Past Events

TAPSA: "Defining Slavery through Tamil and Malayalam Texts"

Malarvizhi Jayanth

Comparisons between West Indian and South Asian forms of slavery marked the unprecedented scrutiny of the enslaved in nineteenth-century southern India during the East India Company’s attempts to abolish slavery. Taking the question posed by abolitionism to an assortment of Tamil and Malayāḷam texts ranging from the ancient through the modern, this talk presents some indigenous definitions of slavery. While elite texts posit caste difference as cause for enslavement and place the enslaved outside history altogether, subaltern rituals and texts question the hierarchy and insist on the historical agency of the enslaved.

Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: "Role of Parks and Sanctuaries in the Conservation of India’s Biodiversity"

Trevor Price, Professor of Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Chair of COSAS

Remarkably, India has lost few animals and plants over the past 100 years, but many populations are now low, and rapid development is increasing threats on nature. Development is also creating opportunities for conservation, especially through eco-tourism. This talk will focus on the history and prospects for nature conservation in India through the maintenance of wildlife parks and sanctuaries.

Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: “The Reluctant Bureaucrat: the Ethical and the Everyday in Punjab’s Irrigation bureaucracy”

Maira Hayat

This paper explores the Irrigation bureaucracy in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and pursues two nodes as limits to the bureaucratic self: friendship and corruption. It brings into conversation literature on bureaucracies, states, and the ethical and everyday. The paper is a part of a dissertation chapter I am currently working on. My dissertation is titled, Ecologies of Water Governance in Pakistan: The Colony, the Corporation and the Contemporary.

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

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The Chicago Tamil Forum is workshop for scholars working on modern Tamilagam to share their ongoing, unpublished work.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

Chicago Tamil Forum

Thursday: Keynote speaker Michael Silverstein
The theme of this year's workshop is Poesis/Politics of Language and Place in Tamilagam, which is devoted to, and emerges out of conversation with, the work of the late Barney Bate, who was a central member of the group.
Friday and Saturday: Paper workshopping. Participants pre-circulate scholarly works-in-progress (two to three weeks in advance) that take the major themes/works of Barney's research as a departure point.

Thursday, May 25, 2017 (All day) to Saturday, May 27, 2017 (All day)

TAPSA: “Of Parrots and Crows: Bīdel and Ḥazīn in their Own Words”

Jane Mikkelson, PhD candidate, SALC and NELC

Was there a historically identifiable “Indian style” of early modern Persian poetry, or is this a term that has been merely invented (as some have argued) by modern scholarship? If there was indeed an emic conception of an Indian style of Persian verse, in what did this style consist, and by whom was it defined? Finally, what is the value of thinking with this category today? This talk will attempt to address these questions in two ways. First, key examples drawn from the early modern Persian literary critical tradition will be presented, with particular attention to how certain figurations – including ambiguity (īhām), metaphor (esteʿāre), and what is imagined (khayāl) – were identified by early modern Persian-language critics as being constitutive of an Indian style. These first steps towards reconstructing the complex history of the very idea of an Indian style lead to the second angle of approach: allowing the poets to speak for themselves. To this end, the talk will examine three early modern Persian lyric poems on the theme of geography, homeland, and exile: a ghazal by Ṣāʾeb Tabrīzī (d.1676), and two response-poems (javābs) by Bīdel Dehlavī (d.1721) and Ḥazīn Lāhījī (d.1766), close reading of which will be informed by categories, values, and orientations recovered from the early modern critical tradition. Building on the rich range of specific meanings and values that analysis of these three poems brings to light, it will also be argued more generally that attending to the Persian lyric tradition must be regarded as vital – even central – to investigating matters of style, geography, and belonging in the early modern Persianate world.

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

Vivekananda Lecture

Speaker: David Shulman

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 5:30pm
International House Assembly Hall

South Asian Classical Music Society of Chicago presents: Shri Kushal Das, sitar, with Ramdas Palsule, tabla

Considered by many the leading sitarist of our day but rarely heard live outside of India, Kushal Das makes his first Chicago appearance in decades. His music stunningly joines marvelous melodic approaches with wonderful rhythmic virtuosity. Admissions free; donations to SACMS encouraged.

Saturday, May 13, 2017 - 8:00pm
DePaul University Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden St.

South Asia Seminar

Sunila Kale, Associate Professor, International Studies, University of Washington

Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103

TAPSA: Zak leonard, PhD candidate, History

From the late 1830s onwards, Quakers, radicals, abolitionists, and free traders increasingly sought to ameliorate the condition of British subjects at home and abroad who suffered at the hands of monopolistic forces. Articulating a rights-based imperial constitutionalism that interwove a defense of English liberties and natural law, these reformers observed that Indian peasant cultivators, the British working classes, and native princes alike were degraded by forms of political, or “virtual,” slavery. Representing the economic and political monopolization of power as an intra-imperial evil provided the reformers with a unifying principle for their agitation. Moreover, it allowed them to envision a future in which India could be thoroughly integrated within the broader empire as an equal trading partner and governed as a sub-polity under metropolitan legal protection. But despite these advances, officials in the upper echelon of the East India Company bureaucracy repudiated calls for greater transparency. Institutionalized obstacles continued to obviate systematic reform and hinder the establishment of a functional imperial civil society. This paper will focus on two particular issues that precipitated debate over Indians’ subject rights: the causes of the 1837-38 Agra famine and the dethronement of Pratap Singh, the raja of the princely state of Satara, in 1839. In doing so, it will engage with recent scholarship on constitutionalism, the creation of scandal, and the revival of Burkean critiques of colonial malfeasance.

Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Foster 103