Upcoming Events

All events are open to the public.

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: "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: "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: "Region, Indigeneity, Development: The Politics of Environment in the Hindi Novel"

The state of Jharkhand was constituted in 2000 after a long political struggle that highlighted regional underdevelopment and a distinct Jharkhandi culture. The political claim to statehood was also coupled with a long history of adivasi resistance to the colonial and postcolonial state. The paper looks at the Hindi fiction in the aftermath of state formation from the prism of new struggles over natural resources and infrastructural development. I discuss how contemporary Hindi writers from Jharkhand represent adivasi cosmologies and mythology as a response to widespread environmental degradation of the region.

Presented by Joya John, doctoral candidate in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: "When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics"

Milan Vaishnav, Director and Senior Fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

In India, the world’s largest democracy, the symbiotic relationship between crime and politics raises complex questions. For instance, why do voters elect (and even reelect) them, to the point that a third of state and national legislators assume office with pending criminal charges? Political scientist Milan Vaishnav will discuss findings from a recent book which examines the marketplace for criminal politicians by drawing on fieldwork on the campaign trail, large surveys, and an original database on politicians’ backgrounds. The result is the first systematic study of an issue that has profound implications for democracy both with and beyond India’s borders.

Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Graduate Student Conference: "South Asia and the Limits of Humanistic Inquiry"

Keynote Speakers: Lorraine Daston (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, The University of Chicago); Mahesh Rangarajan (Ashoka University)
"South Asia and the Limits of Humanistic Inquiry"

Humanistic inquiry has played an important role in shaping South Asia, and South Asia has played an important role in shaping humanistic inquiry. But how far back into the past and how far into the future does this hold true? The fifteenth annual South Asia Graduate Student Conference at the University of Chicago invites papers that address the limits—whether temporal, institutional or conceptual—of humanistic inquiry. The question we pose is a simple one: Why should scholarship on South Asia lead academic discussions that invest new agency in the environment and other non-human entities?

Often unacknowledged in discussions of humanistic practices, South Asia has been the site of disciplinary regimes where distinctions of the human and non-human were instituted for the first time or at an unprecedented scale. The conference hopes to foreground South Asia as the site of a double exclusion: certain practices of knowledge were excluded from scholarly inquiry at the same time as animals, mountains, rivers and other non-human agents were written out of humanistic concerns. By bringing this double exclusion into view, we can see how the limiting of inquiry and the limitations of inquiry are distinct, yet related phenomena.

Practices such as philological close-reading, the collection of big data, and ethnographic fieldwork have determined the scales and working objects of scholarship in subtle, yet powerful ways, and we solicit papers that explore the limits of such practices. How might we learn from different epistemologies of precolonial South Asia and how they divide the phenomena of the world? What can we gain by returning to moments when current divisions were not presumed to be inevitable or obvious? How have institutional changes in South Asia—whether enacted by political interests or techno-developmentalist visions—enforced disciplinary divisions and values?

These questions are urgent as South Asia today also serves as a reminder that we can no longer afford to leave the agency of nonhumans out from our analyses. Catastrophes that have been put off by massive investments in engineering projects in the Global North have a much more immediate presence in South Asia.

Organizing Committee:
Anna Lee White, Divinity School
Eric Gurevitch, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Joya John, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Faculty Advisor: Constantine V. Nakassis, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

Thursday, March 1, 2018 (All day) to Friday, March 2, 2018 (All day)

TAPSA: "Historical Perspectives on Eighteenth Century India"

A wide ranging literature on the economic history of the eighteenth century in India has cast doubt on many of the conventional explanations for the rise of British power. What then is the status of the various conventional explanations for British ascendancy and how do we make sense of them given the historical scholarship? How do these explanations fare in a broader discussion of the "divergence" between East and West? And if divergence is no longer a credible paradigm within which to understand the colonial encounter, what are some new approaches suggested by the historical literature?

Presented by Anjali Anand, doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science

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