Past Events

Contemporary China Speakers Series: “India’s China Policy and Where the U.S. Fits In”

The Paulson Institute, Chicago Harris, and the Committee on Southern Asian Studies invite you to join our lecture and discussion series on contemporary China.
Featuring: Tanvi Madan, Fellow, Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy Program, Brookings Institution, Director of The India Project
For more information, visit:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
The Quadrangle Club, Solarium

Materials in Focus: Working across Media and Methods in South Asia

The South Asia Graduate Student Conference at the University of Chicago is known for bringing together graduate students working on the Indian Subcontinent across disciplines, time periods and regions of interest from campuses within and outside the United States. The conference offers a unique opportunity for graduate students working on southern Asia to engage with the research of their peers.

How can a more rigorous intellectual engagement with materials open up how we conceptualise cultural constructs and emergent political formations? What are affordances and resistance of the materials we engage with to study South Asia? How do we mobilize these beyond their functional purpose as ‘sources’, grappling instead with the very processes of their fabrication, preservation (or destruction) and place in the historical record? The diverse range of materials – archival, epigraphic, archaeological, art historical, performative, ethnographic among others shape our methodological choices and the media in which we make and circulate our work.

We invite methodologically self-reflexive papers that foreground questions of materials and materiality in South Asian studies. Possible themes include but are not limited to: material culture, archives and ‘museification’, oral narratives and histories, the making and circulation of art, performance and theatre, film and new media. Presentations may take several forms, including seminar papers, collaborative projects and performances.

Please send a title and abstract (250-300 words) to by 5 pm on 29th December 2016.

Abstracts should include name, e-mail address and institutional affiliation.

Selected participants will be informed by 5th January 2017.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 9:00am to Friday, February 24, 2017 - 8:00pm
Classics 110

TAPSA Speaker: Gautham Reddy

TAPSA Speaker: Gautham Reddy

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

Screening of Across the Burning Track, A video work by Moinak Biswas

The film tells the story of an intellectual (Nilakantha/Ghatak) caught in the turmoil of the 1970s, marked by the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Naxalbari movement.

The video, originally involving two screens and four channels of sound, works through Ritwik Ghatak’s autobiographical last film Jukti, Takko ar Gappo (‘Arguments and Stories’, 1974). It was created for the 11th Shanghai Biennale, 2016.
In one stream, we present a reconstruction of the film, which tells the story of an intellectual (Nilakantha/Ghatak) caught in the turmoil of the 1970s, marked by the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Naxalbari movement.
Nilakantha is a wandering figure killed by a stray bullet at the end of the film.

The other stream involves the writer Manik Bandyopadhyay, and the playwright Bijan Bhattacharya who acts in the film. Manik and Bijan were representative figures of the radical culture of the 1940s.
Two moments of great misery and creativity, 1940s and 1970s, syncopate each other. We present moving and still images, texts and voices that spectrally connect these moments with other times and lives.
Ghatak’s Jukti Takko, a perilously autobiographical narrative, sets in motion flows touching the shores of a distant present.

Moinak Biswas is Professor of Film Studies at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He writes on Indian cinema and culture. He made the award winning Bengali feature film Sthaniya Sambaad (‘Spring in the Colony’) as writer and co-director in 2010.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 5:30pm
Classics 310

"Landscape Films and State Space: On the Films Division in India”

South Asia Seminar Speaker: Priya Jaikumar
Remembered by fellow documentarians as “Nehru’s favorite cameraman, ” N. S. Thapa directed several landscape and industrial shorts for the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s Films Division unit from the 1950s to the 1990s. Everest (1968) is one of his award-winning films, which records the historic expedition of the first all-Indian team to scale Mount Everest, on May 20th, 1965. The story of this film’s production, however, is less matinee-worthy. Films Division initially blocked Thapa’s involvement in the film, so that he was never part of the climb that his film triumphantly documents. The visual aesthetics of the film’s completed version, and its haphazard production process, tell parallel stories about cinema’s status as a visual image and a regulated object. Everest uses a visual lexicon of nationalism characteristic of several Films Division landscape documentaries. At the same time, such shorts register the variable styles of Films Division’s cameramen and directors, and the precarious creative autonomy of its commissioned filmmakers, who were impacted by the institution’s funding structures and the state’s film stock rationing and administrative procedures. In this talk, I use landscape shorts as a provocation to thinking about the relationship between onscreen cinematic spaces, and the institutional and social spaces of bureaucracy, industry, and ideology. The effort is to push back the horizon of historical analysis, so that space refers simultaneously to the visual unit within a film’s frame, and the concept driving a historiography of the state’s efforts to transform a place into a politico-economic territory.

Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

"Inhabiting the Past in Twentieth-Century South Asia"

On November 4, 2016, Faridah Zaman, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Research Fellow in History, and Daniel Morgan, doctoral candidate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, will co-host a workshop to discuss issues broadly relating to historical writing, memory, myth and oral traditions, the construction of intellectual and cultural narratives of origin and belonging, and the making of "usable pasts" for purposes that are political or otherwise in twentieth-century South Asia. The workshop will be in Social Sciences Research Building, room 401, from 9 AM to 6 PM.

Friday, November 4, 2016 - 9:00am
Social Sciences Research Building Room 401

Screening: For the Love of a Man

For the Love of a Man follows fans of 'superstar' Rajnikanth, whose fandom often becomes integral to their identities and those of people around them. The visual ethic of fandom and star mimicry reveal a form of star worship that is unique to Indian cinema culture. The lives of fans and their families open us to themes of brotherhood, aspiration, political affiliation, or even just means of being noticed. From bankruptcies to reformations from lives of crime, the lives of the fans offer stories that range from the heroic to the horrific, all in a day's work of turning a film star into a deity.

Friday, October 28, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103

“Globalizing India: How Global Rules and Markets Are Shaping India’s Rise to Power”

South Asia Speaker: Aseema Sinha
India’s recent economic transformation has fascinated scholars, global leaders, and interested observers alike. In 1990, India was a closed economy and a hesitant and isolated economic power. By 2016, India has rapidly risen on the global economic stage; foreign trade now drives more than half of the economy and Indian multinationals pursue global alliances. Focusing on second-generation reforms of the late 1990s, Aseema Sinha explores what facilitated global integration in a self-reliant country predisposed to nationalist ideas. The author argues that globalization has affected trade policy as well as India’s trade capacities and private sector reform. India should no longer be viewed solely through a national lens; globalization is closely linked to the ambitions of a rising India. The study uses fieldwork undertaken in Geneva, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Washington, DC, interviews with business and trade officials, alongside a close analysis of the textile and pharmaceutical industries and a wide range of documentary and firm-level evidence to let diverse actors speak in their own voices. This book speaks to the Comparative Politics literature, International Relations literature and Studies of India directly. It examines how the World Trade Organization affected and changed Indian actor’s preferences about globalization. Its deploys an interdependence approach or a dynamic second-image reversed framework to an analysis of India, while also building a dynamic framework that examines how domestic actors shape and re-shape global institutions and markets.

Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster 103