2015-16 South Asia Institute Colloquium Series

Except as noted, the default time and location for all events:
Time:              4:10pm - 5:40pm
Location:         Knox Hall, Room 208
606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont
Monday, February 8
A talk by Shonaleeka Kaul (University of Delhi)
"Revisiting the Rājataraṅgiṇī: Kāvya and the Problematic of History in Early Kashmir"

Introduction by Sheldon Pollock, Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

Talk abstract:  Traditional scholarly opinion has regarded Kalhaṇa’s Rājataraṅgiṇī, the twelfth-century Sanskrit chronicle of Kashmiri kings, as a work of history. In this talk I propose a reinvestigation of the nature of the iconic text from outside the shadow of that label. I first closely critique the positivist 'history hypothesis', exposing its internal contradictions over questions of chronology, causality, and objectivity as attributed to the text. I then argue that more than an empiricist historical account that modern historians like to believe it is—in the process bracketing out integral rhetorical, mythic, and didactic parts of the text—the Rājataraṅgiṇī should be viewed in totality for the kāvya (epic poem) that it is, i.e, as representing a specific language practice that sought to produce meaning and articulated the poet’s vision of the land and its lineages. The talk thus urges momentarily reclaiming the text from the hegemonic but troubled understanding of it as history—only to restore it ultimately to a more cohesive notion of historicality that is sensitive to the literary and consistent with textual contents. Toward this end, it highlights the concrete claim to epistemic authority that is asserted both by the genre of Sanskrit kāvya generally and by the Rājataraṅgiṇī in particular, and their conception of the poetic “production” of the past that bears a striking resonance with constructivist historiography. It then traces the intensely intertextual and value-laden nature of the epistemology that frames the Rājataraṅgiṇī into a narrative discourse on power and ethical governance. It is in its narrativity and discursivity—its meaningful representation of what constitutes 'true' knowledge of time and human action—that the salience of the Rājataraṅgiṇī may lie.

Shonaleeka Kaul is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Delhi.  She earned her PhD at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.  She was the Dinakar Singh Distinguished Lecturer in South Asian Studies, Yale University, 2007-08, and the Jan Gonda Fellow in Indology, Leiden University, 2014. Her publications include the monograph, Imagining the Urban: Sanskrit and the City in Early India (2010), and the edited volume,  A Cultural History of Early South Asia: A Reader (2014).

Monday, February 15
A talk by playwright and director Mahesh Dattani 
"An Indian playwright's perspective on theatre making in India"
Moderated by Shayoni Mitra (Theatre Department, Barnard College)

Mahesh Dattani  is the Spring 2016 Ahuja Family Fellow at the South Asia Institute, and Visiting Theatre Director at the Theatre Department, where he will direct a production of Tagore's Chokher Bali (running March 3-5, see below).  Dattani is an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and a theater and film director.  He was educated at St. Joseph's College (Bangalore), and has taught at the University of Oregon and the Drama School in Mumbai.  His many plays include Dance Like a Man (1989), Final Solution (1993), Thirty Days in September (2001), Brief Candle (2009), and most recently, Gauhar (2105), based on the novel by Vikram Sampath.  He directed the film Mango Soufflé (2002) and wrote and directed Morning Raaga (2004).  

Monday, February 22
A talk by Lisa Mitchell (Pennsylvania)
"Hailing the State: Collective Assembly and the Politics of Recognition in the History of Indian Democracy"
Introduction of Sudipta Kaviraj (Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies)
Lisa Mitchell is an anthropologist and historian of southern India, and earned her PhD (with distinction) at Columbia.  Her interdisciplinary research and teaching interests include political practice, public space, and the built environment; the cultural history of cement in South Asia; ethnography of informal urban credit networks; technology and infrastructure as they impact social, cultural, and political forms and everyday practices; neoliberalism and economic corridors; ethnographic approaches to the state; colonialism; and Telugu language and literature. She is the author of Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue (2009), and is currently finishing a book on The Politics of Recognition: Collective Assembly, Public Space, and Political Practice in the History of Indian Democracy.
Monday, February 29
A talk by Kavita Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
“Exhibiting the Unspeakable?
Minority Communities, Difficult Histories and the Holocaust Museum Paradigm in India”
Introduction by Vidya Dehejia, Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian and South Asian Art, Department of Art History and Archaeology
Kavita Singh is Associate Professor at School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her research interests include History of museums in colonial and post-colonial India; the global art museum; repatriation; religious objects and secularization of art; religious revivalism and its cultural forms; heritage discourse; historiography of art history; history of Indian courtly painting.  Her recent publications include No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia (with Saloni Mathur, 2015). 
Thursday, March 3 to Saturday March 5
Chokher Bali [Sand in My Eye]
A Play by Partha Chatterjee, based on the Rabindranath Tagore novel
Directed by Mahesh Dattani
Dramaturgy by Shayoni Mitra
Thursday, March 3, 2016 at 8:00pm
Friday, March 4, 2016 at 8:00pm
Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 8:00pm
Sponsored by the Department of Theatre at Barnard College and Columbia College, and the South Asia Institute.
Location:  Minor Latham Playhouse, Milbank Hall, Room 118, Barnard Campus, 119th Street and Broadway (entrance at 118th or 119th Street)  [Directions and map from the Columbia website.]
Tickets will be $10.00 for general admission and $5.00 with a valid Barnard or Columbia ID.  Tickets sales date to be announced.
In March 2016, the Theater Department at Barnard College will present the English language premiere of Chokher Bali [Sand in My Eye], based on the classic novel by Rabindranath Tagore, dramatized and translated by Partha Chatterjee, directed by internationally renowned playwright and director Mahesh Dattani, and Dramaturged by Assistnat Professor Shayoni Mitra.  Chokher Bali is a compelling account of marriage and widowhood, and a meditiation on feminine desire and agency, told against the backdrop of the rapidly modernizing bhadralok, or gentlemanly class, of late 19th century Calcutta. 
Mahesh Dattani is the Spring 2016 Ahuja Family Fellow at the South Asia Institute.  He is an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and a theater and film director.  He was educated at St. Joseph's College (Bangalore), and has taught at the University of Oregon and the Drama School in Mumbai.  His many plays include Dance Like a Man (1989), Final Solution (1993), Thirty Days in September (2001), Brief Candle (2009), and most recently, Gauhar (2105), based on the novel by Vikram Sampath.  He directed the film Mango Soufflé (2002) and wrote and directed Morning Raaga (2004). 
Partha Chatterjee is a Professor jointly appointed in the Departments of Anthropology and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.  Shayoni Mitra is Assistant Professor in the Theatre Department at Barnard College.
Monday, March 7
A talk by Anthony Acciavatti (School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation)
"Ganges Water Machine: Infrastructure Across the Ganga River Basin since 1854"
Moderated by Upmanu Lall (Alan & Carol Silberstein Professor of Engineering, Fu Foundation School of Engineering; and Director, Columbia Water Center)
Anthony Acciavatti is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.  An historian, architect, and cartographer, he has spent the last decade hiking, driving, and boating across the Ganga basin in India to make a dynamic atlas.  Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India's Ancient River (2015), a book and traveling exhibition, is the outcome of this fieldwork and archival research.            
Monday, March 28
FIlm Screening followed by a discussion with Director Nakul Singh Sawhney 
Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai  [Muzaffarnagar, Eventually]
(2014/135 mins),
Hindi with English subtitles
Moderated by Shayoni Mitra (Theatre Department, Barnard College)
Time:  6:00pm - 8:30pm
Location:  Held Auditorium, Barnard Hall,  Barnard College, entrance at 118th Street and Broadway
In September, 2013, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Western Uttar Pradesh witnessed their worst ever anti-Muslim pogrom since Indian Independence. More than 100 people were killed and close to 80,000 people were displaced. The film looks at the social, political, and economic repercussions of the massacre, and how they found resonance in the 2014 Indian General Election campaign.
Nakul Singh Sawhney’s first film, With a little help from my friends, earned an award for the 2nd best film at the 60 Seconds to Fame film festival in Chennai in 2005. While studying at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune during 2005-06, his films Agaurav and Undecided which were cited for 2nd Best Film and Best Director respectively at the Hyderabad International Film Festival. His feature films to date include the documentary Once upon a time in Chheharta (2007) on the history of the working class movement of Chheharta, Amritsar; and the highly acclaimed film Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyaan (2012) on “honour” crimes in Haryana.
Monday, April 11
A talk by Jan Bremen (Amsterdam)
“On Poverty and Pauperism in India”
Co-sponsored by the Center for International History, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and the Department of Sociology
Jan Breman is Professor of Comparative Sociology in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. He has served as Dean of the Centre for Asian Studies Amsterdam (CASA) and the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research.  He previously taught at Erasmus University (the former Netherlands Economic School) in Rotterdam, where he held a chair in the sociology of development, and at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. He has been a Visiting Professor in India (Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi) and in Indonesia (Agricultural University, Bogor), and has travelled widely on short-term academic visits to other Asian countries. Breman has conducted anthropological fieldwork in India (South Gujarat) and Indonesia (West Java), mainly on rural and urban labour and employment. His most recent books include Outcast labour in Asia: circulation and informalization of the workforce at the bottom of the economy (2012) and At work in the informal economy of India: a perspective from the bottom up (2013).
Tuesday, April 12
A discussion with Prabhat Patnaik (JNU) and Jan Bremen (Amsterdam)
“On Perry Anderson's India”
Time:              6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location:         Knox Hall, Room 208
606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont
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.  Jan Breman is Professor of Comparative Sociology in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Amsterdam.
Monday, April 25
A talk by Veena Das (The Johns Hopkins University)
"The Rhythms of Psychiatric Power: Foucault From the Slums of Delhi"
Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Johns Hopkins, she taught at the Delhi School of Economics for many years and held a joint appointment at the New School for Social Research from 1997- 2000. Das has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Chicago, Heidelberg, Harvard, and Paris, as well as the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris.  Her research covers a range of fields: the question of how ethnography generates concepts; how we might treat philosophical and literary traditions from India and other regions as generative of theoretical and practical understanding of the world; how to render the texture and contours of everyday life; and the way that the everyday and the event are joined together in the making of the normal and the critical. Das’s most recent books are Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (2007); Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty (2015); and three co-edited volumes, The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy (2014), Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium (2015) and Politics of the Urban Poor (forthcoming).
Friday, April 29
Books and Authors
A talk by Shahid Amin
Conquest & Community: the Afterlife of Warrior-Saint Ghazi Miyan
Moderated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor, English and Comparative Literature

Shahid Amin received his D.Phil. from Oxford University and is currently Professor of History at the University of Delhi. Among his publications are Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922-1992 (1995) and Writing Alternative Histories: A View from India (2002). He is the editor of A Concise Encyclopedia of North Indian Peasant Life (2005), the co-editor, with Gyan Pandey, of Nimnvargiya Itihas, Bhag Ek, Bhag Do (1994, 2001), and has also written the Hindustani dialogues of the feature film Karvan, directed by Pankaj Butalia.

Monday, May 2
Mary Keating Das Lecture
David Shulman (Hebrew University)
"The Serpent's Ecstasy:  Deep Seeing in the Sanskrit Theater of Kerala"
David Shulman is the Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  He earned his PhD at the University of London, and has been a Visiting Professor at Johns Hopkins, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin-Madison.   His research interests include the history of religion in South India; Poetry and poetics in Tamil, Telugu, and Sanskrit; Tamil Islam; Dravidian linguistics; and Carnatic music.  His recent publications include More than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India (2012); The Sound of the Kiss, or The Story That Must Never Be Told, translations, with Pingali Suranna and Velcheru Narayana Rao (2012); Textures of Time: Writing History in South India 1600-1800, with Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Velcheru Narayana Rao (2013).