Past Conferences and Workshops

Climate Change and Asia

Asia is central to the causes, responses, and implications of climate change. This symposium explores climate policy and environmental challenges across East, Southeast, and South Asia, from water politics and renewable energy to sustainable tourism in the Anthropocene. Sponsored by: "Studies in Climate Change: The Limits of the Numerical," a Mellon Foundation Project at the Franke Institute for the Humanities

Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 9:30am to 5:30pm
The Franke Institute, JRL S-118

Chicago Tamil Forum: “Mass Publicity and Mediation in Tamil Nadu, India"

This three-day workshop aims to expand our understandings of mass mediation, publicity, and the political in this part of south India by focusing on the expansive and diverse ways through which public life in Tamil Nadu is mediated.
See for more information.

Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 9:30am to Saturday, May 26, 2018 - 3:30pm

Crisis in Myanmar: The Rohingya Refugees & The American Response

Among the most pressing humanitarian crises that plague the world in 2018 is the mass persecution of the Rohingya community in Myanmar and the subsequent refugee crisis in South Asia. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar have fled across the border to Bangladesh and into other territories as a result of violence that former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, among others, has deemed ethnic cleansing. Was this crisis preventable? What role did the United States’ action or inaction play? And, most importantly, what can be done now?
Join the IOP as we welcome two distinguished reporters, Jason Motlagh and Nahal Toosi, to discuss this crisis.

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP at

Monday, May 21, 2018 - 5:30pm to 6:45pm
Logan Center for the Arts Screening Room

New Medium, New Historiography: Re-Narrating Islamic Pasts in India through VCDs

The formulation of history in late colonial India and the crystallization of Hindu Nationhood are deeply enmeshed. Indian historiography was rewritten at that time to advance a widely acclaimed standard of a Hindu nation which excluded non-Hindus and in particular the large Muslim minority in the subcontinent, from the nation’s ethos and past. In sovereign India, this historiography was articulated by the visual mainstream media that generally emphasized the Hinduised past and present and defined Indian Muslims’ past through narratives of historical and genealogical estrangement. These narratives contributed to the formation of what Dipesh Chakravarty termed a “historical wound”.[i] This presentation addresses yet another historiography to remedy and negotiate this “wound” through a new medium that targets the Muslim niche market in India: the under-regulated arena of Video Compact Discs (VCDs). This decade-old medium re-writes Indo-Islamic history and challenges the ways the Islamic past is habitually portrayed and visually imagined, as well as the discipline of modern historiography itself.
[i] Dipesh Chakravarty, “History and the Politics of Recognition”, in Theorising the Present – Essays for Patha Chatterjee, eds. Anjan Ghosh et al. (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011), 21-34.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - 12:30pm
Foster 103

Raga Malika: A Garland of Ragas

A Spring recital by the University of Chicago’s South Asian Music Ensemble. You are cordially invited to attend the South Asian Music Ensemble’s spring recital, entitled “Raga Malika: A Garland of Ragas.” This full two-hour concert will include a large selection of traditional compositions from North and South Indian classical music, focusing on the juxtaposition of various ragas and talas. The recital will feature vocal and instrumental music, and includes sitar, harmonium, violin, bamboo flute, slide guitar, tabla and mridangam percussion, and kathak dance.

Saturday, May 5, 2018 - 7:30pm
Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Penthouse

20th Annual Michicagoan Conference: Significations of Modality and Value

With a keynote address by Hirokazu Miyazaki, Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University, titled: “The Gift of Internationalism: Persons, Things, and the Power of Exchange in U.S.-Japan Citizen Diplomacy”

Now in its 20th year, the Michicagoan Graduate Student Conference in Linguistic Anthropology serves as a forum for scholars attuned to the emergent production of linguistic, cultural, social, and otherwise material phenomena via diverse semiotic processes.

The conference is pleased to present papers that take semiotic approaches to “value” and “modality” in their various instantiations across heterogeneous semantic and disciplinary fields. Through this theme, participants will attend to relations between and among linguistic codes; their sociopragmatic uses-in(- and -as)-context across variously-scaled discursive types (utterances, typified genres, registers); the kinds of relations so expressed (and made expressable); their by-degrees codifications (linguistically, legally, habitually, institutionally); and the entailments of these relations in subsequent uptake.

For more information, please contact the event organizers at or

Friday, May 4, 2018 (All day) to Saturday, May 5, 2018 (All day)
Classics 110

Orders of Time, Limits of History: Propositions from South Asian Studies

What can poet Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita’s constant preoccupation with the Kaliyuga tell us about his reflections on time? On what increasingly impossible “naturalism of historical time” was Bengali nineteenth century encyclopedist’s Nagendranath Basu’s confrontation with the ruins of Kamrup predicated, and what did it obscure? Is it possible that a fundamental disaggregation of the temporal terrain of Bengali Muslim literary history is indexed by the contending efforts of Bangladeshi historians? These three questions in South Asian studies all demand, in the words of François Hartog’s Regimes of Historicity, that time be made thinkable.

Join us in thinking about the temporalities that ground past phenomena, the limits intrinsic to the recovery of past articulations of time, and the silent pervasiveness of temporal commitments as we offer short presentations of our work. Our short presentations will be followed by reflections on history and its time by prof. Dipesh Chakrabarty and prof. François Hartog.
Eduardo Acosta, “Twilight Medievalism”
Talia Ariav, “Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita’s Kaliyuga”
Thomas Newbold, “The Brahmin at Karbala”
Reflections by Dipesh Chakraborty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor, UChicago, and Francois Hartog, Directeur d'Etudes & Chaire d'Historiographie Ancienne et Moderne, EHESS.

Thursday, May 3, 2018 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Foster 103

Women in the Mahabharata: Featuring Amruta Patil

Join COSAS for a weekend of talks on Amruta Patil’s recent rendering of the Mahabharata as a trilogy of graphic novels. Patil published the first volume, Adi Parva, with Harper Collins India in 2012, and she released the second volume, Sauptik in 2016. Patil has an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her first graphic novel, Kari, is about a gay woman and her superhero alter-ego in Bombay, and was published in English, French, and Italian.

Patil’s work engages with the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, bringing stories and lessons from it into the 21st-century, but it is in no way a simplification or glorification of the past. She struggles with the tradition she invokes, pushing back against expected interpretations, and engaging with minor characters and tropes that are not usually brought to the fore. She brashly inserts herself into a sacred tradition, living within it, drawing on the scholarship of Chicagoans such as Wendy Doniger and the late A.K. Ramanujan, talking openly and sincerely about sex and gender, and not stopping there—getting away with it—beautifully.

Thursday, April 12th
Discussion with Amruta Patil (6:30pm-7:30pm, Seminary Co-op Bookstore)
Light refreshments will be served.

Friday, April 13th
“Forests of Learning” talk by Amruta Patil, in conversation with Prof. Wendy Doniger (4pm-5:45pm, Third Floor Lecture Hall, Swift Hall)
Light refreshments will be served.

Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 6:30pm to Friday, April 13, 2018 - 5:45pm

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)

Chicago Tamil Workshop

The Chicago Tamil Forum is workshop for scholars working on modern Tamilagam to share their ongoing, unpublished work. Begun in May 2014, the three-day workshop meets annually at the University of Chicago in Chicago, IL USA.

Working papers of the Chicago Tamil Forum, earlier presented in the workshops, are put online here.

Contact: Constantine V. Nakassis (

Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 4:30pm to Saturday, May 27, 2017 - 7:00pm
Department of Anthropology, Haskell