Past Events

South Asia Seminar - Oliver Freiberger

"I Belong to the Sakyas' Son:" Revisiting Religious Boundary-Making in Ancient India"

This talk discusses the question of how historians of religion can distinguish religions in pre-modern South Asia. It suggests seven aspects of an analysis of religious boundary-making and then presents two examples from ancient India, the concept of the Buddha as an avatāra of Viṣṇu in the Purāṇas and the segregating concept of the Middle Way in the so-called Pāli canon. The analysis of these cases will focus on the plurality and instability of religious boundaries. The talk also discusses the application of the terms “religion” and “religions” and argues that terms widely used to identify the latter are problematic, hybrid terms that are fully contingent upon the demarcation activities of religious actors.

Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 4:30pm
Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street)

Film Screening - "Umbartha" (Threshold)

Umbartha (translation: Threshold) is a 1982 Marathi film directed by well known Marathi director, Jabbar Patel. The film’s main protagonist Sulaba Mahajan, played by Smita Patil, struggles with the demands of family and her role as the superintendent of a Women’s Home. The film was adjudged the Best Feature Film in Marathi at the 29th National Film Awards. Smita Patil’s performance in this film inspired well known film maker Costa Gavars to organize the first ever retrospective on an Indian female actor (Smita Patil) in Paris.

Join us for light Maharashtrian refreshments and look out for more films as part of our Marathi films retrospective this quarter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 3:30pm

TAPSA Talk - Bushra Asif

"Sanctioning Subordination? The Politics of Gender Laws in Pakistan"

Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 4:30pm
Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street)

Film Screening - "Kangal Malsat" (War Cry of the Beggars)

Suman Mukhopadhyay’s film Kangal Malsat (2013, 1 hour 53 minutes) depicts groups of Choktars (wizards) and Fyataroos (flying humans) jointly launching guerilla attacks against the ruling Communist Party in West Bengal. They are advised by an ageless primordial talking crow and an Indo-colonial half-breed. Total chaos in Calcutta ensues.

Prof. Dipesh Chakrabarty will introduce the film. Discussion and reception with the director to follow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 4:30pm
Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street)

Militant Publics in India: Physical Culture and Violence in the Making of a Modern Polity


Please join us for a talk by Arafaat Valiani, Assistant Professor of History in the Department of History at the University of Oregon.

A recent feature article in Caravan magazine explored the prospect that the BJP will project Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, as its Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 general election. The fact that this has come to pass has, once again, thrust politics in Gujarat into the national limelight. Drawing on his recent book, entitled Militant Publics in India: Physical Culture and Violence in the Making of a Modern Polity (2011), Professor Arafaat Valiani’s lecture will discuss the place of violence and popular activism, two things closely associated with Modi’s ascendancy, by tracing it in the context of Gandhi’s satyagraha movement in colonial South Africa and Gujarat.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 12:00pm
Pick 105 (5828 South University Avenue)

SA Seminar - Srilata Raman

"Anti-Hagiography and Public Controversy in Colonial South India"

The genre of polemical literature collectively known as khaṇḍanas has a long history in both Sanskrit and Tamil literature. Nevertheless, polemical positions long rehearsed and anticipated, through centuries of inter-textuality, had to re-thought and crafted anew with the decisive emergence of Christianity – both Jesuitical and Evangelical – in the Tamil literary scene, both in Jaffna and Southern India, starting from the 17th century. After the mid-19th century much of this polemics, among the traditional elites, was conducted in the new medium of printed books. There was, in general, an increased literary competitiveness in the air as those other than the traditional, religious establishment, who formed a category of self-invented, new and “lay” religious leaders, began to give voice to their views in print, thus provoking the critical response of the former. In this paper I will discuss one such work that repudiated, through savage polemics, the genre of hagiography, as practiced in the Tamil religious context. I call this text an anti-hagiography inasmuch as it questions and subverts hagiographical assumptions through comprehensively containing elements of a genre inversion. The text is attributed to Ārumuka Nāvalar of Jaffna (1822-1879) and is an indictment of his with regard to his contemporary and popular Śaivite religious poet Ramalinga Swamigal (1823-1874). In discussing this text we will also be addressing the broader issues of religious authority, canonicity and the new conceptions of authorship which begin to emerge in the context of the printing of religious literature in colonial South India.

Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 4:30pm
Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street)

Swami Vivekananda's 150th Birth Anniversary


Welcome Music by Sur Musafir

Opening Ceremony
Lighting 150 Lamps & Peace Chant by Children of Chinmaya Mission

Welcome Address
Elizabeth Davenport,, Dean, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel

Keynote Address
Swami Varadananda, Asst. Minister, Vedanta Society of Chicago

Group Song by Unity in the Dunes Church Choir

Empowerment of Women
Professor Rochona Majumdar, University of Chicago

Unity in Diversity
Swami Shantarupananda, Minister-in-Charge, Vedanta Society of Portland

Group Song by BAGC

Upliftment of the Masses
Professor Gary Tubb, University of Chicago

Vivekananda’s Contribution to Humanity
Swami Ishatmananda, Vedanta Society of Chicago

Eastern & Western Fusion Music by Sur Musafir
Vote of Thanks

Sunday, October 6, 2013 - 2:30pm
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel (5850 S. Woodlawn)

South Asia Seminar - Anna Lise Seastrand

"Representing Self and Site: A new approach to history of the Nayaka period"

In a period of sharp decline in traditional lithic inscriptional activity, inscriptions abound in painted media of the 17th and 18th centuries. Yet text has never been recognized as a distinct and important feature of temple and palace murals, even though the search for narrative content and attribution of patronage dominate the few scholary studies of South Indian Murals. Focusing on a corpus almost completely unknown to scholarship, this paper will explore the intersections of text, portraiture, and topographic images in 17th and 18th-century temple murals of southeastern India. My research suggests that topographic imagery and narratives became of signal interest to writers, painters, and patrons because of broad changes in the political and economic interrelationships of the period. Drawing on heretofore-undiscovered donor portraits and inscriptions, I will focus on how and why diverse donors (royal, merchant, and monastic) inscribed their presence onto sacred sites and into their histories.

Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 4:30pm
Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street)

Audio Cultures in India

Monday, September 16, 2013 (All day) to Wednesday, September 18, 2013 (All day)

Shubha Mudgal Concert

Centuries ago, some of the most powerful and ecstatic expressions of love, devotion, and surrender to the ultimate were authored by the great saint poets from the Indian subcontinent. Most of this great literary treasure was meant to be sung, and continues to inspire Indian musicians today including Shubha Mudgal, one of India’s most celebrated and versatile singers.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to enjoy Mudgal’s entrancing musical reflections on India's mystic poetry.

The event is free. Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis.

Logan Center, Performance Hall 074
915 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL

Presented by the Smart Museum of Art, Eye on India, and Natya Dance Theatre with additional support provided by the University of Chicago’s Committee on Southern Asian Studies and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.

Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Logan Center, Performance Hall 074