around, re-vision the global scenario, and re-assess one’s own position in the changing times. And so, the members of MELUS-India toyed with the idea of widening the horizons of the Association. A lot of deliberations took place over the last few years. Finally, there seemed to be some consensus and it was decided that a parallel organization would be floated, called MELOW (Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World). This Society would co-exist with the present Society. It would include all current members of MELUS-India, organize its activities and conferences in conjunction with MELUS-India, have its conferences dove-tailing into MELUS-India Conferences, on a compatible theme, and decide matters related to membership fee, further rules, and office-bearers at its future meetings.After an animated discussion at the 2005 conference in Chandigarh, almost all the members of MELUS-India present at the General Body Meeting signed in agreement. And so began a new chapter without closing the previous one! MELUS-India members became MELOW members, looking forward with enthusiasm towards having a stronger association with a far-reaching, wider base. January 2006 saw a combined conference in Hyderabad, with the two Societies presenting two different facets of the same theme. “Dialog Across Cultures” was the main theme of the Conference. The MELUS sub-theme was “Bridging Differences in American Literature” and for MELOW it was “India and the World”, its first conference focusing on India. In March 2007 the twin Societies met again in Chandigarh for another International Conference, this time on “Literature in Times of Violence.” In November 2008 the Annual Conference was held in Shantiniketan, W Bengal. The assiciation continues to grow.
Where do we stand today? MELUS-India and MELOW today are acknowledged as responsible, world-class academic organizations with links with other international organizations across the globe. Apart from MELUS in the U.S., MESEA in Europe, and the international IASA, its members stay in contact with leading university departments in India and abroad. News and information is exchanged and circulated on a regular basis. One can, with justification, say that MELUS-India and MELOW have achieved its target of establish a worldwide network of scholars!