Past Events

India in Global Intellectual History

Once approached primarily through a regional and historical focus on Western Europe and North America, intellectual history has in recent years come to adopt an increasingly expansive, global perspective. Scholars have begun to explore the cross-fertilization of ideas between Europe and other regions, as well as to examine the distinct methodological challenges raised in doing “intellectual” (as opposed to social, economic, or cultural) history outside the West. The aim of this workshop, sponsored by the Theorizing Indian Democracy research project at the Neubauer Collegium, is to interrogate the place of India within current frameworks of global intellectual history. How might analyzing the formation of concepts within the geographical and cultural space of modern India give us new insights into the region’s relationship to other intellectual traditions around the world? The workshop will investigate what the recent “global” turn in the history of ideas can contribute to studies of the Indian past.

Faisal Devji (University of Oxford)
Shruti Kapila (University of Cambridge)
Nico Slate (Carnegie Mellon University)

Rama Mantena (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Friday, April 12, 2019 - 4:30pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities 1100 E. 57th St.

Adivasi Christians and Contextual Theology

TAPSA: Elsa Marty, University of Chicago Divinity School

Christians in the tribal state of Jharkhand are predominantly Adivasi (indigenous). In recent years, Christians have been returning to their Adivasi cultural roots and are increasingly reflecting on what it means to be simultaneously Christian and Adivasi. Drawing upon ethnographic work with two Lutheran denominations in Jharkhand, this paper explores the churches’ different approaches to articulating and promoting an Adivasi Christian identity and discusses the implications of their divergent approaches for contextual theology more broadly.

Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103


Doc Films Screening: Aparajito

7pm & 9:30pm

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 7:00pm
Doc films 1212 E 59th St # 3, Chicago, IL 60637

“A vast sea of slums”: From chawls and “insanitary villages” to zopadpattis in 20th century Bombay

South Asia Seminar: Nikhil Rao, Department of History, Wellesley College

Over the course of the middle decades of the 20th century, the category “slum” underwent important changes in large, fast-growing cities like Bombay. From a descriptive term used to characterize dwellings such as chawls (tenements) or villages on the urban fringe that did not measure up to sanitary standards, “slum” in post-Independence India became a bureaucratic category that invoked the uncertain tenurial status of more makeshift forms such as the zopadpattis of Bombay. This paper traces aspects of this change in meaning, before moving to consider the implications of this change for the pattern of urban expansion in Indian cities.

Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Pather Panchali

Doc Films Screening: Pather Panchali

7pm & 9:30pm

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - 7:00pm
Doc films 1212 E 59th St # 3, Chicago, IL 60637

Reason and the Image: On Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)

South Asia Seminar: Keya Ganguly, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota

This talk focuses on Satyajit Ray’s cinematic treatment of an episode from India’s late colonial history in Shatranj Ke Khilari (“The Chess Players,” 1977). I suggest that through his portrait of the betrayal of reason under the pretext of law, Ray makes an appeal on behalf of the visual image as a critique of reason (rather than its lure).

Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Embodied Empiricism and the Respectability of Labour at the Madrasa Tibbiya Delhi

TAPSA: Sabrina Datoo, Department of History, University of Chicago

This paper elucidates how the mores of the north Indian service-gentry were implicated in the reformation of Avicennian medicine in colonial India. The paper focuses on a single site, the Madrasa Tibbiya of Delhi, a medical school founded in 1889 by a renowned lineage of Avicennian practitioners (hakims). This essay explores how medical education at the Madrasa proceeded by managing respectability (sharafat) as an aesthetic and ethical sensibility in order to dignify the manual labors required by scientific empiricism.

Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street)

Sixteenth Annual South Asia Graduate Student Conference: “South Asia: The Political, the Public, the Popular”

South Asia Graduate Student Conference XVI: The Political, the Public, and the Popular
For more information on the conference, including its schedule, please visit:

Fri., Mar. 8 and Sat., Mar. 9

Friday, March 8
Keynote: Ayesha Jalal, “Past Presentism: History and the Recovery of Imagination” (Swift Lecture Hall)
6:30pm — FILM SCREENING: ‘Abu’ (2017), followed by discussion with director Arshad Khan (Logan Center for the Performing Arts, Screening Room 201). A reception with appetizers and drinks will be held preceding the screening outside of Room 201 (5:30pm-6:30pm)

Saturday, March 9
Keynote: Pamela Philipose, “South Asia: Borders on Maps and Minds” (Swift Lecture Hall)
7:00 — Dinner (Logan Center for the Performing Arts, Performance Penthouse 901)

Organizing Committee:
Andrew Halladay, South Asian Languages and Civilizations; History
Titas De Sarkar, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Zoya Sameen, History
Faculty Advisor: Laura Letinsky, Professor, Department of Visual Arts

Friday, March 8, 2019 - 9:00am to Saturday, March 9, 2019 - 9:00pm
Swift Hall 3rd Floor Lecture Hall, Logan Center for Performing Arts

"Gate of India:" Early Modern Qandahar

Talk by Dr. Neelam Khoja.

Qandahar was a borderland fort-city: the eastern most frontier for the Safavids, and western most frontier for the Mughals. As such, it was a site for contestation, and it volleyed back and forth between these two empires. Qandahar was a stra­tegic city, mostly for trade, but also because it was heavily fortified and penetrating its walls was no easy feat. It was one of the leading cities for money ex­change: it housed a mint and large sums of money. For most of secondary scholarship, these facts are uncontested: Qandahar was a peripheral fort-city known for trade and exchange, which meant flush with revenues. Most secondary scholarship privileges the Safavid and Mughal empires, when reconstructing early modern history. This presentation seeks to shift the perspective: it is interested in what Qandahar meant for the Ghilzai Afghans, Nadir Shah Afshar, and Abdali Af­ghans during the long eighteenth century. In doing so, it reveals how Qandahar was the point of departure to enter Hindustani territories for Nadir Shah. For the Afghans, Qandahar was not peripheral; rather it was at the center of their power.

Dr. Neelam Khoja received her doctorate from Harvard University and holds Master's degrees in Islamic Studies from Claremont Graduate University and Harvard Divinity School. Her research brings together connective history, literature, and religion in early modern Iran and Hindustan (present-day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). Her first monograph (in-progress), Known Geographies: Afghan Sovereigns, Soldiers, and Society in Eighteenth Century Iran and Hindustan, addresses questions about 18th century Afghan identity, migration, space, and sovereignty. Khoja's research has been supported by numerous grants, including Fulbright, American Institute of Pakistan Studies, American Institute of Iranian Studies, and Harvard University's South Asia Institute and Asia Center.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

The Language Disciplines: A Figure for the South Asian Humanities

Talk by Andrew Ollett, Junior Fellow, Harvard University’s Society of Fellows, PhD, Columbia University (2015)
According to an origin story that the Jain monk Jinasēna told in the ninth century, the arts and sciences began when R̥ṣabha, who would later become the first enlightened being, “taught textuality” vāṅmayam upādiśat) to his two daughters. What does it mean to “teach textuality”? Can this question help us to think about the theoretical foundations of the South Asian humanities? This talk will develop one answer to this question. According to Jinasēna, a triad of “language disciplines” — grammar, metrics, and poetics — forms the necessary point of departure for any voyage into the textual past. They are “disciplines” because we do not simply leave them behind once we have acquired the requisite linguistic skills. They are present in every act of understanding. As the eleventh-century scholar Abhinavagupta shows us, the language disciplines also suggest certain theories of understanding, in that the phenomena they track, and the categories they use, require us to conceive the process of expression, and conversely the process of interpretation, in new ways. Jinasēna shows us that “teaching textuality” means teaching the disciplines that make an understanding of the textual past possible, and
Abhinavagupta shows us how to find the theory in these disciplines.

Thursday, February 21, 2019 - 5:15pm
Foster 103