Past Conferences and Workshops

Magazines and World Literature Workshop

A workshop with Francesca Orsini (SOAS, UK), Paola Iovene (EALC), Hoyt Long (EALC) and Sascha Ebeling, of UChicago, on the theme of the magazine and world literature.
Much of the recent debate on world literature has revolved around either the curriculum and teaching of World Literature courses, anthologies, or publishers’ series (e.g. Teaching World Literature, Venkat Mani's Recoding World Literature). Yet arguably in many places and for many readers exposure to literatures from other parts of the world largely took place through magazines, and magazines were where foreign books and writers were discussed and reviewed. How is the medium part of the message in the case of the magazine: What kind of experience of world literature do magazines create? Which of the different versions of world literature - the world's classics; the best of X literature; the latest, the contemporary; of similar political affiliation - do particular magazines convey? Does their reliance on short forms (the review, the short note, occasionally the poem or the short story) and on fragmentary, serendipitous, sometimes token offerings produce a particular experience of world literature? How is such an experience different from the more systematic but abstracted ambition of the book series and the course?

In the early twentieth century, Indian periodicals presented world literature as a discovery of the plurality of the world beyond India and the British empire and a redressal of the asymmetric balance and exchange between East and West. For the 1950s and ‘60s, in the context of the Cold War, Andrew Rubin has suggested that “the accelerated transmission of essays and the short story meant that there were newly efficient ways of respatializing world literary time.” Along these lines, Elizabeth Holt has been argued that the “near-simultaneous publication of essays, interviews and sometimes stories and poems in multiple Congress [for Cultural Freedom] journals and affiliated publications engendered a global simultaneity of literary aesthetics and discourses of political freedom and commitment” (Holt). Something similar could also be said for Communist and Third world internationalist magazines like Lotus. This workshop seeks to expand our discussion on world literature to a consideration of the crucial role of magazines, and the particular configurations and experiences of world literature they produced.

Dates: 
Tuesday, October 15, 2019 - 3:00pm
Foster 103

"Identity, Performance and Gender in Pakistan,” a lecture by Sheema Kermani

Through her own personal experience of creating, choreographing, and performing as a dancer and theatre practitioner on the Pakistani stage, and in the process of exploring and discovering a new Pakistani cultural identity, Sheema Kermani will try to lay out an alternate, creative narrative of seventy years of Pakistan.

As a Pakistani female, theatre practitioner, cultural activist and a practicing classical dancer, Kermani has often had to explain her choice of the form of dance that she practices. She has been accused of choosing to practice what are considered outright Hindu dance forms (Bharatanatyam and Odissi). She argues that it is impossible to compartmentalize an art form in terms of aesthetics, religious practice, physical technique, etc. This is an attempt to understand the political outcomes and constructions of national/cultural/religious belonging that are achieved through—and help produce – the construction of a new Pakistani cultural identity.

Lunch will be served.

Dates: 
Friday, October 11, 2019 - 12:30pm
Foster 103

The Committee for South Asian Foreign Language Area National Resource Center Studies, 1999-2019

A talk by Irving Birkner, former Associate Director of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies

Irving Birkner once sent a faculty member into the field with $10,000 in his sock. He offered a KitchenAid mixer as payment and figured out what to do when an alumnus was looking for a good home for their hurdy gurdy. Learned people called him "ugly Liz," "office monkey" and "the office pinata." There were tour boats full of hard drinking literature scholars, getting lost in the Pentagon parking lot, an attack by an actual monkey and lots and lots of paperwork. Also, two broken teeth. In this talk, he'll offer poorly thought out reflections about his 20 years at UChicago, the rise and durability of the administrative institution, and the place he began and ended his time at Chicago, the Committee on Southern Asian Studies. Early in his career, Birkner sought to be a diplomat, an intelligence officer or a teacher. Instead, he became a mid-level higher education bureaucrat and is very happy about that.

Dinner to be served after.

Dates: 
Monday, October 7, 2019 - 5:00pm
Classics 110

[A Talk with Ambai] Body in Living Spaces: Reading, Writing and Archiving Women

This talk will be about ways of viewing contemporary Tamil literature, the acts of reading, writing and translation and about the need to archive women's history, women's lives and women's expression. The talk will attempt to cover a wide range of experiences from the personal to the universal.

Dr. C.S. Lakshmi has been an independent researcher in Women's Studies for the last forty years. She has a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and has worked as a Research Officer in Indian Council of Historical Research and has also been a college lecturer in Delhi for two years. She received the Ford Foundation Fellowship to work on a project entitled Illustrated Social History of Women in Tamil Nadu in 1981, and in 1992 she received the Homi Bhabha Fellowship to do a project on women musicians, dancers and painters. This research work has been brought out in two volumes by Kali for Women as Singer and the Song and Mirrors and Gestures.

She writes fiction under the pseudonym Ambai in Tamil and is a well-known writer in Tamil. Her stories have been translated in five volumes entitled A Purple Sea, In a Forest, A Deer, Fish in a Dwindling Lake, A Night with a Black spider and A Meeting on the Andheri Overbridge. The second book shared the Hutch-Crossword award for translated fiction in 2007. She received the Pudumaipiththan memorial lifetime achievement for her contribution to literature from the U S Tamil cultural organisation Vilakku in 2005. She was awarded the Lifetime Literary Achievement Award of Tamil Literary Garden, University of Toronto, Canada, for the year 2008. She was awarded the Kalaignyar Mu. Karunanidhi Porkizi award for fiction awarded by the Booksellers and Publishers’ Association of South India in the Chennai book fair, January 2011. The University of Madras awarded her for excellence in literature in the centenary celebrations of the International Women’s Day in March 2011.

Her non-fictional works in English include The Face Behind the Mask: Women in Tamil Literature (Vikas, New Delhi, 1984), An Idiom of Silence: An Oral History And Pictorial Study of Art, Consciousness and Women in a Series entitled Seven Seas and Seven Mountains. First volume: The Singer and the Song published by Kali for women, New Delhi, 2000, Second Volume: Mirrors and Gestures published by Kali for women, New Delhi, 2002, The Unhurried City: Writings on Chennai (Ed) published by Penguin Books, 2004, Walking Erect with An Unfaltering Gaze – Autobiographical book written for the When I Was Young series of National Book Trust, 2013, Black Coffee in a Coconut Shell: Caste As Lived Experience – a collection of essays in Tamil on personal experience of caste edited by Perumal Murugan translated from Tamil published by Sage/Yoda Press, New Delhi, 2018.

She is currently the Director of SPARROW (Sound & Picture Archives for Research on Women). She lives in Mumbai with her filmmaker friend Vishnu Mathur, who also happens to be her husband, in a small third-floor flat with a view of the sea, along with her twenty-three year old foster daughter Khintu Saud and her two brothers Krishna and Sonu who brighten up her life.

Ambai’s select short stories have been translated into Swedish (Flod, Karavan,2008)) and in French by Zulma (De haute lute, 2015)

She regularly translates poems from English and Hindi to Tamil and from Tamil to English. She has translated into English a book of more than thirty personal-experience essays on caste edited by Perumal Murugan in Tamil into English as Black Coffee in a Coconut Shell (Sage/Yoda Press, 2018). A book of poems, Fragrance of Peace by Irom Sharmila, the activist from North East, has been translated into Tamil by her and published by Kalachuvadu in 2012.

Dates: 
Monday, October 7, 2019 - 12:30pm
Foster 103

Discussion of Modern South India: A History from the 17th Century to Our Times

Discussion with author Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi

Author of more than a dozen books, Rajmohan Gandhi is a historian and biographer involved also in efforts of trust-building and reconciliation.

Professor until end-2012 with the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he continues to teach as visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, and at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

From 1990 to 1992 he was a member of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament). Earlier in 1990, he led the Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

In the Indian Parliament, he was convener of the all-party joint committee of both houses addressing the condition of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Associated from 1956 with Initiatives of Change (formerly known as Moral Re-Armament), Rajmohan Gandhi served as president of Initiatives of Change International for a two-year term, 2009-10.

Through writing, speaking, public interventions and dialogues he has been engaged for sixty years in efforts for reconciliation and democratic rights.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, he played a leading role in establishing Asia Plateau, the 68-acre centre of Initiatives of Change in the mountains of western India, which fosters dialogue, reconciliation and ethical governance, and is recognized on the Indian subcontinent for its ecological contribution.

During the 1975-77 Emergency in India, he was active for democratic rights personally and through his weekly journal Himmat, published in Bombay from 1964 to 1981.

India-Pakistan and Hindu-Muslim reconciliation have remained his goals. Since 9/11, he has also tried to address the divide between the West and the world of Islam.

Recent books by him include

Understanding the Founding Fathers: An Enquiry into the Indian Republic’s Beginnings (New Delhi: Aleph, 2016)
Prince of Gujarat: The Extraordinary Story of Prince Gopaldas Desai, 1887-1951 (New Delhi: Aleph, 2014); and
Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten, 1707-1947 (New Delhi: Aleph, 2013).
An earlier study, A Tale of Two Revolts: India 1857 & the American Civil War (published in 2009) looked at two 19th-century wars occurring in opposite parts of the world at almost the same time. A previous book by him, Mohandas: A True Story of a Man, His People and an Empire, published in India, England, France and the USA, received the Barpujari Biennial Award from the Indian History Congress in 2007.

An earlier book, The Good Boatman: A Portrait of Gandhi, was published in 2009 in a Chinese translation in Beijing.

In 2002 he received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his Rajaji: A Life, a biography of Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.

Other books by him include Patel: A Life, a biography of Sardar Vallabhbai Patel; Revenge & Reconciliation: Understanding South Asian History; Understanding the Muslim Mind; and Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns.

Before teaching at the University of Illinois, he served as Research Professor with the New Delhi think-tank, Centre for Policy Research. From 1985 to 1987, he edited the daily Indian Express in Madras (now Chennai), India.

Dates: 
Friday, May 10, 2019 - 2:00pm
Classics 110

The Modern Spirit of Asia: Comparing Indian and Chinese Spiritual Nationalism

Annual Vivekananda Lecture by Professor Peter van der Veer, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Peter van der Veer is Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity at Göttingen and is currently a Visiting Professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. He served as Dean of the Social Science Faculty and as Dean of the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research at Amsterdam, and as Director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam and Chairman of the Board of the International Institute for Asian Studies, both in Leiden. Van der Veer works on religion and nationalism in Asia and Europe. He published a monograph on the comparative study of religion and nationalism in India and China, entitled The Modern Spirit of Asia. The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India (Princeton University Press, 2013) Among his other major publications are Gods on Earth (LSE Monographs, 1988), Religious Nationalism (University of California Press, 1994), and Imperial Encounters (Princeton University Press, 2001). Most recently he edited the Handbook of Religion and the Asian City. Aspiration and Urbanization in the Twenty-First Century (University of California Press) Professor van der Veer serves on the Advisory Board of China in Comparative Perspective, Political Theology, and the Journal of Religious and Political Practice. He has just started a new journal: Cultural Diversity in China.

Dates: 
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 6:30pm
Social Sciences 122

“Popular Islam in South Asian Visual Culture,” lecture by renowned filmmaker Yousuf Saeed

Among the vibrant examples of public art found in Indian towns and villages, the most popular are religious posters and calendars depicting deities, saints, and places of worship. Besides iconography of Hindu deities, a large number of Islamic posters portraying the shrines at Mecca and Medina, or the Quranic verses in calligraphy are also available, besides the portraits of local Sufi saints, their tombs, miracles, and other folklore, represented as vividly as in a Hindu mythological scene. Unhindered depiction of Sufi portraits in this popular culture often disrupts the stereotype of Islam’s image of iconoclasm and reveals the sentiments of popular Muslim piety. These popular portraits and media also help attract the devotees to their shrines, despite the fact that such hybrid culture is increasingly frowned upon by many Muslims affected by the puritanical Wahhabi ideology. Interestingly, Muslim artists or publishers do not necessarily produce all these Islamic images – the industry doesn’t distinguish between the identities of producers and consumers of these images, and continues to remain largely syncretic. This presentation features examples of popular visuality and rituals associated with Sufis and their shrines through images and videos. Short documentary films, Basant (12 mins), Sufi Sama (12 mins) and Jannat ki Rail (7 mins) will be shown in the presentation.

About presenter:
Yousuf Saeed is a Delhi-based independent filmmaker and writer, currently managing the Tasveer Ghar archive of popular art. Having worked at organizations like the Times of India and Encyclopedia Britannica, Yousuf has produced TV programmes (like Turning Point on Doordarshan) and documentary films like Basant, Khayal Darpan, Jannat ki Rail, Khusrau Darya Prem ka, and Campus Rising, besides writing in the Times of India, Marg, and other periodicals. He has researched on and documented south Asia’s popular Islamic art and heritage, authoring a richly illustrated volume Muslim Devotional Art in India (Routledge, 2018) and a small visual catalogue South Asia’s Islamic Popular Art (2019).

More details about the presenter: http://yousufsaeed.com

Dates: 
Monday, April 22, 2019 - 12:30pm
Foster 103

Sixteenth Annual South Asia Graduate Student Conference: “South Asia: The Political, the Public, the Popular”

South Asia Graduate Student Conference XVI: The Political, the Public, and the Popular
For more information on the conference, including its schedule, please visit: https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/sagsc/

Fri., Mar. 8 and Sat., Mar. 9

Friday, March 8
Keynote: Ayesha Jalal, “Past Presentism: History and the Recovery of Imagination” (Swift Lecture Hall)
6:30pm — FILM SCREENING: ‘Abu’ (2017), followed by discussion with director Arshad Khan (Logan Center for the Performing Arts, Screening Room 201). A reception with appetizers and drinks will be held preceding the screening outside of Room 201 (5:30pm-6:30pm)

Saturday, March 9
Keynote: Pamela Philipose, “South Asia: Borders on Maps and Minds” (Swift Lecture Hall)
7:00 — Dinner (Logan Center for the Performing Arts, Performance Penthouse 901)

Organizing Committee:
Andrew Halladay, South Asian Languages and Civilizations; History
Titas De Sarkar, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Zoya Sameen, History
Faculty Advisor: Laura Letinsky, Professor, Department of Visual Arts

Dates: 
Friday, March 8, 2019 - 9:00am to Saturday, March 9, 2019 - 9:00pm
Swift Hall 3rd Floor Lecture Hall, Logan Center for Performing Arts

From Weber to Varāha: Toward an Astrological Hinduism

Public Lecture by Marko Geslani, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of South Carolina

Marko Geslani is a historian of religion specializing in ritual studies and medieval Hinduism. His first book, Rites of the God-King: Śānti and Ritual Change in Early Hinduism (OUP 2018), forms a historiographic critique of Hinduism through a history of omen-appeasement (śānti) rituals, from late Vedic ritual manuals to medieval Hindu purāṇas. His current research explores the role of the astrological tradition (jyotiḥśāstra) on the problems of personhood and state formation in early Hinduism. He is also researching the recent history of Hindu studies in the North American Academy from the perspective of Asian American studies.

Dates: 
Monday, January 28, 2019 - 4:30pm
Swift Hall Common Room

Measuring Futures: Expertise and Postcolonial Politics in Asia

Measuring Futures will comparatively examine the rise and impact of postwar data and planning sciences on development policies, democratic change and political infrastructures in a number of Asian countries, including India, China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. This effort is part of a longer series of events at the University of Chicago (under the title New Nations/New Sciences: Cybernetic States), that aimed to revisit historical and anthropological insights on the politics of expertise, to centrally examine the tensions between technocracy and democratic aspirations in the Asian context.

Dates: 
Monday, December 10, 2018 (All day) to Tuesday, December 11, 2018 (All day)

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