Upcoming TAPSA Talks

Theory and Practice in South Asia (TAPSA)

The workshop is designed to keep faculty and graduate students of social science and humanistic disciplines concerned with South Asia in touch with new directions in the field by providing interdisciplinary models of methodological and substantive approaches. The Workshop makes a special point of crossing the boundary between the humanities and social sciences. It collaborates with the South Asia Seminar, one dedicated to graduate student presentations, the other to presentations by in-resident or visiting scholars and faculty. The South Asia Seminar series and the TAPSA Workshop bring together not only scholars from various disciplines, but make a special point of attracting scholars from South Asia. Their visits are designed to promote continuing exchanges with recent work on the sub-continent and to introduce graduate students to future colleagues in South Asia.

For more information about TAPSA, please visit the TAPSA blog.

All events are open to the public.

The South Asia Seminar Series and TAPSA Talks meet on alternating Thursdays at 4:30PM-6:00PM in Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street).

Self-Determination and the Minority Question in Colonial India

TAPSA: Tejas Parasher, doctoral candidate in Political Science

Between the late 1800s and the early 1950s, South Asian politics were dominated by demands for elected representative government. These demands were made by nationalists challenging British colonial rule as well as by minority groups contesting nationalist claims. From early histories of colonial India by David Washbrook and D.A. Low to more recent accounts by Rajeev Bhargava and others, principles of representative government in Indian political thought have been understood as either directly inherited from British liberalism, or as departing from liberal antecedents only in their emphasis on the political rights of cultural groups rather than of individual citizens. Current interpretations overlook an important dimension of political representation in colonial India: for many Indian thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, representative government was incompatible with the economic aspects of British liberalism, especially with free markets and private property ownership. This paper traces how economic liberalism became a target of critique in the theory of political representation formulated by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956). Reconstructing Ambedkar’s proposals for separate representation of caste and religious minorities over a thirty-year period, from his first engagements with colonial constitutional reform after WWI to his activism with the Republican Party of India in the 1950s, I draw out a theory of democratic government which used minority representation to transform markets and create participatory forms of economic life. Against what he took to be overly political views on representation in Anglo-American constitutionalism, Ambedkar considered group-based representation a tool for moving beyond liberal economic frameworks. I argue that this vision of democracy pushes us to rethink the place of markets within current theories of political representation for historically marginalized groups.

Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

Kazi Nazrul Islam and the Partition of Bengal: A Language of Unity, a Language of Loss

TAPSA: Ahona Panda, doctoral candidate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Arguably the most successful poet and music composer appealing to both Hindus and Muslims equally in undivided and divided Bengal, Kazi Nazrul Islam was the singular voice of an anti-separatist and unified Bengal. This paper explores how Nazrul, the national poet of Bangladesh, began to craft a political language from the 1920s that was anti-separatist, socialist and referring to a philological landscape including centuries of Islamic and Hindu literary traditions.
The paper examines the many lives of Kazi Nazrul Islam during the tumultuous decades of anticolonial nationalism, separatism and Partition, and East Pakistan.

Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

An Archaeology of the Virtues: Conversion and the History of the Khanzada of Mewat

TAPSA: Mudit Trivedi, doctoral candidate in Anthropology

A short distance south of Delhi, nestled in the Mewat hills are the remains of the fort-city of Indor. This city was founded in the fourteenth century CE by a lineage who came to call themselves the Khanzada of Mewat after their conversion to Islam . This talk presents some selected results of an extended multi-year project of architectural documentation, archaeological survey and excavations at this site. Through engagement with these material and spatial data, as well as recent debates over the history of the region of Mewat this talk outlines what an archaeology of conversion may have to contribute to the study of medieval India and Islam. Such an approach, arguably, affords the possibility of not explaining conversion nor inquiring into its motives; but rather of providing an account of the world a convert community enters into and the way of life it fosters and aims to secure. In doing so, the talk shall ground a series of archaeological analyses within an appraisal of the salience of the virtues in Islam to the Khanzada. Towards this end, the talk presents two sets of analysis, of glass ornaments and that of mortuary assemblages. Through these examples, the talk provides two accounts of the world the Khanzada crafted at Indor and how these were both articulated and evaluated in light of continuing arguments about virtue, rank and descent in south Asian Islam.

Thursday, November 8, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103

The Founding of Bhutan in the Context of Tibet’s Seventeenth Century

TAPSA: Jetsun Deleplanque, Divinity School

This paper focuses on the theoretical foundations of the Bhutanese state founded by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594-1651) in the seventeenth century by paying attention to larger political developments taking place on the Tibetan plateau. Taking as its primary source the works of Tsang Khenchen Palden Gyatso (1610-84), the political refugee and famed biographer of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, my paper argues that the theocracy of Ngawang Namgyel was established and further consolidated within the confines of a specific environment which represents the culmination of a number of social and political developments taking place in Tibet during the period. Crucial among these were the momentous events that the led to the toppling of the little-studied Tsangpa hegemony of western Tibet and the establishment of the Ganden Phodrang government of the Dalai Lamas.

Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 5:00pm
Foster 103