South Asia Seminar Series

South Asia Seminar: “The Highway, Automobility and New Promises in 1960s Bombay Cinema”

Ranjani Mazumdar, Professor of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi

A fascination for color in the 1960s led to Bombay cinema’s mobilization of the hinterland as the site for a new future. With the development of Indian highways and an increase in automobility, a new map of India now occupied the cinematic imagination. This talk will explore the links between the infrastructure of automobile culture, the highway, industrial development outside the city, and 1960s Bombay Cinema.

Dates: 
Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 5:00pm
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South Asia Seminar: “European Science and Colonial Anthropology in British India, c. 1871-1911”

Christopher John Fuller, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics

For the government officials who carried out ethnographic inquiry and anthropological research in colonial India, the aims and objective were always both ‘scientific’ and ‘administrative’. Modern scholarship on colonial anthropology in India has focused on its administrative, political or ideological aspects, whereas this talk will examine its scientific, academic and intellectual aspects, with particular reference to the work of H. H. Risley, British India’s leading official anthropologist.

Dates: 
Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 5:00pm
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South Asia Seminar: "Love Jihad: Pasts and Presents of Communal Fantasies and Moral Panic”

Charu Gupta, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi

This talk will juxtapose disjunctive invocations of Hindu male prowess and constructions of ‘licentious’ and sexually ‘ferocious’ Muslim male on the one hand, and assertions of recalcitrant female desire on the other, in modern India. Taking at its cue manufactured campaigns by hegemonic-homogenized Hindu identities and patriarchies around ‘abductions’ and conversions of Hindu women by Muslim men in early twentieth century colonial north India and in present-day India under the supposed threat of ‘love jihad’, the talk will probe intersections between sexualities, religious identities, intimate lives and political articulations.

The talk will reflect on how the arc of Hindu female desire for men outside the community, even while reifying heteronormativity, means that such desire is visceral and tactile, though it can only be acknowledged when it is being regulated as transgression, producing moral disciplining and everyday violence along the alliance model of sexuality, where through the arrangement of marriages, relations and boundaries of religion are policed.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 5:00pm
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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.

Dates: 
Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 5:00pm
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South Asia Seminar

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

Dates: 
Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
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South Asia Seminar: “South Asia’s Coastal Frontiers”

Sunil Amrith, Professor, History, Harvard University

In the environmental history of South Asia forests, not the coasts or the seas, have provided the focus for accounts of the expansion of state power over nature. By contrast, recent writing on inter-regional mobility has tended to treat port cities in their relations with one another, but abstracted from their material environment. This talk explores the environmental history of coastal India, in an effort to address the imbalance between histories of mobility and immobile histories of power.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
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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.

Dates: 
Thursday, March 30, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
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"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.

Dates: 
Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 4:30pm
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“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.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 4:30pm
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“From the Pursuit of a Pandit to panditproject.org: How I Became a Digital Humanist”

South Asia Speaker: Yigal Bronner
In this talk, Yigal Bronner, a Sanskritist by training, will tell the sad tale of a database project that took over his life. He will also explain why he is still excited about prosopography and, more generally, about the possibility of turning Indologists into a vibrant community with the help of digital tools.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 4:30pm
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