Past Events

Webinar: Preserving Democracy during the Pandemic

A discussion between regional experts about the state of democracy around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how it can be strengthened. Conversation topics might include: In what ways have authoritarian leaders used the pandemic to strengthen their grip on power? Will the measures we have seen in established democracies lead to democratic erosion after the crisis is over? What differences do we see across countries? What are some key actions to maintain and strengthen democratic institutions during and after the crisis?

Register at: to receive Zoom Meeting ID

Sponsored by the Chicago Center on Democracy

Friday, April 17, 2020 - 11:00am
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TAPSA via Zoom: Saving for tomorrow: Coal supply distortions, stockpiling, and power outages in India

Yuvraj Pathak, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy

This paper demonstrates how regulatory uncertainty can cause large welfare losses by distorting firms’ incentives and giving rise to inefficient production. Specifically, I analyze the production decisions of power plants in India that rely on state-regulated supply of coal for fuel. A court-ordered future reallocation of mining contracts in 2014 led to an unexpected increase in uncertainty about future coal supply for a subset of plants while leaving other plants with long-term supply contracts unaffected. I use this quasi-experimental variation in a difference-in-difference framework and a unique dataset linking coal mines and power plants to estimate the effect of future regulatory uncertainty on power production. I show that affected power plants underreport their generation capacity available for power generation and begin stockpiling fuel for future periods. The behavior of these power plants is driven by precaution- ary saving motive, and I provide empirical evidence that power plants began stockpiling coal by reducing consumption, even as the supply of coal remains unchanged. In the short run, this precautionary saving driven stockpiling led to a 7% reduction in electricity generation. The negative impact on power production is persistent and the effects last for over 3 years in the long run. Using data on plants’ marginal cost of production, I compute the short-run welfare cost of this regulatory uncertainty to be between 0.3 and 1.5 billion dollars.

Please contact Jetsun Deleplanque ( for further information on how to access the talk via Zoom.

Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asian Music Ensemble Performance

Please join the South Asian Music Ensemble for an afternoon of music featuring a variety of forms and genres encompassing both North and South Indian classical traditions, including bandish, kriti, tarana, thiruppavai, and tillana. The performance will also showcase a suite of performances set in Raga Bihaag, as well as a variety of solo vocal and instrumental acts.

The University of Chicago’s South Asian Music Ensemble in the Department of Music features a twenty-five member troupe accompanied by tabla, mridangam, harmonium, bamboo flute, lap steel guitar, sitar, violin, and more. The group explores a variety of classical, vernacular, and popular music traditions broadly situated in South Asia.

Free admission, reception will follow.

Sunday, March 8, 2020 - 2:00pm
International House, Assembly Hall

Letters from the Local Bazaar: Scraps and Scrolls of Mobility in the Global Eras of Art History

Lecture by Dipti Khera, Assistant Professor of Art History, New York University

Northern and western India’s well-traveled Jain merchants commissioned numerous letters between 1400 and 1900 to invite eminent monks to their towns. They sought to entice recipients with pictures of urban places and completed journeys. In a letter sent from the port of Diu, ca. 1666, painters and scribes juxtaposed the vignette of Jain monks and nuns who would walk long tracts of land on foot with the image of Portuguese merchants who had crossed the vast expanse of sea on ships. How do the projects of globalizing and decolonizing art history address these kinds of scrolls and scraps, and their marked wear and tear? What types of objects do we privilege in writing the history of peregrination? How do the perspectives of local bazaars and transregional journeys on inland frontiers feature in the discussions of early modern oceanic travels?

This event is co-sponsored by the Interwoven project at the Neubauer Collegium and the Art History Department at the University of Chicago.

Friday, March 6, 2020 - 1:00pm
Neubauer Collegium

In the Mood for Art and On the Margins of History in India’s Eighteenth Century

Lecture by Dipti Khera, Assistant Professor of Art History, New York University Presented by the Department of Art History and COSAS, as part of the 2019/20 Smart Lecture series supported by the Smart Family Foundation.

The art of sensing moods mattered in precolonial South Asia. The eighteenth-century painters of Udaipur, a city of lakes in northwestern India, suggest that the moods of pleasure and prosperity mattered even more. The moods of grand-scale paintings, larger in size than manuscripts and portraits, which could be held in a single hand, emerged in the enchanting depictions of lime-washed palaces, reservoirs, temples, bazaars, and durbars. The painterly unfolding of stormy monsoons and scented springs, populated by the collectives of urbane men and women, enticed audiences to forge bonds of belonging to real locales in the present and of longing for ideal futures. These pioneering pictures sought to stir such emotions as love, awe, abundance, and wonder, emphasizing the senses, spaces, seasons, and sociability essential to the efficacy of objects and expressions of territoriality. In iterating exuberant and ephemeral atmospheres, painters viewed the moods of places as open to adaptation, admiration, and assimilation. Their memorialized moods confront the ways colonial histories have recounted Oriental decadence, shaping how a culture, art, and time are perceived.

Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 5:00pm
CWAC 157

17th Annual South Asia Graduate Student Conference: “Reception, Tradition, and Canonization: Pasts and Presents in South Asia”

Keynote Speakers:

Rosalind O’Hanlon (University of Oxford)

Akshaya Mukul (Independent researcher and journalist)

This conference aims to examine traditions in premodern and modern South Asia and seeks to interrogate formations of knowledge about traditions through processes of transmission and canonization. A focus on canon formation – literary, religious, philosophical, and political – reveals underlying modes of thinking that inform the consolidation of traditions, and allows for a deconstruction of what comes to be understood as normative knowledge. The conference will bring together graduate students who are interested in the different life-stages of traditions and canons, and in the work of agents who participate in shaping, carrying, maintaining, and expanding them. Thus, it will participate in ongoing scholarship on the construction of South Asian traditions, identities, and communities.

Organizing Committee: Ayelet Kotler, South Asian Languages and Civilizations Akshara Ravishankar, South Asian Languages and Civilizations Itamar Ramot, South Asian Languages and Civilizations Faculty Advisor: Anand Venkatkrishnan

The full schedule can be found here.

Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 10:00am to Friday, March 6, 2020 - 6:00pm
Swift Common Room

Worlds of Pleasure: Making Sense Between Place, Painting, Poetry, and Performance

Lecture by Dipti Khera, Assistant Professor of Art History, New York University, hosted by COSAS

The idea of pleasure as a pivotal tenet of ideal kingship and the practice of pleasure by courtly communities to formulate and deepen personal and political bonds gains momentum in eighteenth-century South Asia. Paintings, palaces, poetry, and performance create images of pleasures that are easily read as portraits of decadence and triviality of Indian rajas. An inquiry into the dynamic communities formed around associated spaces, images, and texts that sought to create jagvilās, a “world of pleasure,” in the renowned Jagnivas lake-palace at the Rajput court of Udaipur opens our minds to new interpretations and neglected vantage points and archives. The intertwining of pleasure and power, and of the joys of Gods and the delights of Men entices us to ask how we might constitute an art history of pleasure in South Asia. The painted worlds of complete satiation and sensorial excess—friends and frenemies bonding in peculiarly affective ways over the enjoyment of architecture, gardens, music, and food—create images of convivial parties, while shaping in subtle and direct ways courtly connoisseurs, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Faith, Gender, and Activism in the Punjab Conflict: The Wheat Fields Still Whisper

Punjab was the arena of one of the major armed conflicts of post-colonial India. Mallika Kaur’s new book makes an urgent intervention in the history of the conflict, which to date has generally been characterized by a fixation on sensational violence—or ignored altogether. Within an already marginalized and invisiblized conflict (though up to 250,000 people died), the voices of women are/were further marginalized. This book excavates the varied and hybrid roles assumed by Sikh women; their negotiating violence and trauma amid multiple responsibilities, while defying the stereotypes of a monolithic identity. Even when the violence disproportionately targeted the male body, it provoked the policing of the female body, and succeeded in profoundly affecting the community’s entire body politic. This book highlights how attention to various forms of gendered violence—direct and indirect—is necessary to end vicious cycles in conflict and post-conflict zones.

Mallika Kaur is a lawyer and writer who focuses on human rights, with a specialization in gender and minority issues. She received her Master in Public Policy from Harvard University, USA, and her Juris Doctorate from the UC Berkeley School of Law, USA, where she currently teaches.

In conversation with Sneha Annavarapu (PhD Candidate, Sociology)

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 - 4:30pm
5733 S University Ave; Community Room