Past Events

South Asia Seminar Series: “Army and Nation: How Did India Make its Army Safe for Democracy?”

South Asia Seminar presentation by Steven Wilkinson.

At Indian independence in 1947, the country’s founders worried that the army India inherited— conservative and dominated by officers and troops drawn disproportionately from a few “martial” groups—posed a real threat to democracy. They also saw the structure of the army, with its recruitment on the basis of caste and religion, as incompatible with their hopes for a new secular nation.

India has successfully preserved its democracy, however, unlike many other colonial states that inherited imperial “divide and rule” armies, and unlike its neighbor Pakistan, which inherited part of the same Indian army in 1947. As Steven I. Wilkinson shows, the puzzle of how this happened is even more surprising when we realize that the Indian Army has kept, and even expanded, many of its traditional “martial class” units, despite promising at independence to gradually phase them out.

Army and Nation draws on uniquely comprehensive data to explore how and why India has succeeded in keeping the military out of politics, when so many other countries have failed. It uncovers the command and control strategies, the careful ethnic balancing, and the political, foreign policy, and strategic decisions that have made the army safe for Indian democracy. Wilkinson goes further to ask whether, in a rapidly changing society, these structures will survive the current national conflicts over caste and regional representation in New Delhi, as well as India’s external and strategic challenges.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

Dance performance: "Veera: Tales of Heroism"

Join Apsara for their annual spring production, "Veera: Tales of Heroism". Watch them explore what heroism entails by journeying through tales of religion, history, and mythology!

Apsara is the Indian classical dance group at the University of Chicago. They explore a range of classical Indian styles, including Bharatanatyam, Odissi, and Kathak in both traditional and contemporary formats.

Show timings: TWO shows, at 2.30 pm and 7 pm.

Saturday, May 30, 2015 - 2:30pm
Logan Center Performance Hall

South Asia Seminar: Anna Schultz (Stanford University), “The Afterlives of Publishing: Memory and the Remaking of Bene Israel Song”

When older Bene Israel women perform Marathi Jewish songs, they sing from notebooks of song texts lovingly transcribed from the voices of mothers, aunts, and friends. Men rarely maintain such notebooks, and most singers are unaware that women’s songs were composed, published, and performed by men in the context of 19th-century Indian cultural nationalism and Indian Jewish renewal. Drawing on published sources and on fieldwork conducted with Bene Israel singers in India and Israel between 2012 and 2015, this paper addresses the role of memory in the re-gendering and re-literization of Marathi Jewish song, and interrogates the shifting interplay between orality and literacy in this tiny minority community. This is a South Asia Speaker Series event led by Anna Schultz, Assistant Professor at Stanford University's Department of Music.

Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

The Second Annual Indian Ministry of Culture Vivekananda Visiting Professor Lecture: Vivekananda’s Irish Disciple: Sister Nivedita

Dipesh Chakrabarty, the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in History, South Asian Lan-guages and Civilizations, and the College, will focus on the Indian life of Sister Nivedita (Margaret Elizabeth Noble, b. 1867) who arrived in India in 1898 as a disciple of Swami Vivekananda and died there in 1911. Her experience of India provides fascinating material for a cross-cultural history of the land and the people she encountered.

This lecture will be dedicated to the memory of Sir Christopher A. Bayly, the inaugural Vivekananda Visiting Pro-fessor in 2014 and 2015. The Vivekananda Visiting Professorship was established to commemorate the legacy of the Hindu spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda and to enrich the University’s renowned program for the study of the Indian Subcontinent.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Office of Programs & External Relations in advance of the program at 773.753.2274 For more information, please contact Rashmi Joshi at or 773.702.8635. Sponsored by the Division of Humanities, the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, International House, and the Committee on Southern Asian Studies.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 6:00pm
International House Assembly Hall 1414 E. 59th Street

Workshop: “Margins of Dravidianism”

Friday, May 22, 2015 - 9:00am to Saturday, May 23, 2015 - 5:00am

Rupa Viswanath, TAPSA

May 21 (Thurs.)
4:30 PM (Foster 103)

Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: Sharika Thiranagama (Stanford University), “Civility and intimacy: Post war transformations in Sri Lanka”

Join us to hear Sharika Thiranagama, Assistant Professor of the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, speak on "Civility and Intimacy: Post-War Transformations in Sri Lanka" as part of the University of Chicago's South Asia Speaker Series. The Sri Lankan civil war ended brutally in 2009. Alongside the triumphant and troubling extension of Sri Lankan state sovereignty over the war zone areas, new possibilities and old ghosts animate everyday life in post-war Jaffna, one of the former disputed zones. This talk will discuss and contrast narratives about emerging forms of civility around two different kinds of post-war life, the first about inter-ethnic civilities between Tamils and Muslims and the second about intra-ethnic caste disputes with Tamil neighborhoods and families.

Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

Nicholson Faculty Lecture by Rochona Majumdar on “Cinema and the Era of Decolonization: India, 1947- 1964"

Join us for a Nicholson Faculty Lecture by Rochona Majumdar, Associate Professor, Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations titled "Cinema and the Era of Decolonization: India, 1947-1964".

Reception to follow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 4:30pm
Classics 110

TAPSA: Hasan Siddiqui

May 7 (Thurs.)
(4:30pm, Foster 103)

Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: Kris Manjapra (Tufts University), “Age of Entanglement: Indian-German Encounters and the Death of Europe”

Pursuing a multi-sited approach to the study of global intellectual history, this paper studies the interrelation, friction, and entanglement that developed between two distant centers of intellectual modernism located in Calcutta and Berlin, beginning in the late nineteenth century. The paper argues that the apparent peculiarity of German and Indian engagements from the 1880s-1950s actually serves to reveal deep characteristics of global modernist knowledge production, cutting across colonial, racial, civilizational and historiographic divides. By following traces of intellectual diaspora and entanglement, Kris Manjapra employs a critical transnational optic to challenge conventional notions about the boundaries of national identity, the global production of racial thinking, the uses of international comparison, and the sources of modernist thought. This is a South Asia Seminar Series led by Kris Manjapra, Associate Professor of History at Tufts University.

Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 4:30pm
Foster 103