Past TAPSA Talks

TAPSA: “Reading the Landscape: Systematic Geography and Disputed Territory”

Kyle Gardner, PhD Candidate, History

This paper focuses on two different colonial approaches to “reading” the northwestern Himalaya and the broader imperial periphery. The first, a top-down approach centered on constructing a bordered territory, is reflected in the development and organization of gazetteers and other manuals of governance. This increasingly technocratic mode of seeing territory built off of earlier surveys that crafted a unified spatial image India. But this image of bounded territory belied deeper uncertainties in frontier locales. The second half of the paper is devoted to case studies that challenge the top-down reading of imperial territory. These include debates over the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir’s jāgīr (rent-free estate) in Tibet, concerns over the triennial Ladakhi “tribute” mission to Lhasa (the lo.phyag), the apparent abduction of a Ladakhi trader by Tibetan authorities, and ongoing debates between Tibetan, Kashmiri, and British officials over where semi-nomadic pastoralists (byang.pa) were to pay taxes. These examples offer an alternative reading of the landscape, one that is much less legible to colonial administrators and casts doubt on the top-down definition of boundaries assumed in the geographical episteme of the gazetteers and other administrative manuals.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: “We Can’t Afford to Be Ethical: Professional Aspirations and its Limits in Pakistani News Media”

Ayesha Mulla, PhD Candidate, Anthropology

In 2013, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists surmised that at least 18,000 new journalists had entered the workforce, where almost 70% of these recruits had no formal training in journalism and less than 5% of which were women. Drawing on recent ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Karachi and in-depth interviews with a range of broadcast news journalists – from reporters and producers to executive producers – this paper traces how the professional aspirations of journalists turn on the ambiguous and volatile boundaries of sensationalist television news in Pakistan.
Among the frequent critiques levied at private news channels, the trope of the untrained reporter, dispatched to cover breaking news events, continues to feature regularly in liberal elite commentary. Invariably described as contaminating crime scenes, entering victims’ residences, shoving cameras and microphones into grieving family members faces and asking them inane questions in between their wails, these “unprofessional” and “unethical” reporters often find themselves in precarious dilemmas. Caught between the ratings-race to deliver breaking news footage to their respective newsrooms and simultaneously scapegoated by their corporate management when they step out of bounds, how do employees in the television news industry negotiate their journalistic ethics while operating in a climate of uncertainty that has both fed and threatened their daily work? Tracing these conflicting tensions, this paper will show how the prevailing discourse on the ethics of journalism (as aspirational and yet inadequate), becomes a site through which vulnerable labor in the Pakistani news media industry emerges as most apparent.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: Zak leonard, PhD candidate, History

From the late 1830s onwards, Quakers, radicals, abolitionists, and free traders increasingly sought to ameliorate the condition of British subjects at home and abroad who suffered at the hands of monopolistic forces. Articulating a rights-based imperial constitutionalism that interwove a defense of English liberties and natural law, these reformers observed that Indian peasant cultivators, the British working classes, and native princes alike were degraded by forms of political, or “virtual,” slavery. Representing the economic and political monopolization of power as an intra-imperial evil provided the reformers with a unifying principle for their agitation. Moreover, it allowed them to envision a future in which India could be thoroughly integrated within the broader empire as an equal trading partner and governed as a sub-polity under metropolitan legal protection. But despite these advances, officials in the upper echelon of the East India Company bureaucracy repudiated calls for greater transparency. Institutionalized obstacles continued to obviate systematic reform and hinder the establishment of a functional imperial civil society. This paper will focus on two particular issues that precipitated debate over Indians’ subject rights: the causes of the 1837-38 Agra famine and the dethronement of Pratap Singh, the raja of the princely state of Satara, in 1839. In doing so, it will engage with recent scholarship on constitutionalism, the creation of scandal, and the revival of Burkean critiques of colonial malfeasance.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: “Of Parrots and Crows: Bīdel and Ḥazīn in their Own Words”

Jane Mikkelson, PhD candidate, SALC and NELC

Was there a historically identifiable “Indian style” of early modern Persian poetry, or is this a term that has been merely invented (as some have argued) by modern scholarship? If there was indeed an emic conception of an Indian style of Persian verse, in what did this style consist, and by whom was it defined? Finally, what is the value of thinking with this category today? This talk will attempt to address these questions in two ways. First, key examples drawn from the early modern Persian literary critical tradition will be presented, with particular attention to how certain figurations – including ambiguity (īhām), metaphor (esteʿāre), and what is imagined (khayāl) – were identified by early modern Persian-language critics as being constitutive of an Indian style. These first steps towards reconstructing the complex history of the very idea of an Indian style lead to the second angle of approach: allowing the poets to speak for themselves. To this end, the talk will examine three early modern Persian lyric poems on the theme of geography, homeland, and exile: a ghazal by Ṣāʾeb Tabrīzī (d.1676), and two response-poems (javābs) by Bīdel Dehlavī (d.1721) and Ḥazīn Lāhījī (d.1766), close reading of which will be informed by categories, values, and orientations recovered from the early modern critical tradition. Building on the rich range of specific meanings and values that analysis of these three poems brings to light, it will also be argued more generally that attending to the Persian lyric tradition must be regarded as vital – even central – to investigating matters of style, geography, and belonging in the early modern Persianate world.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: “The Reluctant Bureaucrat: the Ethical and the Everyday in Punjab’s Irrigation bureaucracy”

Maira Hayat

This paper explores the Irrigation bureaucracy in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and pursues two nodes as limits to the bureaucratic self: friendship and corruption. It brings into conversation literature on bureaucracies, states, and the ethical and everyday. The paper is a part of a dissertation chapter I am currently working on. My dissertation is titled, Ecologies of Water Governance in Pakistan: The Colony, the Corporation and the Contemporary.

Dates: 
Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: "Defining Slavery through Tamil and Malayalam Texts"

Malarvizhi Jayanth

Comparisons between West Indian and South Asian forms of slavery marked the unprecedented scrutiny of the enslaved in nineteenth-century southern India during the East India Company’s attempts to abolish slavery. Taking the question posed by abolitionism to an assortment of Tamil and Malayāḷam texts ranging from the ancient through the modern, this talk presents some indigenous definitions of slavery. While elite texts posit caste difference as cause for enslavement and place the enslaved outside history altogether, subaltern rituals and texts question the hierarchy and insist on the historical agency of the enslaved.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: "Style, Voice and Philosophy: A Study of Ratnākaraśānti’s and Jñānaśrīmitra’s Introductory Verses"

David Tomlinson

Does our appreciation of a philosopher’s style and voice affect effect our reading of his or her arguments? And if it does, is there any way that this might be admissible as evidence in our discussion of those arguments? By looking at their ornate introductory verses, I will explore these questions by considering the contrasting voices and philosophical, religious, and pedagogical interests of the eleventh-century Indian Buddhist philosophers Ratnākaraśānti and Jñānaśrīmitra.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

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