South Asia Seminar Series

South Asia Seminar: Charlie Hallisey, Harvard Divinity School

South Asia Seminar: Charlie Hallisey, Harvard Divinity School

Dates: 
Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

From Pulavar to Professor: The Changing Status of the Tamil Pandit

South Asia Seminar: A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Madras Institute of Development Studies
"From Pulavar to Professor: The Changing Status of the Tamil Pandit"
This paper traces the changing status of Tamil pulavars or pandits in colonial Tamil Nadu. Following Macaulay's minute the policy of imparting Western education undermined the status of language teachers. Seen as relics of a lost world and impediments to modernity they were objects of ridicule. But Tamil identity politics empowered them giving them an enhanced cultural status.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 18, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

'Harishchandra Chāritra’ and the Medieval Shaiva Literary Canon in Kannada

South Asia Seminar: Vanamala Viswanatha, Azim Premji University

Harishchandra Chāritra, or Harishchandra Kāvya, as more popularly known in Kannada literary culture, (The Life of Harishchandra, Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press, 2017) was written by poet Raghavanka of Hampi in Northern Karnataka, around 1225 CE. Like the mythical, two-headed gaṅḍabhēruṅḍa bird, the insignia of Karnataka kings, that looks back and looks forward at once, this kāvya text of narrative poetry in the mārga/courtly tradition combines in equal measure aspects of the dēsi/vernacular which came to dominate literary production in the ensuing centuries. The talk demonstrates ways in which this shaiva text from the medieval period forges important links with its literary forebears from the Sanskrit kāvya tradition even as it establishes a local habitat for itself in a quintessential Kannada milieu. Drawing from the oral and folk traditions of Kannada, the poet innovates a new metre called shatpadi, which also provides creative expression for the Vaishnava poets in the later centuries. The text becomes a dialogic space in which Kannada and Sanskrit, the classical and the popular/ dēsi, the local and the pan-Indian jostle against each other to gesture towards a poetics that could go beyond its sectarian moorings. I argue that Raghavanka could accomplish this by maintaining a critical distance in terms of ideology, theme, and form from the canonical Virashaiva poets of the earlier century as well as from Harihara, his own guru and contemporary poet.

Dates: 
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Old World, New World; Old Ways, New Ways: Libraries and Cultural Property

South Asia Seminar: Graham Shaw, British Library

[Celebrating the Career of James Nye Dinner Following, Classics 110]

In this talk, Graham Shaw will offer a review of the ways in which South Asian collections in the West - Europe and America - have developed from the 18th to the 20th centuries in the light of changing historical circumstances, relationships and technologies. Shaw comes to Chicago to join in honoring the many contributions of South Asia bibliographer Jim Nye, who will retire from UChicago this fall. Shaw credits Nye with devising an ethical approach to collections and cultural property and will discuss how the field has changed over the course of both men’s careers.

Dates: 
Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Tackling Tantrāloka

South Asia Seminar: Alexis Sanderson, University of Oxford, All Souls College, Faculty member

Professor Sanderson will discuss his long-term project to edit, translate, and write a commentary on the Tantrāloka, Abhinavagupta monumental treatise on the Tantras, and in doing so will seek to explain the genesis and purpose of his work.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 10, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: "Strivers and Seekers in 17th century Lahore"

Purnima Dhawan, Associate Professor at the Department of History, Director of Graduate Studies, Howard and Frances Keller Endowed Professor, University of Washington

By the seventeenth century a proliferation of individuals and communities in the Mughal province of Lahore began to articulate their search for new ethical norms in a variety of texts. Situated both in elite, courtly circles as well as humbler vernacular contexts, this phenomenon has generally been studied through the lens of religious expression and reform. By placing these texts within the dramatically changing demographic profile of the province, this paper argues that such texts should also be viewed as articulations of new social personas and ethical codes that give us an exciting glimpse of the rapidly changing nature of Lahore’s communities.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: “Indo-Humanism and Brahmin Identity in Early Modern Goa”

Stuart McManus, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, University of Chicago

In early modern Goa, Jesuit missionaries in collaboration with local high-caste Christians codified Konkani grammar and collected vernacular versions of canonical South Asian texts. This led to the creation of a scholarly culture of "Indo-Humanism", which channeled local rhetorical and philosophical traditions within a Neo-Roman humanist framework. This paper addresses the particular caste valency of Indo-Humanism, taking as a starting point the Konkani sermons of the Jesuit missionary, Miguel de Almeida.

Dates: 
Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: “The Implied Donkey: Bhakti and the Fear of the Public in Premodern India”

Christian Novetzke, Professor at South Asia Program and Comparative Religion, College of Arts and Sciences Endowed Professor, University of Washington

Before there was Marathi literature, there was a Marathi public. Perhaps slightly earlier than the advent of Marathi literary vernacularization in the 13th century, inscriptions issued in Marathi during the reign of the Yadavas from 1187 CE onwards evinced an awareness of a Marathi-speaking public as well as a particular socio-political stance toward that public. This paper traces this recognition through two sets of inscriptional material. The first involves the ubiquitous “donkey curse,” a disturbing imprecation of sexual violence usually conveyed in Sanskrit, but in Maharashtra only ever rendered in Marathi and with regularity across the political territory of the Yadavas, and then well beyond. The second set involves bhakti or devotionalism in which explicit reference is made to “the people of bhakti,” the bhaktijana, in regard to the nascent worship of Vitthal in Pandharpur. The paper argues that these two sets of inscriptions point, in their own ways, toward a Marathi public constituted by the denizens of everyday life, the janata, who are recognized, addressed, and even feared through these inscriptions. This recognition by politically powerful elites suggests the public discursive space into which the first extant works of Marathi literature would emerge—the Lilacharitra (c. 1278 CE) and the Jnaneshwari (c. 1290 CE). These works, in turn, enlivened debates in colloquial Marathi about social equity in terms of caste and gender, providing one strand of the genealogy of a nascent public sphere in premodern India.

Dates: 
Thursday, March 29, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: "When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics"

Milan Vaishnav, Director and Senior Fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

In India, the world’s largest democracy, the symbiotic relationship between crime and politics raises complex questions. For instance, why do voters elect (and even reelect) them, to the point that a third of state and national legislators assume office with pending criminal charges? Political scientist Milan Vaishnav will discuss findings from a recent book which examines the marketplace for criminal politicians by drawing on fieldwork on the campaign trail, large surveys, and an original database on politicians’ backgrounds. The result is the first systematic study of an issue that has profound implications for democracy both with and beyond India’s borders.

Dates: 
Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: "Gaining a Name for Generosity: Ethics and Exemplarity in the Tales of Hatim Ta'i"

Pasha Khan, Chair in Urdu Language and Culture, Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies McGill University

The name of the pre-Islamic Arab Hātim Tā'ī has been a synonym for generosity in Islamicate texts from Andalusia to Southeast Asia, and from biographies of the Prophet Muhammad to Bollywood films. Hātim became the protagonist of tales of extreme generosity, including the 18th-century Indo-Persian Hātim-nāma, in which he gives his own flesh to creatures in need, in a manner reminiscent of the Boddhisatvas of the jātaka stories. This talk explores the economy of the "nām" (name and fame) that Hātim gains in exchange for his sometimes scarcely believable open-handedness, as articulated most strikingly by Sa'dī Shīrazī in 13th-century Iran, and echoed in the reflections on dāna (giving) in the 19th-century Hātim-nama in Braj Bhasha, written by the Sikh poet Saundhā for the ruler of Punjab, Ranjīt Singh. How has the counter-gift of the name worked to render effective the ethical exemplarity of Hātim, often in spite of his status as a non-Muslim? What might have been the limits placed upon, or the damage done to, Hātim's ethics on account of his gaining a name for his generosity?

Dates: 
Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

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