Past Events

"Relief after Hardship: The Turkish Ottoman Model for the Thousand and One Day"

A lecture by Prof. Marzolph.

In his talk, Prof. Marzolph will discuss the complicated relation between the early eighteenth-century French Mille et un Jours (The Thousand and one Days), the fourteenth century Ottoman Ferec baʿd eş-şidde (Relief after Hardship), and a genre of Persian literature that is known as Jâmeʿ al-hekâyât (Compilation of Tales). Since Ottoman Turkish literature proves to be a suitable candidate for the transmission of tales from East to West long before the European translation of The Thousand and One Nights, Prof. Marzolph contends that the early reception of these tales from Muslim narrative tradition might well have had an inspiring impact on the nascent genre of the European fairy tale that has come to know international success today.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 4:30pm
Swift, Lecture Hall, 3rd floor

"Traveling Tales: The Muslim World's Contribution to World Narrative Lore”

A discussion of two tale types which occur in Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Ottoman and modern European languages. If you would like to attend, please email

Monday, April 3, 2017 - 2:30pm to 4:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: “The Postman and the Tramp: Cynicism, Commitment, and the Aesthetics of Subaltern Futurity”

Toral Gajarawala, Associate Prof, Comparative Literature, NYU

This paper will consider two dialectical strains in the battle for representation of the “the caste question” by examining recent attempts to rethink the dissemination of knowledge of caste atrocity. I will mention here Meera Kandasamy’s recent The Gypsy Goddess, which takes up the Kilvenmani massacre of 1968 in rural Tamil Nadu, and the new YouTube channel “Dalit Camera”, which features videos on caste conflict in various contexts, including the village and the university. Kandasamy’s novel begins with the directive to “F*** the postmodern novel” while engaging in a series of formalist and generic ruptures to traditional narrative. The text functions as a retelling of tragedy, a critical appraisal of the role of communism in Dalit movements, as well as a mediation on the limitations of the novel, interspersed as it is with Twitter feeds and newspaper headlines. Dalit Camera follows a strictly documentarist vision, using unedited interviews and other techniques of ethnography. It relies primarily on volunteers, who use donated equipment to track stories ignored in the mainstream media, and to translate witness statements. “The camera has become a tool for our self-respect,” says founder Bathran Ravichandran. This paper will use these ‘texts’ to think through the ideological and aesthetic range of the casteist contemporaneity. Largely revisionist in its approach and presentist in its outlook, I want to ask what kind of radical futurity might be envisioned by the Dalit text, in the form of the novelistic collage, as well as the retro camera.

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

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