South Asia Seminar Series

"Landscape Films and State Space: On the Films Division in India”

South Asia Seminar Speaker: Priya Jaikumar
Remembered by fellow documentarians as “Nehru’s favorite cameraman, ” N. S. Thapa directed several landscape and industrial shorts for the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s Films Division unit from the 1950s to the 1990s. Everest (1968) is one of his award-winning films, which records the historic expedition of the first all-Indian team to scale Mount Everest, on May 20th, 1965. The story of this film’s production, however, is less matinee-worthy. Films Division initially blocked Thapa’s involvement in the film, so that he was never part of the climb that his film triumphantly documents. The visual aesthetics of the film’s completed version, and its haphazard production process, tell parallel stories about cinema’s status as a visual image and a regulated object. Everest uses a visual lexicon of nationalism characteristic of several Films Division landscape documentaries. At the same time, such shorts register the variable styles of Films Division’s cameramen and directors, and the precarious creative autonomy of its commissioned filmmakers, who were impacted by the institution’s funding structures and the state’s film stock rationing and administrative procedures. In this talk, I use landscape shorts as a provocation to thinking about the relationship between onscreen cinematic spaces, and the institutional and social spaces of bureaucracy, industry, and ideology. The effort is to push back the horizon of historical analysis, so that space refers simultaneously to the visual unit within a film’s frame, and the concept driving a historiography of the state’s efforts to transform a place into a politico-economic territory.

Dates: 
Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

“Globalizing India: How Global Rules and Markets Are Shaping India’s Rise to Power”

South Asia Speaker: Aseema Sinha
India’s recent economic transformation has fascinated scholars, global leaders, and interested observers alike. In 1990, India was a closed economy and a hesitant and isolated economic power. By 2016, India has rapidly risen on the global economic stage; foreign trade now drives more than half of the economy and Indian multinationals pursue global alliances. Focusing on second-generation reforms of the late 1990s, Aseema Sinha explores what facilitated global integration in a self-reliant country predisposed to nationalist ideas. The author argues that globalization has affected trade policy as well as India’s trade capacities and private sector reform. India should no longer be viewed solely through a national lens; globalization is closely linked to the ambitions of a rising India. The study uses fieldwork undertaken in Geneva, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Washington, DC, interviews with business and trade officials, alongside a close analysis of the textile and pharmaceutical industries and a wide range of documentary and firm-level evidence to let diverse actors speak in their own voices. This book speaks to the Comparative Politics literature, International Relations literature and Studies of India directly. It examines how the World Trade Organization affected and changed Indian actor’s preferences about globalization. Its deploys an interdependence approach or a dynamic second-image reversed framework to an analysis of India, while also building a dynamic framework that examines how domestic actors shape and re-shape global institutions and markets.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

“From the Pursuit of a Pandit to panditproject.org: How I Became a Digital Humanist”

South Asia Speaker: Yigal Bronner
In this talk, Yigal Bronner, a Sanskritist by training, will tell the sad tale of a database project that took over his life. He will also explain why he is still excited about prosopography and, more generally, about the possibility of turning Indologists into a vibrant community with the help of digital tools.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

“Religion, the Nation, and Intellectual Inquiry in South Asia”

Speakers Ayesha Kidwai/Vasudha Narayan, for the South Asia Seminar Series.

Dates: 
Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar Series: “Customs, Norms, and Narratives: Exegetical Strategies for Reading the Mahāsāṅghika-lokottaravāda Bhikṣuṇī-vinaya Amy Langenberg”

Lecture given by Amy Langenberg.

How to “translate” texts across centuries is the historian’s conundrum. To what extent, for instance, can texts that mention nuns be read as evidence for a thriving ancient nuns’ community? This paper asks basic questions about exegetical strategies for reading the vinaya, a Buddhist literature vital to questions about women in early Buddhism. It proposes that we read the Mahāsāṅghika-lokottaravāda Bhikṣuṇī-vinaya and other vinaya texts in a flexible manner, using several interpretive approaches depending on the “facial expression” of the passage in question.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar Series, Bryan J. Cuevas: “The Murderous Saint: Making Sense of The Life of Ra Lotsawa”

Tibet’s scandalous eleventh-century tantric master, monk, and translator of Buddhist scripture, Ra Lotsawa Dorjé Drak, is notorious for having killed through magical means more than a dozen of his rivals and others he perceived as antagonistic to his spiritual mission. How does tradition make sense of this murderous saint and why would the life of such a peculiar sort of Buddhist hero be considered worthy of celebration and memorialized in writing in an extravagant work of Tibetan namtar, an exemplary Tibetan Buddhist sacred biography? In my presentation these and other questions are on the table for discussion.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster Hall 103

South Asia Seminar Series: The Murderous Saint: Making Sense of the Life of Ra Lotsawa

Lecture by Bryan J. Cuevas

Tibet’s scandalous eleventh-century tantric master, monk, and translator of Buddhist scripture, Ra Lotsawa Dorjé Drak, is notorious for having killed through magical means more than a dozen of his rivals and others he perceived as antagonistic to his spiritual mission. How does tradition make sense of this murderous saint and why would the life of such a peculiar sort of Buddhist hero be considered worthy of celebration and memorialized in writing in an extravagant work of Tibetan namtar, an exemplary Tibetan Buddhist sacred biography? In my presentation these and other questions are on the table for discussion.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 4:30am
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar Series:

Lecture given by David M. DiValerio.

Long-term meditative retreat—for one year, three years, or ten, in a cloister or a cave, sometimes sealed—has been a defining feature of Tibet’s Buddhism for the past millennium. This presentation lays out some new ways of understanding this phenomenon, drawing on The Holy Madmen of Tibet (Oxford 2015), The Life of the Madman of Ü (2016), and on some preliminary research for a new anthropological and historical study of meditation.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: “Putting the Buddha to Work: Śākyamuni in the Service of Tibetan Monastic Identity”

Lecture given by Andrew Quintman.

This talk explores how images and texts related to Śākyamuni Buddha served as a broad organizing principal (a “Buddha program”) for Phuntsokling Monastery in western Tibet, seat of the seventeenth-century polymath Tāranātha (1575-1634). It suggests that the monastery’s central icon—a Śākyamuni statue of miraculous origin—not only acted as a locus of spiritual power. It also served Tāranātha in the promotion of his monastery, first as the literal center of the institution’s Buddha program, and second as a source of elevated prestige for Phuntsokling and its patrons during a time of political tension between the rulers of western Tibet and the ascendant Dalai Lama in Lhasa.

Dates: 
Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster Hall 103

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