Past Events of Fall 2012

Monday September 24 - Books and Authors
A discussion with Partha Chatterjee and Ira Katznelson

Anxieties of Democracy: Tocquevillean Reflections on India and the United States

Co-sponsored by the Departments of History and Anthropology, and the Heyman Center for the Humanities

Partha Chatterjee and Ira Katznelson will discuss their recently published edited volume, Anxieties of Democracy: Tocquevillean Reflections on India and the United States (2012), which includes essays by the editors and by Rajeev Bhargava (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies), Daniel Carpenter (Harvard), Niraja Gopal Jayal (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Sudipta Kaviraj (Columbia), Margaret Levi (Washington, Seattle), Rogers M. Smith (Pennsylvania), and Ashutosh Varshney (Brown).

Partha Chatterjee is a Professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia. A founding member of the Subaltern Studies group, he was Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences from 1979 - 2007. Chatterjee was awarded the annual Fukuoka Prize for outstanding achievement in Asian Studies in 2009. His most recent monographs include Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy (2011) and The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power (2012).

Ira Katznelson is Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia. In September 2012, Katznelson will take up a post as Director of the Social Science Research Council. He has taught at the University of Chicago, chairing its department of political science from 1979 to 1982; and at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, where he was dean from 1983 to 1989. Katznelson was President of the American Political Science Association for 2005-06. His many publications include When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (2006) and The Politics of Power: A Critical Introduction to American Government (2005) with Mark Kesselman and Alan Draper.

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 509, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Wednesday, September 26 - South Asia Graduate Student Forum
"Language and the Parameters of Literature"
A talk by Andrew Ollet, Ph.D. candidate,
Department of Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies

Author abstract: When we speak of "English literature," "Arabic literature," "Sanskrit literature," we're qualifying a signifier that is supposed to be stable across cultures (though the word "literature" itself is a neo-Latin coinage from 17th-century Europe) with linguistic or national unities that have been constructed as sites of difference. We allow language to set the boundaries of, and thus function as a parameter for, "literature." I will critically examine this "parametric" function in the context of the language or languages called Prakrit. What exactly does a term like "Prakrit literature" refer to? Conversely, what does it mean to call Prakrit a "literary language"? It is well known that, within the large and long-lived cultural formation of the "Sanskrit cosmopolis," Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Apabhramsa collectively and exhaustively delimited a domain of textuality in which kavya, "literature strictly speaking," was situated. But this broad formulation doesn't tell us how, for example, these different languages are mapped onto the literary archive (internally differentiated by theme, genre, meter, and so on), or onto the field of literary production (divided into region, social groups, religious communities). In this talk I will focus on how language difference is mapped onto a literary tradition-something that extends through time, is produced through implicit and explicit processes of appropriation and exclusion, and is structured by relations of precedence and influence. The evidence will come from what authors actually say about Prakrit's relation to literary traditions, from their own citation practices (including especially the topos of kaviprasamsa, "praise of poets"), the ways in which they themselves are cited, and the "source" and "target" languages of commentaries and abridgements. I will show how the tools of Social Network Analysis might allow us to analyze and visualize complex relations such as these. From this perspective, as we might have expected, language is neither an exclusive nor an irrelevant parameter; boundaries between languages were semi-permeable. More important and interesting is the exact significance of "semi-": What are the asymmetries between Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Apabhramsa? What can these tell us about their status and audience? And how does language relate to religious affiliation, or other potential parameters of a literary tradition?

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Wednesday, October 3 - Distinguished Lecturer Series
Carl Ernst
(University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

"Anglo-Persian Taxonomies of Indian Religions."

Introduction by Allison Busch, Associate Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life

Abstract: Before the establishment of British colonial categories for classifying the religions of India, a vast archive existed in Persian texts that described Indian religious groups. After a brief sketch of religious concepts embedded in Mughal administrative compendia (Abu al-Fazl, Rai Chaturman), this paper presents two examples of Anglo-Persian texts, commissioned by British officials and composed by Hindu secretaries (munshis) in Persian around 1800, with accompanying illustrations, as accounts of the most prominent religious groups in Benares; both texts were key sources for H. H. Wilson's pioneering Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus (1828-32). Comparison of these writings reveals a wide range of differing taxonomies of religions and shifting strategies of translation, and it opens a window onto the complex mediating role of Persianate Hindus on the threshold of the colonial era.

Carl W. Ernst is the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was Chair of the department (1995-2000) and is currently Co-Director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. He earned his PhD at Harvard University and has been awarded Fulbright, NEH, and Guggenheim fellowships. Ernst was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been a visiting lecturer at EHESS (Paris), the University of Seville, and the University of Malaya. His most recent publications include How to Read the Qur'an: A New Guide, with Select Translations (2011); Rethinking Islamic Studies: From Orientalism to Cosmopolitanism (co-edited with Richard Martin, 2010); and Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (2003).

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Monday, October 8 - Distinguished Lecturer Series
Antoinette Burton
(University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

"Species War: Some Naturalists' Views of the First Afghan Campaign, 1839-42."

Antoinette Burton is a Professor of History and Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies in the Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her PhD at the University of Chicago and has been awarded Fulbright, NEH, and Guggenheim fellowships. Burton's research interests include Modern Britain and empire; colonial India; women, gender and feminism; postcolonial studies; and world history. Her most recent monographs are A Primer for Teaching World History: Ten Design Principles (2012); Brown over Black: Race and the Politics of Postcolonial Citation (2012); and Empire in Question: Reading, Writing, and Teaching British Imperialism (2011).

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Tuesday, October 16 - Mellon Sanskrit Series
A talk by Christopher Minkowski, Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford

Introduction by Sheldon Pollock, William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

"Maryadam ullaghya: the boundaries of interpretation in Sanskrit commentary"

Christopher Minkowski is Boden Professor of Sanskrit, Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, and a Fellow of Balliol College. He earned his MA and PhD at Harvard University, and has taught at the University of Iowa, Brown University, and Cornell University. His research interests include Vedic language, literature and religion; the Sanskrit Epic; and Early Modern Intellectual History and History of Science.

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Monday, October 22 - Distinguished Lecturer Series
Maarten Bavinck
(University of Amsterdam)

"Caste law and the regulation of ocean fisheries in Tamil Nadu, India - a legal pluralism perspective"

Co-Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

Maarten Bavinck is Director, Centre for Maritime Research (MARE), and Associate Professor in the Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development Studies. at the University of Amsterdam. His research interests include fisheries governance, coastal zone development, livelihood/well-being studies, legal pluralism, and South Asia. He is presently working as Director of a project entitled Re-incorporating the excluded: providing space for small-scale fishers in the sustainable development of fisheries of South Africa and South Asia (2010-2015). His publications include Social justice and fisheries governance: the view from India (with D. Johnson, 2010); Fish for Life: interactive governance for fisheries (edited with J. Kooiman, S. Jentoft and R. Pullin, 2005); and Marine resource management: Conflict and regulation in the fisheries of the Coromandel Coast (2001); and Small fry: The economy of petty fishermen in northern Sri Lanka (1984).

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue
Monday, November 19 - South Asia Graduate Student Forum
A talk by Anand Taneja (Anthropology Department, Columbia)

"Saintly Dreams and the Limits of of the Discursive Tradition"

Author abstract: During my fieldwork in Delhi I heard many dream-narratives, from people with diverse religious identities, in which the appearance of a Muslim saint-figure marked a transformative event in the dreamer's waking life. In this talk, I will present some of these dream narratives and argue that these dreams show us some limits to Talal Asad's influential idea of Islam as a primarily discursive tradition.

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue
Monday, November 26 - Lecture
A talk by Saloni Mathur (UCLA)

"On the Work of Contemporary Indian Art: Vivan Sundaram's Late Style"

Saloni Mathur is Associate Professor, Department of Art History, UCLA. She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Her areas of interest include the visual cultures of modern South Asia and the South Asian diaspora, colonial studies and postcolonial criticism, the history of anthropological ideas, museum studies in a global frame, and modern/contemporary South Asian art. She is author of India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (2007), editor of The Migrant's Time: Art, Dispersal, and Difference (2011), and co-editor (with Kavita Singh) of the forthcoming No Touching, Spitting, Praying: Modalities of the Museum in South Asia. Mathur has received grants and awards from the Yale Center for British Art, the Getty Grant Program, the Clark Art Institute, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, and the Social Science Research Council of Canada. She previously taught at Vassar College and the University of Michigan, before joining UCLA's faculty in 2001.

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue
Wednesday, November 28 - ICLS Lecture
A talk by Aamir Mufti (UCLA)

"Revolution's Late Style: History and the Human in Faiz Ahmed Faiz"

Organized by the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society

Co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute

Aamir Mufti is Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at UCLA. He earned his Ph.D. at Columbia. His work reconsiders the secularization thesis in a comparative perspective, with a special interest in Islam and modernity in India and the cultural politics of Jewish identity in Western Europe. His areas of specialization include: colonial and postcolonial literatures, with a primary focus on India and Britain, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century Urdu literature in particular; Marxism and aesthetics; Frankfurt School critical theory; minority cultures; exile and displacement; refugees and the right to asylum; modernism and fascism; language conflicts; global English and the vernaculars; and the history of Anthropology. His publications include Enlightenment in the Colony: The Jewish Question and the Crisis of Postcolonial Culture (2007) and the co-edited volume, Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives (1997, with Anne McClintock and Ella Shohat).

Time: 4:15pm - 5:45pm
Location: 602 Hamilton Hall
For a map of the Morningside campus, visit
Friday, December 7 - Film Screening and discussion
Barnard College and The Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies present a film screening in honor of Barbara Stoler Miller

Jai Bhim Comrade (2011, 182 minutes)
Followed by a discussion with director Anand Patwardhan

Co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute and the Film Department, School of the Arts

Introduction by Rachel Fell McDermott, Professor and Chair of the Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures Department

Discussion moderated by Anupama Rao, Associate Professor, History Department

Fourteen years in the making, Anand Patwardhan's documentary tells a story of Dalit and communal politics in Maharashtra, and the ongoing struggles of Dalits for justice and equality. When a statue of B. R. Ambedkar in Mumbai's Ramabai colony was desecrated in 1997, angry crowds gathered, and the police opened fire, killing ten unarmed persons, all of them from the Dalit community. Vilas Ghogre, an activist, poet and singer, who witnessed the events, later hung himself in despair. Jhai Bhim Comrade traces the decade-long story of the protest through the poetry and music of Ghogre and others. Jhai Bhim Comrade was named Best Film at both the Mumbai International Film Festival and Film South Asia, Katmandu, Nepal, and received the Firebird Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Anand Patwardhan earned a B.A. in English Literature from Bombay University, a B.A. in Sociology from Brandeis University, and a Master's degree in Communications from McGill University. He has been making award-winning political documentaries for nearly three decades, pursuing diverse and controversial issues that illuminate social and political life in India. Many of his films were at one time or another banned by state television channels in India and became the subject of litigation by Patwardhan who successfully challenged the censorship rulings in court. His film War and Peace/Jang aur Aman (2002) received a Best Documentary award from the National Film Awards of India in 2004, as well as top prizes at film festivals in Karachi, Kerala, Mumbai, Sydney, Tokyo, and Zanzibar.

Seating is limited and will be on a first-come, first seated basis. The film is approximately three hours long, and there will be a brief intermission at about 4:30pm, followed by a discussion to begin at about 6:20pm.

Time: 3:00pm - 7:00pm (screening from 3:00pm to 6:15pm)
Location: Held Auditorium, 304 Barnard Hall, Barnard College, entrance at 117th Street and Broadway
For a map of the Morningside campus, visit
Bottom Bar

Columbia University SIPA Link