Welcome to the Committee on Southern Asian Studies

Upcoming Events

“The Hidden Histories of South Asian Chicago”

A fundraising event to support the South Asian American Digital Archive

Celebrating 140 years of South Asian American history and the hidden stories of South Asians in Chicago.

A fundraising event to support the South Asian American Digital Archive
Thursday, November 21 @ 6:30pm at The Newberry Library in Chicago
• Welcome remarks by board members and notable community members
• Presentation by Samip Mallick, SAADA's Executive Director
• Storytelling by members of the South Asian American community
• Performance by Boston-based song-maker, Anju
• Hors d'oeuvres and wine & beer bar included in admission
Made possible with support from our sponsors:
Champions: Helix Hospitality
Sustainers: South Asia Institute, SwagatUSA, Sheraton Grand Chicago
Supporters: Single to Shaadi, Warrier Strategy

Learn about sponsorship opportunities by emailing us at sponsorships@saada.org.

Buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-hidden-histories-of-south-asian-chicago...

Thursday, November 21, 2019 - 6:30pm
The Newberry Library in Chicago

TAPSA talk: “Testing Satsang: Standardized Testing and Transnational Organizing in Swaminarayan Hinduism”

Andrew Kunze, doctoral candidate in Divinity School, University of Chicago

In recent decades, some guru-led bhakti movements have instituted standardized testing for their devotees, which recasts test-taking as a devotional exercise, regularizes theological knowledge across the transnational organization, and trains new volunteers to support their growing Hindu community (satsang). One Swaminarayan Hindu organization, known as BAPS (Bochasanwasi Sri Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha), established its own standardized tests, called “Satsang Exams,” in 1972. Since then, Satsang Exams have become a massive annual event, and BAPS has become one of the largest Hindu organizations in the diaspora. The guru of BAPS, Mahant Swami Maharaj, encourages devotees to participate, famously saying “The fruit of Satsang Exams is Akshardham” [the abode of God]. And in 2017, for example, the BAPS Exam Department in Ahmedabad, Gujarat processed over 48,000 exam papers in Gujarati, Hindi, and English, submitted from 515 BAPS testing centers in India and 172 centers abroad. Drawing from historical and ethnographic research among Swaminarayan test-takers and administrators, this presentation will explore the devotional motivations and organizational benefits that make standardized testing so popular in transnational Hinduism.

Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar- Violence and Wages: State Welfare and Social Order in Postcolonial Madras, 1950s-60s

Rupa Visvanath, Professor of Indian Religions, University of Gottingen

In mid-twentieth century Madras state, a primary political goal was to produce a socially harmonious citizenry, while the state’s developmental commitment was to overseeing and governing poverty through the institution of a massive welfare apparatus. This paper reveals the institutional and ideological relations between the two aims in the governance of “Harijan” citizens. Harijans required state intervention when they became victims of violence from caste landlords and employers; at the same time, Harijans were a special subcategory of the poor for whom a Harijan Welfare Department was tasked with the provision of an array of developmental schemes. This paper uses the debates and political activity surrounding a major piece of welfare legislation, the Fair Wages Act, to illustrate how a balance was struck. Correctly determining a fair wage was essential to poverty alleviation. Yet wage regulation also concerned the careful management of agrarian class relations so as to avoid unrest—the miscalibrated wage could, if too low, redound in strikes, and then foment anti-Dalit attacks, it was reasoned. But it could not be so high as to ignite the political opposition of employers. How did a welfare regime organized by caste calculate these political costs, and what can this tell us more broadly about the nature of racialized welfare in modern democracies?

Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

The Study of Southern Asia at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is one of the leading centers for the study of Southern Asia. Countries in which we have scholarly expertise include in South Asia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; and in Southeast Asia, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tibet (as an autonomous region), and Vietnam.

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