2020-21 Events Calendar

Wednesday, January 27
A talk by Wazhmah Osman (Media and Communication, Temple University)
On her new book,
Television and the Afghan Culture Wars:
Brought to You by Foreigners, Warlords, and Activists
Discussant:   Manijeh Moradian (Barnard College)

Organized by the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute and the South Asia Journalists Association of the Columbia Journalism School.

Portrayed in Western discourse as tribal and traditional, Afghans have intensely debated women's rights, democracy, modernity, and Islam as part of their nation building in the post-9/11 era. Wazhmah Osman places television at the heart of these public and politically charged clashes while revealing how the medium also provides war-weary Afghans with a semblance of open discussion and healing. Fieldwork from across Afghanistan allowed Osman to record the voices of Afghan media producers and people from all sectors of society. Afghans offer their own seldom-heard views on the country's cultural progress and belief systems, their understandings of themselves, and the role of international interventions. Osman looks at the national and transnational impact of media companies like Tolo TV, Radio Television Afghanistan, and foreign media giants and funders like the British Broadcasting Corporation and USAID. By focusing on local cultural contestations, productions, and social movements, Television and the Afghan Culture Wars redirects the global dialogue about Afghanistan to Afghans and thereby challenges top-down narratives of humanitarian development.

Wazhmah Osman is a filmmaker and Assistant Professor in the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University.  She is a faculty member in the Master of Science in Globalization and Development Communication program and the PhD program in Media and Communication; and is a faculty affiliate of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) program, and at the South Asia Center at University of Pennsylvania.  Osman earned her PhD in 2012 from New York University, where she studied Media, Culture and Communication, and was a graduate of the Culture and Media program of the Anthropology Department.  Her research and teaching are rooted in feminist media ethnographies that focus on the political economy of global media industries and the regimes of representation and visual culture they produce.  Her critically acclaimed documentary, Postcards from Tora Bora, has been shown in festivals around the world.  Her most recent publication, Television and the Afghan Culture Wars: Brought to You by Foreigners, Warlords, and Activists was published in November 2020 by the University of Illinois Press. She is the coauthor, with Robert Crews, of the upcoming Afghanistan: A Very Short Introduction. 

Manijeh Moradian is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College.  She received her PhD in American Studies from NYU and her MFA in creative nonfiction from Hunter College, CUNY.  Her book, This Flame Within: Iranian Revolutionaries in the United States, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. Her essays and articles have appeared in Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties, Scholar & Feminist Online, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Comparative Studies of South Asian, Africa, and the Middle East, Social Text online, jadaliyya.com, tehranbureau.com, Bi Taarof, and Callaloo. She is a member of the Iran Page editorial board at Jadaliyya and a founding member of Raha Iranian Feminist Collective.

Friday, January 29
A panel discussion with  Manan Ahmed (History)
On his new book,
The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India
Vishakha Desai (Chair, Committee on Global Thought)
Purnima Dhavan (History, University of Washington)
Ayesha Ramachandran (Comparative Literature, Yale University)
Registration link: 
Co-sponsored by the Committee on Global Thought, the Heyman Center for the Humanities, and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy

Manan Ahmed is Associate Professor in the History Department at Columbia University. He is an historian of South Asia and the littoral western Indian Ocean world from 1000-1800 CE. His areas of specialization include intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia; critical philosophy of history, colonial and anti-colonial thought. He is interested in how modern and pre-modern historical narratives create understandings of places, communities, and intellectual genealogies for their readers. Prof. Ahmed’s second book, The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India (Harvard University Press, 2020), tells a history of the historians of the subcontinent from the tenth to the early twentieth century. The core of the book is the history Tarikh-i Firishta which was written by Muhammad Qasim Firishta (b. ca. 1570) in the Deccan in the early seventeenth century. Broadly, the book presents a concept-history of “Hindustan,” a political and historiographic category that was subsumed by the colonial project of creating British India and the subsequent polities of “Republic of India” and “Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai is Chair, Committee on Global Thought; Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University; and a Senior Research Scholar for the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She also serves as Senior Advisor for Global Programs to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. From 2004 through 2012, Dr. Desai served as President and CEO of the Asia Society, a global organization dedicated to strengthening partnerships between Asia and the U.S.  In 2012, in recognition of Dr. Desai’s leadership in the museum field, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board. An internationally renowned scholar of Asian art, she has published and lectured extensively on the intersection of traditional and contemporary arts and policy in diverse countries of Asia.  Dr. Desai holds a B.A. in Political Science from Bombay University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan, in addition to honorary degrees from Williams College, Centre College, Pace University, The College of Staten Island, and Susquehanna University.

Purnima Dhavan is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington.  Her Fields of Interest include Comparative Gender; Environmental History; Islamic Studies; Literature; Science and Technology; and South Asia.  Her research interests encompass the social and cultural history of early modern South Asia, 1500-1800. The ways in which religious, linguistic, and status identities shaped the political and cultural institutions of the Mughal period are central to her work.  Prof. Dhavan’s  first book, When Sparrows Became Hawks: the Making of Khalsa Martial Tradition (2011) examined the transformation of North Indian peasants into high-status warriors as they became members of the Sikh warrior order, the Khalsa.  Her second book project, The Lords of the Pen: Literary Associations in Early Modern South Asia, examines the literary activities of poets in emerging urban centers of the Mughal Empire to understand how participation in literary associations shaped understandings of caste, gender, and religious identity, to engage with larger questions of how notions of the “public” and “common good” emerged in different parts of the world.

Ayesha Ramachandran is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University.  Her research interests include Early modern European literature and cultural history; Renaissance poetry; history of science and technology (sixteenth and seventeenth century); cartography and literature; early modern empires and international law; history of philosophy; Europe and the Indo-Islamic world.  Her recent work focuses on Europe’s relations with an expanding world.  Her first book, The Worldmakers (University of Chicago Press, 2015) charts transnational encounters and the early mechanisms of globalization from the late fifteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. It was awarded the MLA’s Scaglione prize in Comparative Literary Studies (2017), the Milton Society of America’s Shawcross Prize for the best book chapter on Milton (2016), and the Sixteenth Century Studies Association’s Founder’s Prize for the best first book manuscript (2015). In addition to literary and intellectual historical questions, Prof. Ramachandran is interested in early modern maps (particularly world mapping), the history of science and technology, early modern empires, and the rich visual archive of illustrated books in the period). Her current book project, Lyric Thinking: Humanism, Selfhood, Modernity, argues for the central importance of lyric form and language in shaping new intellectual possibilities for the self in the early modern period and beyond.