Past Events

“Diplomatic Encounters Series: An Overview of Pakistan-US Relations by The Ambassador of Pakistan to the US Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry”

This event is co-sponsored by International House at The University of Chicago, Committee on Southern Asian Studies and The Consulate General of Pakistan in Chicago. A reception will follow formal remarks. This event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, April 28, 2018 - 2:00pm
International House Assembly Hall

South Asia Seminar: "Strivers and Seekers in 17th century Lahore"

Purnima Dhawan, Associate Professor at the Department of History, Director of Graduate Studies, Howard and Frances Keller Endowed Professor, University of Washington

By the seventeenth century a proliferation of individuals and communities in the Mughal province of Lahore began to articulate their search for new ethical norms in a variety of texts. Situated both in elite, courtly circles as well as humbler vernacular contexts, this phenomenon has generally been studied through the lens of religious expression and reform. By placing these texts within the dramatically changing demographic profile of the province, this paper argues that such texts should also be viewed as articulations of new social personas and ethical codes that give us an exciting glimpse of the rapidly changing nature of Lahore’s communities.

Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: “The Role of Human and Animal Diets in the Socioeconomic Organization of Neolithic, Iron Age, and Early Historic South India: A Zooarchaeological and Dental Microwear Study”

Kelly Wilcox, doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology

This paper examines faunal remains from the site Kadebakele (Karnataka) in order to explore how human-animal relationships and animal-based subsistence practices changed throughout the Neolithic (3000-1200 BCE), Iron Age (1200BCE-300BCE), and Early Historic (300BCE-500CE) periods in South India. In addition, the paper includes recent analyses of dental microwear data and its usefulness in reconstructing changes in herd animal diets and for determining if shifts in animal management practices coincided with periods of overgrazing. Using the results of these analyses, this paper explores how human and animal diets both played an important role in shaping broader changes in socioeconomic organization and land-use choices.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 5:00pm
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 Seminar: “Indo-Humanism and Brahmin Identity in Early Modern Goa”

Stuart McManus, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, University of Chicago

In early modern Goa, Jesuit missionaries in collaboration with local high-caste Christians codified Konkani grammar and collected vernacular versions of canonical South Asian texts. This led to the creation of a scholarly culture of "Indo-Humanism", which channeled local rhetorical and philosophical traditions within a Neo-Roman humanist framework. This paper addresses the particular caste valency of Indo-Humanism, taking as a starting point the Konkani sermons of the Jesuit missionary, Miguel de Almeida.

Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Tea Time Concert: South Asian Music Ensemble

The weekly Tea Time Concert Series includes a wide variety of musical genres, instruments and repertoire selections featuring both student and faculty performers from the University of Chicago as well as professional musicians from the Chicagoland area.
Admission is free! Complimentary tea and cookies are served.

Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 4:30pm
Fulton Recital Hall

“A Brief Look at the Linguistic, Cultural, and Strategic Significance of Nuristan”

Lecture by Richard Strand, a leading scholar on the languages and societies of Nuristan, having spent over nine years as a linguistic and ethnographic researcher in eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. He has worked variously in linguistic field research, directing NGO work in Afghanistan, and consulting on Afghanistan-related questions. Since 2013 he has been retired, but continues the ongoing publication of his linguistic research, much of which appears on his website at

The remote mountainous region of Nuristan in northeastern Afghanistan is home to fifteen tribal societies that speak the five languages of the Nuristani subgroup of the Indo-Iranian languages. Richard Strand will discuss some unique linguistic features of these languages, in their historical and cultural context, with further remarks on the role the Nuristanis have played in the on-going regional conflict.

This talk is of potential interest to linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists.

Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 3:30pm
Stuart 104

TAPSA: “The Politics of Catholic Conversion and Colonialism”

Aditi Shirodkar, doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science

Beginning in 1510, Portuguese colonialists led a brutal, sweeping Christianization program throughout Goa, the capital of Portugal’s empire in Asia. In time, almost all natives in the territory converted to Catholicism. However, many natives expressed devotion far in excess of what was mandated: some sought greater immersion in theological studies and accession to the clergy, going as far as Rome when these were denied in Goa. The paper asks, therefore: How were some natives moved to convert with manifest ardor to an imposed faith? Relying upon original archival research from Goa and Rome, this paper reflects upon these questions through the lives of two native converts to Catholicism who asserted their right to preach to their fellow Goans. The paper argues that conversion to Catholicism provided Goans with a spiritual and intellectual vocabulary that was, paradoxically, empowering: a set of governing rules and ethical ideals that allowed natives to claim moral authority for themselves and question the political authority by which they were governed. It also granted them access to the Roman Catholic Church; the same autonomous body that provided the legitimizing premise for Portuguese colonialism now also provided the basis for novel challenges from the colonized. Thus, the Goan case shows how universalizing religious norms can transcend the constraining power of a repressive political order.

Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: “The Implied Donkey: Bhakti and the Fear of the Public in Premodern India”

Christian Novetzke, Professor at South Asia Program and Comparative Religion, College of Arts and Sciences Endowed Professor, University of Washington

Before there was Marathi literature, there was a Marathi public. Perhaps slightly earlier than the advent of Marathi literary vernacularization in the 13th century, inscriptions issued in Marathi during the reign of the Yadavas from 1187 CE onwards evinced an awareness of a Marathi-speaking public as well as a particular socio-political stance toward that public. This paper traces this recognition through two sets of inscriptional material. The first involves the ubiquitous “donkey curse,” a disturbing imprecation of sexual violence usually conveyed in Sanskrit, but in Maharashtra only ever rendered in Marathi and with regularity across the political territory of the Yadavas, and then well beyond. The second set involves bhakti or devotionalism in which explicit reference is made to “the people of bhakti,” the bhaktijana, in regard to the nascent worship of Vitthal in Pandharpur. The paper argues that these two sets of inscriptions point, in their own ways, toward a Marathi public constituted by the denizens of everyday life, the janata, who are recognized, addressed, and even feared through these inscriptions. This recognition by politically powerful elites suggests the public discursive space into which the first extant works of Marathi literature would emerge—the Lilacharitra (c. 1278 CE) and the Jnaneshwari (c. 1290 CE). These works, in turn, enlivened debates in colloquial Marathi about social equity in terms of caste and gender, providing one strand of the genealogy of a nascent public sphere in premodern India.

Thursday, March 29, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103