Past Events of Spring 2013

Wednesday, February 6 - Lecture
A talk by Prabhat Patnaik
"Independent India at Sixty-five"

Introduction by Akeel Bilgrami, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy, Philosophy Department

Prabhat Patnaik held the Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair of Planning and Development at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP) in the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University at the time of his retirement in 2010. He earned his D. Phil. at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and taught at the University of Cambridge before joining CESP. He served as Vice-Chairman of the Planning Board of Kerala from 2006-2011. His research interests include the limits of neoliberal economic policies, Marxist economics, and theory of the value of money. His publications include Retreat to Unfreedom: Essays on the Emerging World Order (2003); The Value of Money (2008) and Re-Envisioning Socialism (2011). He is the editor of Social Scientist, the journal of the Indian School of Social Sciences, New Delhi.

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

Wednesday, February 13 - Books and Authors
A talk by Isabel Hofmeyr
"Gandhi's Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading"

Introduction by Gauri Viswanathan, Class of 1933 Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor at the School of Literature, Language and Media, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She earned an MA at SOAS and her PhD at Witwatersrand. Her research interests include Postcolonialism, African literature, southern African literary studies, oral history and literature, John Bunyan, seventeenth century studies, textual transnationalism, Africa-India interactions, Indian Ocean studies, histories of the book and print culture, histories of reading and writing. She is the author of A Transnational History of The Pilgrim's Progress (2004); and co-edited The Popular and the Public (2007), and the forthcoming book from Harvard University Press, Gandhi's Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading.

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

Friday, February 15 - Symposium
"South Asian Encounters: Anthropologies of Travel and the Visual"

Session One: Governmentality, Efficacy and the Paranoia of Travel
Session Two: Materiality, Phantasm and Desire: Collecting India

Sponsored by the Historians of British Art

Convened by Renate Dohmen (University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and Natasha Eaton (University College, London)

  • Zirwat Chowdhury (UCLA)
  • Aditi Chandra (California College ofthe Arts)
  • William Mazzarella (University of Chicago)
  • Sugata Ray (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Sabitha Thekke Prakkottuthody (University College London)
  • Sara Victoria Turner (University of York)
  • Rashmi Viswanathan (New York University)
  • Sean Willcock (University of York)
"South Asian Encounters" will examine how the domain of the visual structured experiences of travel in relation to South Asia broadly defined in the period from c.1830-1920. The symposium will explore the entanglements of travel, tourism, pilgrimage and colonialism in view of the agency of visuals such as maps, albums, photographs, postcards, plaster casts and the cinema assumed in the experiences of travel. Interdisciplinary in focus, it will probe how images of South Asia have circulated, how they participated in performativities and genealogies of travel, and how the advancement of visual technologies affected narrations of place, self, and displacement. For a list of participants, paper titles and abstracts, please see the attached PDF.

Time: Session one, 12pm - 2pm
         Session two, 2:20pm - 4:20pm
         Discussion, 4:30pm -5:00pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Monday, February 18 - Distinguished Lecturer Series
Neil DeVotta (Wake Forest University)
"Sri Lanka's Post-Civil War Soft Authoritarian Dispensation"

Neil DeVotta is Associate Professor of Political Science at Wake Forest University. He earned his PhD at the University of Texas (Austin), and has taught at Hartwick College, the University of Texas (Austin) and Michigan State University. His research interests include South Asian security and politics, ethnicity and nationalism, ethnic conflict resolution, and democratic transition and consolidation. His publications include the monograph Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka (2004), and the edited volume, Understanding Contemporary India (2010). His current research examines the links between nationalist ideologies and communal violence in South Asia.

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

Wednesday, February 20 - South Asia Graduate Students Forum
A talk by Joel Bordeaux (Religion Department)
"The Maharaj Krsnacandra Rayasya Caritram and the Communalization of the Plassey Conspiracy"

Talk Abstract: Krishnacandra Ray was raja of the Navadvip and leader of Bengal's brahmanical society for most of the 18th century. He's famed as a patron of Sanskrit and ardent devotee of the Goddess. But it is also popularly believed that he collaborated with Robert Clive to ensure the East India Company's victory over Nawab Siraj ud-Duala at the 1757 Battle of Plassey - the beginning of British dominance in the subcontinent. The story of Krishnacandra's role in the 'Plassey conspiracy' first appears in a Bengali biography of the raja published in 1805 by the Serampore Missionary Press. My talk will explore some of the strategies by which, in this first account of Plassey in an Indian vernacular, the author aligns British and Hindu interests and values against those of the last independent nawab and, by extension, Muslim rulers.

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

Saturday, February 23 - Columbia-Penn Workshop
"Poetry of Praise"
The Inaugural Columbia-Penn Workshop on South Asian History and Literature

Organized by Manan Ahmed and Allison Busch

Poetry of praise has been one of the most enduring genres in South Asia. The Sanskrit prasasti or praise address to kings is closely connected to the very invention of Indic kavya (formal literature) and was an integral part of the inscriptional discourse of classical and medieval India. Praise poetry was also a major genre of Persian and vernacular literary cultures, where it often took on royal and religious inflections, but proved versatile enough to be mobilized for various purposes. Some poets, for instance, turned to the form for conveying attachments to charismatic landscapes. In this informal workshop convened by historians and literature specialists from both Columbia and Penn we explore a vital premodern tradition that was widely intelligible across diverse cultural and linguistic domains.

The morning session is devoted to reading primary texts-examples of praise poetry from different South Asian languages (contributions thus far proposed have been in Sanskrit, Brajbhasha, and Persian). In the afternoon we raise points from the relevant scholarship and collectively think through the insights prompted by both primary and secondary texts. Lunch will be served.

If you would like to participate, please RSVP to Manan Ahmad or Allison Busch ( by February 15. If you would like to contribute materials to the program (e.g., an example of a praise poem in any South Asian language or a good article on praise poetry), please submit them to the organizers no later than February 12 and we will post them to the wiki. Graduate students are especially encouraged to attend.

The workshop materials are available here.

Time: 10:00am - 3:00pm
Location: Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Monday, March 4 - University Seminar
A talk by Katherine Pratt Ewing (Religion Department)

"The Ambivalent Middle Class: Weaving Sexual Rights into the Social Fabric of India."

Author Abstract: As in other countries, conservatives in India are suspicious of the legalization of homosexuality and blame the increasing visibility of alternative sexualities on foreign influences, including diasporic citizens who bring gay rights activism with them back to India. Is the conservative backlash against the liberalization of sexual rights a reaction to the growing hegemony of a western discourse of the sexual subject, as some have argued? Or should we instead view conservative reactions as manifestations of a more fundamental transformation of Indian society: the growth of a self-identified middle class that shares many of its attributes and anxieties across cultural, religious, and national boundaries?

Katherine Pratt Ewing is Professor of Religion at Columbia University and Coordinator of the Master of Arts Program in the South Asia Institute. She earned her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and took postdoctoral training at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. She has taught at Duke University, the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and served as Executive Director of the North Carolina Consortium for South Asian Studies. Her research ranges from debates among Muslims about the proper practice of Islam in the modern world to sexualities, gender, and the body in South Asia. She has done ethnographic fieldwork in Pakistan, Turkey and India, and among Muslims in Germany, The Netherlands, and the United States. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the L. Bryce Boyer Prize of the Society for Psychological Anthropology (1990), a Berlin Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin (1999), a Mellon-Sawyer Seminar grant (2000-2002), and a Residential Fellowship as Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (2006-7). Her recent publications include Stolen Honor: Stigmatizing Muslim Men in Berlin (2008), and the edited volume Being and Belonging: Muslim Communities in the US since 9/11 (2008).

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Room 1, Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive (between 116th - 118th Streets)
*Directions to the meeting at Faculty House

Monday, March 11 - Lecture
A talk by Harris Solomon (Duke University)
"The Thin-Fat Indian: Bodies of Plasticity in Times of Globesity"

Introduction by Katherine Pratt Ewing, Professor, Department of Religion

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

Harris Solomon is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Global Health at Duke University. He earned an MPH at Emory University and a PhD at Brown University. His areas of interest include South Asia, Urban Anthropology, Mass Culture, Post Colonialism, and Globalization. He is working on a book project that analyses India's rising rates of obesity and diabetes, drawing from fieldwork in Mumbai kitchens, metabolic disorder clinics, and food companies.

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

Wednesday, March 27 - Books and Authors
A talk by Vivek Bald (MIT)
"Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian Americans"

Co-Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Institute for Research in African-American Studies

Vivek Bald is Assistant Professor of Writing and Digital Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His work as a documentary filmmaker and scholar focuses on histories of the South Asian diaspora. His current project traces the lives of South Asian Muslim silk peddlers and merchant seamen who settled within communities of color in the U.S. South, Northeast, and Midwest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is the basis for a recently published book, Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (2013), a website, at and a documentary film in production, In Search of Bengali Harlem.

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

Monday, April 1 - Distinguished Lecturer Series
A talk by Steve E. Kemper (Bates College)
"Rescued from the Nation:
Anagarika Dharmapala and the United Buddhist World"

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

Steve E. Kemper is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Anthropology at Bates College. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His publications include The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life (1991); and Buying and Believing: Sri Lankan Advertising and Consumers in a Transnational World (2001)

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

Monday, April 8: Distinguished Lecturer Series
A talk by William T. S. Mazzarella (Chicago)
"Remembering the Defacers: Buzz Control at Miss World 1996"

ABSTRACT: This talk revisits the much-discussed swarm of protests that surrounded the 1996 Miss World pageant in Bangalore. Rather than analyzing the pageant in the usual 'critical' way - i.e. as a performative consolidation of the relation between neoliberal globalization and patriarchal gender norms - I explore its failure as an exercise in mass publicity. By organizing my discussion around interviews with some of the people most directly involved in trying to manage the meaning of the event, I show how a reconsideration of the pageant can help us understand the delicate relation between commercial publicity and sovereign authority.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

William Mazzarella is Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. He earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. Mazzarella writes and teaches on mass media, globalization, public culture and consumerism, critical theory, commodity aesthetics, and post-coloniality in contemporary India. His publications include Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India (2003) and the edited volume Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction (2009). His current project is entitled Censorium: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity.

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

Tuesday, April 9 - University Seminar
A talk by Leonard Gordon (South Asia Institute)
"Empire, Missions, and Resistance, 1893-1919: A Chapter in India-US-UK Relations"

Leonard Gordon is a Senior Research Associate at the South Asia Institute. He earned an MA and PhD at Harvard University and has taught at Brooklyn College, Columbia University, and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the co-author of A syllabus of Indian civilization (1974, with Barbara Stoler Miller); and the author of Bengal: the nationalist movement, 1876-1940 (1974); Brothers against the Raj: a biography of Indian nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (1990); and Mahatma Gandhi's Dialogues with Americans(1997).

Time: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Location: Room 1, Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive (between 116th - 118th Streets)
*Directions to the meeting at Faculty House

Wednesday, April 10 - Mellon Sanskrit Series
A talk by Kesavan Veluthat (University of Delhi)
"The Cultural Milieu of Manipravalam Poetry"

Kesavan Veluthat is Professor of History, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Delhi. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Calicut. He has taught at Mangalore University where he was Chair of the History Department, and has been a Visiting Professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris; Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris; Jawaharlal Nehru University; and Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. His recent publications include The Early Medieval in South India (2009), and he edited two editions of The Mahishhatakam of Vancheswara Dikshitta (2011), with commentary and introduction in English and Malayalam, respectively; and with Antony Palatty, edited Dictionarium Latino-Hystorico-Mythologico, Samscredonico,Malabaricum (A Latin-Malyalam-Latin Dictionary by Valentini Manfredi, 2012).

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

Monday, April 15 - Mary Keatinge Das Lecture
A talk by John D. Kelly (University of Chicago)
"Nehru, Bandung, and the Fate of Highland Asia"

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

ABSTRACT: The 1955 Asian-African Conference at Bandung is remembered for the birth of the non-aligned movement and the emergence of Zhou En-lai's "peaceful co-existence" strategy. However it meant something different for Asia's highlands, from Afghanistan and Kashmir through Tibet and Northeast India to Highland Burma. Most of this region-sometimes called "Zomia" or Asia's "borderlands"-has been under some form of military rule from the days of the conference to the present. It is no accident. In the era of global realization of self-determination, one hundred million Asian highlanders had no representatives at Bandung. The status of the highlands as borderlands was locked in by diplomatic deals there, especially those led by Nehru and Zhou that reified the borders and their significance. This lecture focuses on Nehru's decision-making from 1945 into the Bandung era, and discusses his reasons-socialist, Gandhian, anthropological, anti-colonial, scientistic, statist, and American-for consistently resisting Highland sovereignty, in Kashmir, Highland Burma and Northeast India in the 1940s, and for Tibet in the 1950s. Reflecting on Nehru's motives and these consequences of the Bandung Conference opens new questions about self-determination in theory and reality in Highland Asia and beyond.

John Kelly is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, where he earned his Ph.D. He is the Interim Director of the South Asia Language and Area Center at Chicago, and served as Chair of the Department of Anthropology; and Master, Collegiate Division of the Social Sciences, Deputy Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, and Associate Dean of the College. Kelly has performed research in Fiji and in India on topics including ritual in history, knowledge and power, semiotic and military technologies, colonialism and capitalism, decolonization and diasporas. His publications include Represented Communities: Fiji and World Decolonization, co-written with Martha Kaplan (2001), and the co-edited volume, Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency (2010). Kelly is working on two projects: Laws Like Bullets, with Martha Kaplan, on colonial lawgiving; and Technography: Sciences in the History of Cultures.

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

Wednesday, April 17 - Books and Authors
A talk by Wheeler Thackston
"Abu'l-Fazl and the Apotheosis of Akbar"

Organized with the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies and the Middle East Institute

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

Saturday, April 20 - Annual Hindi-Urdu Workshop
"From Amir Hamzah to Chandrakanta--How Long a Journey?"

Organized by Professors Frances Pritchett and Allison Busch

The workshop is sponsored by the South Asia Institute and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. It is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. For a complete schedule, reading materials, and to register, please visit the Workshop website.

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

Monday, April 22 - Lecture
A talk by Alan Roland
(National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis)
"Trauma and Dissociation:
The Two Faces of Partition Violence and Their Repercussions."

Alan Roland is a practicing psychoanalyst, and was the first American psychoanalyst to work with patients in India, publishing three books in the area of cross-cultural psychology with Asians and Asian Americans. He is a Senior Faculty member and serves on the Board of Trustees at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP). He has taught at the New School and Union Theological Seminar, and has been a fellow at AIIS, SSRC, and ACLS. Dr. Roland is the author of In Search of Self in India and Japan: Toward a Cross-Cultural Psychology (1988), Cultural Pluralism and Psychoanalysis: The Asian and North American Experience (1996), and Journeys to Foreign Selves: Asians and Asian Americans in a Global Era (2011).

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

Friday, May 10 - Lecture
A talk by Arindam Dutta (MIT)
"TransNational HaHas: Deltas, Deities and the Debt" Sponsored with the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life and the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

ABSTRACT: At the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, realization grew that, at several times the level of annual revenue, the Public Debt had become a permanent institution to be serviced in perpetuity. The talk looks at land and socialization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in light of this "financialization" of the British economy, a process that would have a spiraling effects across the globe. The objects under investigation here are the follies of garden Britain, Ireland and America, compared with the Zamindari bagan-baris and thakur-baris (garden estates and estate-temples) of colonial Bengal as a coterminous type. The follies and thakur-baris can be read as differential markers in a dispersed set of concerns and anxieties over nature, economy, government and religion, all of these headings being themselves synthesized and systematized into new epistemic fields through the course of the long eighteenth century. The talk looks at the entanglement of two of these new epistemic fields - "economy" and "religion" - in this context, particularly in the places where the singular, secular temporal expectancy of a ballooning, perdurable Public Debt was seen as interjecting into eschatologically-defined conceptions of obligation and existence. The shards of the Mughal Empire in India, and the "Augustan Age" of eighteenth-century Britain, abruptly joined into a single system by the fact of global capital, present signal comparisons and contrasts in their constructions of time even as they are bound by the same temporal devices of debt and finance. It is as if folly and thakur-bari, signifiers of disparate tempos of memory and divinity, speak to each other through a kind of imperfect translation, a heteroglossia called the economic.

Arindam Dutta is Associate Professor of Architectural History, Department of Architecture, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and directs the SMArchS Program at the Department. His teaching interests are in the area of modern architectural theory and history, imperialism and globalization, gender and body politics, Marxist thought, and post-structuralism. Dutta obtained his Ph.D. in the History of Architecture from Princeton University in 2001. He has degrees in architectural design from the Harvard Design School and the School of Architecture in Ahmedabad, India. Dutta is the author of The Bureaucracy of Beauty: Design in the Age of its Global Reproducibility (2007).

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