South Asia Seminar Series

South Asia Seminar Series: “The Medical Profession in Ancient India: Its Social, Religious, and Legal Status"

South Asia Seminar Series presentation by Patrick Olivelle, Professor Emeritus, Department of Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin and Visiting Professor.

What was the social status of medical professionals in ancient India? Did that status differ among different socio-economic and religious groups? This seminar examines these issues based on an examination of the terminology used by ancient Indian texts for medical professionals and finds, in these terms, clues to their changing status within Indian society.

Dates: 
Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 4:30pm
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South Asian Seminar Series: “What Should the Bhakti Movement Be?”

South Asia Seminar presentation by Jack Hawley.

In his book A Storm of Songs (Harvard University Press, 2015), Jack Hawley attempts to unearth the historical, political, and performative contingencies that gave birth to the concept of the bhakti movement. It emerges that, starting with the Mughals and their Kachvaha allies, North Indian groups looked to the Hindu South as a resource that would give religious and linguistic depth to their own collective history. Only in the early twentieth century, however, did the idea of a bhakti “movement” crystallize -- in the intellectual circle surrounding Rabindranath Tagore in Bengal. What should we do with the idea of the bhakti movement once we recognize that this portrait of history is deeply conditioned by a history of its own?

Dates: 
Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 4:30pm
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South Asia Seminar Series: "Civility and Religious Coexistence in Asokan Edicts: A Political Theory Perspective"

South Asia Seminar presentation by Rajeev Bhargava.

Scholars have frequently praised Asoka for his policy of toleration. Bhargava delves deeper into the issue, focusing on the conditions that forces him to first encourage people with diverse religious and philosophical background to live together, not back-to-back but face -to-face, and then, by formulating public norms of civility among different 'pasandas' engaged in fierce verbal disputes, provides secular foundations of such 'living together'. Bhargava argues that this norm is at the heart of his novel formulation of Dhamma. It goes beyond toleration and comes close to equal respect.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 4:30pm
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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.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 4:30pm
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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.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 4:30pm
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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.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 4:30pm
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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.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 4:30pm
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State versus Sexuality: Decriminalizing and Recriminalizing Homosexuality in India

A discussion led by Jyoti Puri, Professor of Sociology at Simmons College of Arts and Sciences. Delving into the struggle against the anti-sodomy law, this presentation juxtaposes the historic 2009 Delhi High Court ruling decriminalizing homosexuality and the subsequent 2013 Supreme Court decision recriminalizing it. Seeing these state institutions through the lens of sexuality, the discussion accounts for the diverging judicial outcomes. In so doing, it unravels the contested understandings of state and sexuality in post-liberalized India. This event is free and open to the public.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 4:30pm
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