Past Events of Spring 2012

Monday, February 6 - Lecture
A talk by Achyut Chetan

"Missing Mothers of the Indian Constitution and the Gender Politics of its Framing"

Achyut Chetan is a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at the South Asia Institute during the 2011-12 Academic Year. He is a Lecturer in English at Sido Kanhu Murmu University, in Dumka, Jharkhand, and is a doctoral candidate at Visva Bharati University. His current research focuses on gender politics of the Constituent Assembly of India.

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

Wednesday, February 8 - Lecture
A talk by Blake Wentworth (Yale)

"Passion for the King: Royal Beauty in the Chola State."

Introduction by Bernard Bate, Associate Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

Co-sponsored by the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

Blake T. Wentworth is Lector in Tamil and Religious Studies at Yale University. He earned his PhD in the History of Religions at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. His publications include the forthcoming translation Kampan's Ramayana: Youth for the Murty Classical Library of India, and Tamarind History, an English translation of the Tamil novel, Oru Puliyamarattin Katai, by Cuntara Ramacami.

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

Thursday, February 23 - Books and Authors
A talk by Monica Ringer

"Pious Citizens: Reforming Zoroastrianism in India and Iran"

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

Co-sponsored with the Middle East Institute

Monica Ringer's talk will examine an intellectual revolution in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century India and Iran that transformed the role of religion in society: the development of a rational and enlightened religion, characterized by social responsibility and the interiorization of piety; and the development of modern individuals, citizens, new public space, national identity, and secularism.

Monica Ringer is Associate Professor of History and Asian Languages and Civilizations at Amherst College. She is a former executive director for the International Society of Iranian Studies and currently serves as co-editor of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. She is author of Education, Religion and the Discourse of Cultural Reform in Qajar Iran (2001) and Pious Citizens: Reforming Zoroastrianism in India and Iran (2011), which explores religious reform and "modernization" in the Zoroastrian community in Iran and India in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Time: 1:15pm - 2:45pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Wednesday, March 21 - Lecture
A talk by Prathama Banerjee (Centre for Studies in Developing Societies)

"Thinking Equality: Bengal 1870s-1940s"

Introduction by Anupama Rao (Associate Professor, History Department, Barnard College)

Paper Abstract by Prathama Banerjee: This paper is part of a larger, ongoing work on the histories of the 'political' in colonial/postcolonial Bengal. Here I discuss the career of an idea - that of equality - between 1870s and 1940s. I show how different figures of the subaltern animated the idea at different points of time. I also show how different modes of thought made possible the 'thinking' of such an idea in the first place. Additionally, I show how equality as idea was brought to life not so much by nationalism as by a persistent tension between the imperatives of nationalism and anti-nationalism. Equality, in other words, was framed by the asymmetrical triad of three neighbouring concepts - inequality/difference/(comm)unity. Implicit in this story is the more general argument that the history of a political idea can be more fruitfully written through an attentive reading of genres of writing, modes of translation and forms of thought, through which an idea is embodied and put to work. In that sense, this is a move away from 'intellectual' history as we know it.

Prathama Banerjee is Associate Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Developing Societies in Calcutta. She studied at Jawaharlal Nehru University and earned her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, and was a Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences from 2000-03. Banerjee's current projects include an examination of 20th century Bengal through an intellectual history and the history of practices that produced the political as distinct domain, act and subjectivity, and a collaborative project on rethinking disciplinary formations and knowledge politics in post-1947 India. Banerjee is the author of The Politics of Time: 'Primitives' and history-writing in a colonial society (2006).

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

Thursday, March 22 - Panel Discussion
"The Dilemma of Civilian Assistance to Pakistan"

Ehtisham Ahmad (London School of Economics)
Anis Dani (World Bank)
Michael Kugelman (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)
Ambassador Robin Raphel (US Dept of State)
Moderator by S. Akbar Zaidi (SIPA and MESAAS)

Organized by the American Pakistan Foundation

Co-Sponsored by the South Asia Institute,
SIPA South Asia Association, and the
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The American Pakistan Foundation presents a discussion on the opportunities and challenges involved in US civilian aid to Pakistan. The panel will discuss the relationship between Pakistan and the US in the context of the Woodrow Wilson Center's recent report "Aiding Without Abetting: Making US Civilian Assistance to Pakistan Work for Both Sides."

Ehtisham Ahmad is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics. Anis Dani is Lead Evaluation Specialist, and former Advisor Social Policy, World Bank. Michael Kugelman is Program Associate for Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Ambassador Robin Raphel is Senior Advisor to Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, US Dept of State; and former Coordinator for Economic and Development Assistance to Pakistan. S. Akbar Zaidi is a Visiting Professor at Columbia, jointly appointed at the School of International and Public Affairs, and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.

To register for the event, visit the Columbia Events Calendar

The American Pakistan Foundation (APF) seeks to effectively catalyze long term economic development and social change in Pakistan by engaging the diaspora and the private sector and by building partnerships with key stakeholders in Pakistan and the United States. APF identifies and supports credible and scalable socio-economic initiatives by collaborating with partners on the ground in Pakistan, and by mobilizing intellectual and financial resources towards these programs. The American Pakistan Foundation is working closely with non-profit and community organizations in Pakistan to implement its flood recovery and rehabilitation program, impacting over 35,000 lives. APF offers a secure and transparent channel for charitable giving and is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in the United States. For more information please visit

Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: Kellogg Center, Room 1501 International Affairs Building, 420 West 118th Street at Amsterdam Avenue

Monday, March 26 - Lecture
A talk by Vivek Kumar (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

"How Egalitarian is Indian Sociology?"

During the Spring 2012 semester, Vivek Kumar is a Visiting Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Columbia, and a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in residence at the South Asia Institute. Vivek Kumar is appointed as an Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, in the School of Social Sciences, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he earned his Ph.D. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Pune, Jammu, and Mumbai. His recent publications include the edited volume Dynamics of Change and Continuity in the Age of Globalization: Voices from the Margins (2009), and the monographs Dalit Society: Old Problems and New Aspirations (2007), and India's Roaring Revolution: Dalit Assertion and New Horizons (2006). Kumar is currently involved in an ongoing research project, "Social Status and Social Attitudes in India: A Study of Indian College Students," with Professor Jim Sidanius (Harvard) and Arjun Bharadwaj (University of British Columbia).

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

Thursday, March 29 - Lecture
A talk by William Radice

"Coming out like a tremendous comet:
Can Michael Madhusudan Dutt do so again today?"

Introduction by Rachel McDermott, Associate Professor, Religion Department and Chair, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures (Barnard)

Well known for his translations of Rabindranath Tagore, William Radice has also worked for many years on the epic poetry of Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873). His lecture will be based on The Poem of the Killing of Meghnad, his new translation of Madhusudan's masterpiece, Meghnadbadh kabya.

Radice has pursued a double career as a poet and as a scholar and translator of Bengali, and has written or edited more than thirty books. He earned a D.Phil in Bengali Literature at Oxford and in 1988 became a lecturer in Bengali language and literature at SOAS, University of London. From 1999 to 2002 he was Head of the Departments of South and South East Asia at SOAS. His prizes and honors include the Ananda Puraskar (1986), an honorary D.Litt from Assam University (2007), an Honorary Fellowship at the Bangla Academy in Dhaka (2007) and the title 'Rabindra Tattwacharya' from the Tagore Research Institute in Kolkata (2009). His latest books include a fully introduced and annotated translation of Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Meghnadbadh kabya (2010), a two translations of works by Rabindranath Tagore, The Jewel That Is Best: Collected Brief Poems (2011), and Gitanjali (2011).

Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Monday, April 2 - Books and Authors
A talk by Deborah Baker

"Ten Years On: Re-Imagining the Divide Between Islam and the West"

In 2008-2009, Deborah Baker was a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis C. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at The New York Public Library, during which time she wrote The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism, which was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award. The Convert tells the story of Margaret Marcus of Larchmont, who became Maryam Jameelah of Lahore, and her relationship with her adoptive father and mentor, Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, the political leader and cleric who founded Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941.

Deborah Baker attended the University of Virginia and Cambridge University. Her first biography, written in college, was Making a Farm: The Life of Robert Bly (1982). After working a number of years as a book editor and publisher, in 1990, Baker wrote In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding, which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 1994, and A Blue Hand: The Beats in India (2008).

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

April 9 - Mary Keatinge Das Lecture
A Talk by Faisal Devji (Oxford University)

"Leaving India to Anarchy: Gandhi on the Virtues of Civil War"

Faisal Devji is University Reader in Modern South Asian History at St. Anthony's College, at Oxford University. He has held faculty positions at the New School University, Yale University and the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. Devji is the author of Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity (2005), and The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics (2009). His broader research interests concern ethics and violence in the global arena, and more specifically, his interests focus on new traditions of political thought in Asia, as well as in the coming to being of Hindu and Muslim forms of modernity.

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

Saturday, April 21 - Hindi-Urdu Workshop
"Dakani" - or "Qadim Urdu"?

Organized by Professors Allison Busch and Frances Pritchett

The workshop is co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute and the Department of Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. It is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. Registration will be enabled by the end of March.

For additional information, please visit the workshop website.

Time: 10am - 3:30pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Monday, April 23 - Lecture
A talk by Elizabeth Kolsky (Villanova University)

"Ajab Khan Afridi and Miss Molly Ellis:
A Tale of Colonial Kidnapping on India's Northwest Frontier."

Elizabeth Kolsky is Associate Professor of History in the Department of History in Villanova University. She earned both her BA (MESAAS) and PhD (History) from Columbia University. Her areas of interest and teaching include South Asian history, history of the British Empire, modern world history, colonial and post-colonial studies and feminist theory. Kolsky co-edited Fringes of Empire: People, Power and Places in Colonial India (2009) and recently published her monograph on Colonial Justice in British India: White Violence and the Rule of Law (2010).

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