South Asia Seminar Series

Reason and the Image: On Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)

South Asia Seminar: Keya Ganguly, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota

This talk focuses on Satyajit Ray’s cinematic treatment of an episode from India’s late colonial history in Shatranj Ke Khilari (“The Chess Players,” 1977). I suggest that through his portrait of the betrayal of reason under the pretext of law, Ray makes an appeal on behalf of the visual image as a critique of reason (rather than its lure).

Dates: 
Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

On Literary Activism, or a Philosophy of Creativity

South Asia Seminar: Amit Chaudhuri, Writer, Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia

In the last four years, a series of symposiums on "literary activism" took place in Calcutta, Delhi, and Oxford, attempting to open up a fringe space to reconsider creativity in a way that would counter both the market and academic professionalisation. The word "activism" was used semi-ironically, given that part of these symposiums' brief was to enquire into whether creative work comprises an "action" as we ordinarily understand the term. If it doesn't, what kind of "activism" did one mean? This talk will discuss the repercussions of the symposiums so far, what direction they might take in the future, and whether it's possible to rethink the history of creativity and of critique.

Dates: 
Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Surā in her Cups: Writing a History of Alcohol and Drugs in Pre-modern South Asia

South Asia Seminar: James McHugh, University of Southern California, Dornsife

James McHugh discusses his book project on the history of alcohol in South Asia from the Vedas through the early second millennium CE and beyond. He will give some examples of the ways intoxicating substances are described and theorized in texts, noting the challenges of these sources. Given the immensity of this topic, what sorts of things is it possible to say about alcohol and drugs in the region when working mainly with textual sources, primarily ones in Sanskrit?

Dates: 
Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

"Visual Amplification and the Remaking of Alandi’s Sacred Skyline"

South Asia Seminar: Anna Schultz, Department of Music, University of Chicago

Every year, hundreds of thousands of varkaris travel to Alandi to visit Sant Dnyaneshwar’s samadhi and listen to devotional songs. For several decades, these songs have been sonically amplified by sound systems, but more recently they have also been visually amplified by an enormous projection screen that transforms one bank of the Indrayani River into a stage for those seated on the other side. This talk addresses how the massive audio-visual structure has reshaped Alandi’s sacred skyline and produced new forms of listening.

Dates: 
Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Regional Societies and Frames of Memory in British India: East, West and North

South Asia Seminar: Sumit Guha, University of Texas at Austin

Social memory is defined by its public and societally monitored character. It is made and reproduced within a framework of social and political relations that create and bound a community of thought. I will outline the forms these narratives took and the structuring forces that shaped them by surveying three major regions of British India.

Dates: 
Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: Charlie Hallisey, Harvard Divinity School

South Asia Seminar: Charlie Hallisey, Harvard Divinity School

Dates: 
Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

From Pulavar to Professor: The Changing Status of the Tamil Pandit

South Asia Seminar: A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Madras Institute of Development Studies
"From Pulavar to Professor: The Changing Status of the Tamil Pandit"
This paper traces the changing status of Tamil pulavars or pandits in colonial Tamil Nadu. Following Macaulay's minute the policy of imparting Western education undermined the status of language teachers. Seen as relics of a lost world and impediments to modernity they were objects of ridicule. But Tamil identity politics empowered them giving them an enhanced cultural status.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 18, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

'Harishchandra Chāritra’ and the Medieval Shaiva Literary Canon in Kannada

South Asia Seminar: Vanamala Viswanatha, Azim Premji University

Harishchandra Chāritra, or Harishchandra Kāvya, as more popularly known in Kannada literary culture, (The Life of Harishchandra, Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press, 2017) was written by poet Raghavanka of Hampi in Northern Karnataka, around 1225 CE. Like the mythical, two-headed gaṅḍabhēruṅḍa bird, the insignia of Karnataka kings, that looks back and looks forward at once, this kāvya text of narrative poetry in the mārga/courtly tradition combines in equal measure aspects of the dēsi/vernacular which came to dominate literary production in the ensuing centuries. The talk demonstrates ways in which this shaiva text from the medieval period forges important links with its literary forebears from the Sanskrit kāvya tradition even as it establishes a local habitat for itself in a quintessential Kannada milieu. Drawing from the oral and folk traditions of Kannada, the poet innovates a new metre called shatpadi, which also provides creative expression for the Vaishnava poets in the later centuries. The text becomes a dialogic space in which Kannada and Sanskrit, the classical and the popular/ dēsi, the local and the pan-Indian jostle against each other to gesture towards a poetics that could go beyond its sectarian moorings. I argue that Raghavanka could accomplish this by maintaining a critical distance in terms of ideology, theme, and form from the canonical Virashaiva poets of the earlier century as well as from Harihara, his own guru and contemporary poet.

Dates: 
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Old World, New World; Old Ways, New Ways: Libraries and Cultural Property

South Asia Seminar: Graham Shaw, British Library

[Celebrating the Career of James Nye Dinner Following, Classics 110]

In this talk, Graham Shaw will offer a review of the ways in which South Asian collections in the West - Europe and America - have developed from the 18th to the 20th centuries in the light of changing historical circumstances, relationships and technologies. Shaw comes to Chicago to join in honoring the many contributions of South Asia bibliographer Jim Nye, who will retire from UChicago this fall. Shaw credits Nye with devising an ethical approach to collections and cultural property and will discuss how the field has changed over the course of both men’s careers.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103