Past Events

Winter Departmental Lecture Series in the Department of Comparative Literature: “Cartographies of Belonging: Embodiment and Gender in Contemporary Writing on Migration"

Nisha Kommattam, Visiting Professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago

While in a sense literary texts have always been interested in questions of exile, migration and belonging, in many contemporary literary cultures writers are exploring these questions with renewed urgency. Examples reach from the ‘new migration literatures’ in Germany, France and other European countries to authors who attempt to recover forgotten histories of diversity and cross-cultural otherness in India. Drawing on the recent work of writers in English, German, Malayalam, and Spanish, in three distinct sites – India, Germany and the US – I examine how writers interrogate migration and movement through the lenses of embodiment and gender. On the basis of examples from diverse literary economies – texts such as Arundhati Roy’s new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017), the provocative poetry installations of Anitha Thampi, or Yoko Tawada’s German poetry – I will argue for a critical perspective that views depictions of transgressive, gendered embodiments as rooted in the local and particular.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 4:30pm
Classics 110

South Asia Seminar: "Gaining a Name for Generosity: Ethics and Exemplarity in the Tales of Hatim Ta'i"

Pasha Khan, Chair in Urdu Language and Culture, Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies McGill University

The name of the pre-Islamic Arab Hātim Tā'ī has been a synonym for generosity in Islamicate texts from Andalusia to Southeast Asia, and from biographies of the Prophet Muhammad to Bollywood films. Hātim became the protagonist of tales of extreme generosity, including the 18th-century Indo-Persian Hātim-nāma, in which he gives his own flesh to creatures in need, in a manner reminiscent of the Boddhisatvas of the jātaka stories. This talk explores the economy of the "nām" (name and fame) that Hātim gains in exchange for his sometimes scarcely believable open-handedness, as articulated most strikingly by Sa'dī Shīrazī in 13th-century Iran, and echoed in the reflections on dāna (giving) in the 19th-century Hātim-nama in Braj Bhasha, written by the Sikh poet Saundhā for the ruler of Punjab, Ranjīt Singh. How has the counter-gift of the name worked to render effective the ethical exemplarity of Hātim, often in spite of his status as a non-Muslim? What might have been the limits placed upon, or the damage done to, Hātim's ethics on account of his gaining a name for his generosity?

Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: "Thinking about Rights in India: Life and/or Liberty"

This presentation deals with the centrality of the notion of right to life, derived from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, in India's judicial and legislative discourse- the centrality of this proposition in thinking and doing things legally in India as evidenced by recent judgments from the triple talaq to the upholding of privacy as a fundamental right. This paper will try to explore two questions. Firstly, it will try to understand how right to life emerged as a thinkable proposition in Indian jurisprudence, how it emerged at a particular moment in post-emergency India. Secondly, it will try to understand how right to life has emerged as a more effective tool of legitimation in India and not liberty, given the fact that life and liberty are both protected under Article 21.

Presented by Sayantan Saha Roy, doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology

Thursday, February 1, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: "The Way of the Poet-King: Two Authors, Two Models, Two Languages"

Andrew Ollett, University of Chicago, SALC, Visiting faculty member; Harvard University, Society of Fellows, Post-Doc
Sarah Pierce Taylor, Associate, COSAS

The Way of the Poet-King (Kavirājamārgaṁ), composed around 870, has a strong claim to being the earliest Kannada text to survive in manuscript form, and arguably did more than any other text to establish this “regional language” of South India as a literary idiom more or less on par with Sanskrit. The Way can be characterized, fairly, as a project of the Imperial Rāṣṭrakūṭa court, as a transcreation of an important work of poetics in Sanskrit, namely Daṇḍin’s Mirror of Poetry (Kāvyādarśa), and as a watershed moment in the history of Kannada literature. Our talk will take another look at these three aspects of the Way, but we will emphasize the “twos” that make each of them more complex: its two authors (Śrīvijaya and Nr̥patuṅga), the two works of poetics that served as its primary models (Daṇḍin’s Mirror and Bhāmaha’s Ornament), and the two languages whose relationship to each other is one of the text’s primary concerns (Sanskrit and Kannada).

Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: "Learning from Violence: institutionalized Responses to Buddhist-Muslim Violence in Myanmar"

On August 25th 2017, an attack by Muslim rebels on police outposts in Western Myanmar and the military’s brutal response ignited a humanitarian crisis that the UN has labeled a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Although striking to the West, the violence in Rakhine State was not surprising to many in Myanmar. In Rakhine State as elsewhere in the country, communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims has occurred sporadically since at least the late 19th century. Incidents of violence are in no way inevitable, nor are they always the same, but communities that have experienced violence in the past have learned from these experiences and developed responses to potentially violent situations. The dissertation uses ethnographic and interview data to explore the ways in which communities experience and respond to recurrent communal violence.

Presented by doctoral candidate Nathaniel Gonzalez, Department of Sociology

Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: "Indian Detective Fiction and the Reflection of World Literature"

Laura Brueck, Associate Professor of Hindi Literature, South Asian Studies, and Comparative Literature; Chair, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures; Co-director of Global Humanities Initiative; Northwestern University

The variegated landscape of 20th and 21st century Indian detective fiction illustrates how narrative conventions, styles, and modes of reception traverse multiple linguistic and literary landscapes in modern India. I argue in this paper that a study of Indian detective fiction and the multilingual pathways of its rise to popular dominance can provide new understandings of the diversity of Indian reading publics, the contribution of pulp fiction to modern colloquialisms and styles of speech, and the power of a mass literary culture to help shape notions of law and (dis)order, as well as social convention and transgression.

Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: "Catholic Selves and Tamil Poetry in the 18th Century"

Margherita Trento

In the 1720s, the Jesuit missionary Carlo Michele Bertoldi (1662-1740) introduced the practice of Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises in the Madurai mission, and organized many retreats for converts and catechists in the village of Avur (Tiruchirappalli). Around the same years, his colleague and savant Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi (1680-1747) started a school of classical Tamil in the village of Elakkuricci (Tanjavur district), for the education of his catechists. In this presentation, I analyze these two local enterprises, and the texts produced in that context — especially Bertoldi’s Ñāṉamuyaṟci, the first adaptation of the Spiritual Exercises into Tamil, and Beschi’s Tirukkāvalūr kalampakam — in order to reflect upon the relationship between Tamil literature and strategies for shaping Catholic selves in the early eighteenth century.

Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: “The Highway, Automobility and New Promises in 1960s Bombay Cinema”

Ranjani Mazumdar, Professor of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi

A fascination for color in the 1960s led to Bombay cinema’s mobilization of the hinterland as the site for a new future. With the development of Indian highways and an increase in automobility, a new map of India now occupied the cinematic imagination. This talk will explore the links between the infrastructure of automobile culture, the highway, industrial development outside the city, and 1960s Bombay Cinema.

Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: “An Empire of Literary Telugu: The Andhra Sahitya Parishat and Telugu Classicism in an Age of British Imperialism (1911-1915)”

Gautham Reddy

Scholars of Telugu literature have frequently represented Telugu Classicism at the turn of the twentieth century as the dying gasp of an ancient régime. This essay revisits the early years of the Andhra Sahitya Parishat (1911-1915) in order to examine questions around the origins and persistence of Telugu Classicism and its relationship to contemporary Indian notions of modernity at the turn of the twentieth century. A review of the Parishat's early interventions in public literary controversies surrounding the standardization of Telugu prose and its successful attempts to position itself as a nationalist intermediary sheds powerful light on the early twentieth century fascination with Telugu Classicism among the English-educated Telugu graduate class and showcases a 'Lost Era' of literary activism and national identity formation in the shadow of Empire. Ultimately, this essay argues that Telugu Classicism was an integral dimension of contemporary projects of linguistic and literary reform and constructively contributed to the imagination of Telugu as a 'national language' in an era of British Imperialism.

Thursday, November 9, 2017 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Workshop on Kudiyattam

Please join us for a workshop on Kudiyattam, with presentations by Whitney Cox, Davesh Soneji, David Shulman, and Margi Madhu.

This event is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 (All day)
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society