Conference Program

Day Time Event
Wednesday, October 21nd, 2015 5:30-
8:00pm
Registration Open
Venue: 2nd Floor Foyer
Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 All-day Symposium
8:00am-
8:00pm
Registration Open
Venue: 2nd Floor Foyer
12:00-
8:00pm
Exibit Hall Open
Venue: Madison Ballroom
5:30-
6:00pm
Reception
Venue: WI Ballroom
Friday, October 23rd, 2015 8:00-
5:00pm
Registration Open
Venue: 2nd Floor Foyer
8:30am-
5:30pm
Exibit Hall Open
Venue: Madison Ballroom
8:30-
10:15am
Session 1 – 15 Panels
10:30am-
12:15pm
Session 2 – 15 Panels
1:45-
3:30pm
Session 3 – 17 Panels
3:45-
5:30pm
Session 4 – 16 Panels
5:30-
6:00pm
Reception
Venue: WI Ballroom
6:00-
7:00pm
Keynote Address (Wendy Doniger)
Venue: WI Ballroom
7:00-
8:30pm
All-conference Dinner & SABA Award Presentation
Venue: Capitol Ballroom B
9:00-
11:00pm
DJ Rekha Dance Party (with Tanuja Desai Hidier)
Venue: WI Ballroom
Saturday, October 24th, 2015 8:00am-
3:30pm
Registration Open
Venue: 2nd Floor Foyer
8:30am-
8:30pm
Exibit Hall Open
Venue: Madison Ballroom
8:30-
10:15am
Session 5- 15 Panels
9:30-
11:00am
2015 SABA Author Presentation
Venue: Assembly Room
10:30am-
12:15pm
Session 6- 16 Panels
1:45-
3:30pm
Session 7- 16 Panels
3:45-
5:30pm
Plenary Session (Thrity Umrigar, Shyam Selvadurai)
Venue: Capitol Ballroom A
5:30pm-
7:00pm
CET College year in India Alumni Reception
Venue: University Room
7:00-
8:00pm
Performance (Nautanki with Devesh Sharma)
Venue: WI Ballroom
9:00-
11:00pm
AIPS Reception
Venue: Senate Rooms A & B
Sunday, October 25th, 2015 8:00-
11:00am
Registration Open
Venue: 2nd Floor Foyer
8:30-
10:15am
Session 8- 16 Panels
10:30am-
12:15pm
Session 9- 17 Panels
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Manifesting Heritage: Museums, Memorialization, & Archaeology in Modern South Asia
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Andrew Amstutz - andrew.amstutz@qc.cuny.edu (Queens College, CUNY)

This symposium on heritage in modern South Asia considers what new scholarship on museums, memorialization, mourning, and archaeology in South Asia can offer the global turn in critical heritage studies. In turn, the symposium explores how non-state actors and local communities have contested colonial and national understandings of heritage and memory. Our interdisciplinary, multi-sited symposium examines heritage across South Asia and interrogates a diverse array of heritage sites in the region, including crematoriums and memorials alongside museums and archeological excavations. Building on scholarship on heritage as “a cultural and social process” for negotiating conflict (Laurajane Smith) and museums as “contact zone[s]” (James Clifford), our symposium panels reconsider the material histories of heritage sites, broadly construed, and what they reveal about contemporary debates on heritage and power. The first panel (“(Anti-)Imperial Heritage”) explores how both non-state actors and local communities have engaged archaeology and monuments in conjunction with or opposition to imperial projects, from the British Empire in India to the US presence in Afghanistan. The second panel (“Heritage beyond the Nation-State”) examines how museum exhibits and vernacular literature have conceptualized heritage beyond national borders through local and global collaborations. The third panel (“Technologies of Heritage”) addresses how different technologies, including cameras, crematoriums, and coins, can reshape understandings of heritage. The final panel (“Memorialization as Heritage”) draws together alternative heritage projects to consider counter-commemorations as interventions in heritage creation. A full day symposium would be ideal for this interdisciplinary, cross-border, and multi-sited approach and would enable the presenters to engage with different conceptions of heritage. Moreover, the Madison conference is the ideal venue for this conversation given the importance of contested historical sites in contemporary South Asia. (The scholars in our proposal who are not based in the US have committed to attending in person and applying for travel funding.)


South Asian Sacred Sites: Connections and Intersections
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Ofer Peres - ofer.peres@sai.uni-heidelberg.de (Heidelberg University)

Sacred sites play a major role in the religious traditions of South Asia. This is largely due to the centrality of the practice of pilgrimage, but also because of their historical significance as cultural, financial, and political centers. While sacred sites have been the subject of scholarly discussions for several decades, most of the existing work explores sacrality within the context of specific localities. In this symposium, we suggest shifting the perspective by examining sacred sites as nodal points within webs of connections. Our aim is to promote a new understanding of South Asian sacred sites as participating in relationships with each other, rather than as stand-alone monuments, by focusing on the different types of links between them (literary, historical, ritual, etc.). Identifying these patterns will enable us to formulate them into coherent models, reflective of the diverse agencies at work within the webs of connections. Thus, this symposium will provide a venue for generating new insights into South Asian notions of “sacred” and “place.” The ASAC’s symposium day provides us with a unique opportunity to bring together scholars from diverse academic backgrounds and career stages, to share their work on three broad themes: 1) Making sacred links: The elements that connect physical spaces with the notion of sacredness and those by which one sacred space is linked to others, focusing on ritual dynamics and on temple art. 2) Textual reflections on geographic sacrality: The representations of sacred sites in literature and how literature on sacred sites establishes connections between physical places. 3) Mapping territories: a. The phenomenon of mapping sacred sites in devotional, literary, and musical compositions, and the marking of connections through ritual activity. b. Incongruities between literary ‘sacred maps’ and the distribution of physical spaces, conflicting notions of ‘sacred sets,’ and expressions of intersectarian tensions over sacred territories.


South Asian Screen Cultures: In/Visible Archives and Stories
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Gwendolyn Kirk - gskirk@iu.edu (Indiana University Bloomington)
Co-Organizer
Esha Niyogi De - de@humnet.ucla.edu (UCLA)

Until recently, the most widely visible and thoroughly researched archives of South Asian screen culture have been selected archives of Indian cinema–typically repertoires of Bollywood and pre-Bollywood Bombay cinema or of arthouse auteur cinema. Over the past decade, the lens of South Asian screen studies has been slowly expanding to include cinematic cultures that are emergent and minoritized, navigating previously unexplored archives and adopting innovative methods and frameworks. Many of these screen cultures have been ignored or brushed aside as meaningless and tasteless entertainment. However, we believe that attunement to these cultural forms represents a more inclusive and democratic approach to screen studies in the region. This Symposium highlights peripheral screen media and those that have been minoritized by authoritarian and repressive regimes and formations. The papers explore geopolitical formations, sociosexual biases, as well as the privileging of particular media formats and access infrastructures over others. A variety of approaches are taken to screen cultures, including production and reception analysis of film, television, streaming, and other forms of narrative media. Thus, the presentations shine light on new or neglected South Asian screen productions and cultures beyond, around, or before Bollywood. A number of papers discuss methods of screen archive-building that help us to democratize the scope of South Asian screen studies. They aim to historicize the politics of cultural conservation as well as of memory and forgetfulness across South Asia. Combined, the papers examine screen cultures across the region as well as those that themselves question its borders. Ultimately, this Symposium seeks to understand how screen industries respond to, undermine, or even shape the political currents around them.


The Sounds of Inequality: Musical Boundaries and Caste Realities in Modern South Asia
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Anna Morcom - afmorcom@schoolofmusic.ucla.edu (UCLA)
Co-Organizer
Mukesh Kumar - mukesh.kumar@gmw.gess.ethz.ch (ETH Zurich)
Co-Organizer
Davesh Soneji - dsoneji@upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)

Much research on caste in Indian performing arts has focused on relationships of service-provision of Dalit-bahujan performers to dominant caste patrons in ‘folk music’ genres, or the Brahminization of classical performing arts. Such work has kept the remit of caste within the confines of ‘tradition’ or history. Newer research broadens the perspective, situating caste in the very aesthetics and embodiment of genres, in contemporary settings like recording studios, and amongst Christian and Muslim musicians. It also explores current processes and consequences of disenfranchisement, and caste assertion. This literature expands understandings of the performing arts as a site for caste dis/empowerment and exposes the continual mutations, co-options, and appropriations of caste in and through the performing arts, including in the academy. Incorporating work by bahujan, savarna, and non-South Asian scholars, this symposium looks at layered processes of popularization, assertion, resistance, cleansing, appropriation, exclusion, and disenfranchisement in diverse musical genres across regions, religions, and political divides. We examine Dalit activism in and through music. We make legacies of music-making in Muslim and Christian communities audible and prominent, centering questions of sonic democracy and the politics of sound in modern South Asia. We study how caste is learned at the levels of taste and deportment. We explore the cooption of bhakti via music to maintain dominant caste Hindus and Hinduism as normative, incorporating Hindutva as well as liberal contexts. We highlight the ‘payout’ to privileged bodies (dominant caste and white) for work that seeks to resist caste. Finally, we question how cycles of caste persistence, mutation and co-option may be disrupted, how value and benefit can be channeled into Dalit-bahujan genres, instruments, and performing bodies, and how a critical discourse and aesthetics of caste and music can be developed that does not represent another incarnation of savarna control of knowledge and discourse.


Amplifying Politics, Unsettling Frames: Everyday Spaces and Regimes of Dispossession and Agency
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Faiza Moatasim - faiza.moatasim@gmail.com (University of Southern California)
Co-Organizer
Tayeba Batool - tbatool@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)

If space is fundamentally political, how can spatial injustices generate political power and construct new ways of thinking about inequities in the places where we live and work? How does mapping political agency and subjectivity of the disenfranchised in urban South Asia–in theory, method, and activism–unsettle existing frames about power and dispossession and contribute towards building a just world? Motivated by critical urban studies scholarship that focuses on regimes of violence, erasure, and agency, this symposium brings together a community of emerging scholars of urban Pakistan to build a collective understanding of exclusionary urbanization processes as the means of political agency of the excluded and dispossessed. We urge attention toward the micro-politics and encounters of ordinary life that reveal how the (un)intended effects of state policies, development aspirations, and liberal imaginaries transform everyday struggles. While the struggle to push stories of people, landscapes, and histories marginalized and othered in dominant discourses is an ongoing action, we want to think with our participants in a daylong symposium about what troubles the constructions of the marginal/ized, what is gained from attending to experiences on the ground, and how a careful and urgent engagement with alternative narratives of development and dispossession can support everyday struggles for resistance. We take contemporary calls of theorizing from the South seriously to consider what is at stake in amplifying the politics of the disenfranchised across theory, method, and activism. We propose a daylong symposium for building community and meaningful exchange of ideas among a group of emerging scholars of urban Pakistan–from diverse disciplinary backgrounds but with a shared commitment to mapping and theorizing the everyday experiences of ecological, social, and political disenfranchisement–about the possibilities of just worlds that emerge within their work.


Re-imagining the Telugu Publics
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Saila Sri Kambhatla - sk5125@columbia.edu (Columbia University)
Co-Organizer
Revanth Ukkalam - revanth_ukkalam@berkeley.edu (University of California-Berkeley)
Co-Organizer
Shiva Sai Ram Urella - shiva.sai.ram.urella@emory.edu (Emory University)

The discursive field of the Telugu public in South India has been transforming through pivotal moments of political shifts, social movements, and literary developments. The social and political articulations in the region have been historically generative for the evolution of democratic ideals. The dynamic exchange between publics and counter-publics shaped around antagonisms of caste, class, and gender in modern history is a continuity of the longue-durée of democratic undercurrents in the region. Archives on literary, poetic and devotional expressions reflect an intellectual and cultural investment in social reform against practices of gender discrimination and caste inequality in the region. The reformist and revolutionary ideas in the region’s history have sedimented the Telugu identity and its plural imaginations in many ways. In this Symposium, we bring together upcoming and recent scholarship on the discourse and history of the Telugu public(s) through panels intersecting across scholarly disciplines. The symposium will have presentations speaking through a diverse range of material like oral narratives, literary texts, cultural activism, political histories and performance genres. The diversity in disciplinary approaches and research methods of archival, literary, religious and ethnographic studies will inform the multifaceted understanding of the Telugu publics. By bringing together around twenty scholars with a wide-ranging academic expertise, the symposium will harness the intellectual momentum that is building up on research studies and publications on the Telugu-speaking region. The attending researchers have been extensively invested in the social and political implications of their works through an informed understanding of caste, gender, class and inter-religious relations in the region. The specificity of the regional site will deeply engage with research developments and intellectual contributions in the broader fields of Deccan Studies, India Studies, and South Asia Studies, and research initiatives being undertaken by Khidki Collective, Maidaanam, and others that have been shaping the Telugu public.


Craft Geographies: Unravelling Material Cultures and Communities in South and Central Asian History
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Pranav Prakash - pranav.prakash@chch.ox.ac.uk (Christ Church, University of Oxford)
Co-Organizer
Amanda Lanzillo - amandalanzillo@gmail.com (Brunel University London)

Our symposium advances multidisciplinary methods and approaches to the study of craft communities across the interconnected geographies of South and Central Asia. It challenges the disciplinary boundaries of South Asian area studies by exploring transregional experiences that remain outside the ambit of elite cultural networks. It brings together scholars from diverse subfields of the humanities, arts and social sciences to facilitate research dialogue on the history of cross-cultural interactions among craft communities in South and Central Asia. Our goal is to develop craftsperson-centric approaches to historiography, which affirm the subjective experiences and creative imagination of marginalized communities. Our research reorients humanistic and social scientific discourses to elaborate upon new methods and practices of transregional histories. The plurality of craftworker experiences lies at the heart of our innovative methodology. Our papers disaggregate the category of “craft” in favor of analytical readings of historical sources on specific skills, technologies, ideas, objects and communities. Beyond courtly documents and official reports, our research draws on overlooked materials and knowledge systems, which were circulating among craft communities in South and Central Asia. We propose reconsideration of the relevance of craft histories for the purposes of building an inclusive model of historiography that goes beyond imperial, dynastic or colonial sources. Our presenters elucidate alternate narratives of shared cultural heritage, community values and family lore, upending our assumptions about the reach of imperial, statist or local power. Our symposium is part of our collaborative effort to build a community of scholars, researchers and craft specialists who—on account of their research and engagement with craft communities—challenge prior historiography with a view to advancing transregional, inclusive and connected histories of South and Central Asia. We cultivate the work of early career scholars and put them in conversation with senior scholars as respondents.


Towards Another World: Cold War Internationalisms in South Asia
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Poorna Swami - poornaswami@g.harvard.edu (Harvard University )
Co-Organizer
Mathangi Krishnamurthy - mathangi@gmail.com (Indian Institute of Technology Madras)

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of scholarship on the Cold War’s lasting political, economic, and intellectual currents within the Global South. Indeed, what Arvind Rajagopal calls “the first metaphysical war of modern times…simultaneously everywhere and nowhere” (1. p.370) continues to cast a long shadow on our understanding of the 20th century and its anti-colonial—simultaneously nationalist and internationalist—impulses. And yet, despite the increased scholarly emphasis on the Non-Aligned Movement, Pan-Asianism, and the Bandung era, the corollary imaginative labor of this internationalist period remains under-appreciated within the study of modern South Asia. In this symposium, we propose internationalisms as alternately responding to, engaging with, resisting, and even side-stepping and refusing the Cold War and its ideological demands. Our emphasis then is on the Cold War as not just a series of geopolitical interactions with the West, but also a period of collective world building within South Asia itself. Bringing together scholars from disciplines such as history, law, literature, anthropology, art history, film studies, gender and sexuality studies, and science and technology studies, we aim to put in conversation simultaneous developments in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. In each case, we consider “individual lives” (2. p.9), geographical sites, and cultural projects as performing acts of discursive and material agency in the era of decolonization. ---------------------------- 1. Rajagopal, Arvind. (2019) “The Cold War as an Aesthetic Phenomenon: An Afterthought on Boris Groys, Javnost” - The Public, 26:4, 370-374, DOI: 10.1080/13183222.2019.1698836 2. Lewis, S. L. and C Stolte. (2022) The Lives of Cold War Afro-Asianism. Leiden University Press.


Annual Conference on South Asia 2024 Symposium on Kerala Studies
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
DARSHANA MINI - dmini@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Co-Organizer
Tapoja Chaudhuri - chaudhut@seattleu.edu (Seattle University )
Co-Organizer
Laurah Klepinger - leklepin@utica.edu (Utica College)
Co-Organizer
Mahmood Kooria - mahmoodpana@gmail.com ()
Co-Organizer
Sonja Thomas - smthomas@colby.edu (Colby College)

The notion of the "Kerala model" has dominated Social Science and Humanities discourses on South Asia since the 1970s. High rates of literacy and progressive social development coupled with low mortality and fertility rates pitched Kerala, in southwestern India, as a model for development economists. Many scholars have identified problematic aspects of this developmental paradigm, yet the notion of "Kerala exceptionalism," positing Kerala as a case study in social development, has long held sway for scholars of the region. This first-ever Kerala Studies symposium explores changes in this field of subregional studies in the context of increasing pushback against area studies. The symposium brings together scholarship that challenges and goes beyond the Kerala model, showcasing new work in the subregion and its diasporas. Our panelists come from media studies, literature, gender studies, history, art history, sociology, and the law. Composed of four interconnected panels on “activisms,” “transregional mobility,” “religions,” and “visual cultures,” our symposium features scholarship with an anti-caste, feminist frame, as we understand this to be the way forward for Kerala studies scholarship. Through these interconnected themes, our panelists engage with the continued expressions of the most marginalized in Kerala and the Kerala diasporas to fight against authoritarianism/fascism and against caste apartheid. Accordingly, the symposium speaks directly to the South Asia conference’s 2024 theme, “Democracy and Authoritarianism,” while engaging current challenges to the area studies approach and interrogating the forms taken by the critique of the “Kerala model.” The extended time of the symposium will allow participants and audience members to discuss and engage with the recommended texts and have open-ended discussion. Thus, each panel will feature 3-4 scholars speaking for 7-10 minutes about their work, followed by a Q&A session, a format we anticipate will generate a robust conversation among a diverse range of voices.


New Directions in Kashmir Studies
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Dean Accardi - daccardi@conncoll.edu (Connecticut College)

Demands for Kashmiris’ self-determination has been central to Kashmir even preceding the creation of the modern nation-states of India and Pakistan, yet the authoritarian occupation over Kashmir has only increased. Over the past few decades, Kashmir Studies has been at the forefront of new ways of engaging in critical scholarship—in no small part due to the marginalization of Kashmir itself and, in turn, any form of critical scholarship engaging Kashmir beyond the framework of “solving an international security problem.” Independent scholars and the Critical Kashmir Studies Collective therefore had to fight against entrenched power structures in both political and academic spheres, in doing so charting new courses in interdisciplinary research and activist scholarship. However, since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the social, political, and cultural landscapes of Kashmir have shifted tremendously—with the demands for self-determination increasingly cracked down upon and silenced amidst the increasing rise of authoritarianism over Kashmir. With this symposium, we will engage new and emerging scholarship in Kashmir Studies, focusing on the post-2019 world and issues including law, treaties and sovereignty; society, Islam, and political mobilization; the security state and resistance culture; literature, music, and the arts amidst occupation; widespread and long-term repercussions of violence on mental and physical health; and settler colonialism, land, and ecology.


Countless Eyes, Countless Mouths: New Dialogues in the Study of Multivocal Bhagavad Gitas
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Akshara Ravishankar - aksharars@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)
Co-Organizer
Justin Smolin - jnsmolin@gmail.com (University of Chicago)

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the best-known and most widely read, studied, and recited texts in Hindu traditions, and has a long history of exegesis, commentary, and translation in South Asian and European languages. Only seven hundred verses long, this work continues to produce a diverse range of readings, in both scholarship and popular culture, encompassing religion, politics, literature, mysticism, philosophy, and statecraft; its growing role and visibility in contemporary Hindu nationalism makes it a particularly fraught and contested site for debates about South Asian pasts and futures. However, the Bhagavad Gita tends to be considered a stable, canonical work, often obfuscating the diverse interpretations that comprise the text’s multilingual, transnational archive. This symposium brings together early-career scholars who approach this text through a wide range of languages, historical periods, and disciplinary perspectives. The papers in this symposium speak to—and reveal— rich interpretive archives of the Bhagavad Gita not yet considered in detail in secondary scholarship. The scholars who will participate in this day-long symposium will explore the Gita’s interpretive life in premodern and modern contexts ranging from Sanskrit commentarial traditions and Mughal-era Persian translations to contemporary nationalist discourses. It is our hope that this symposium will be the first of many future collaborations that investigate the multiplicity and diversity of the Gita in South Asia and beyond.


AIIS Dissertation-to-Book Workshop
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Sarah Lamb - lamb@brandeis.edu (Brandeis University)

The American Institute of Indian Studies holds an annual dissertation-to-book workshop at the Madison South Asia Conference, co-sponsored by the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, and the American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies. The workshop aims to help a select number of recent PhDs re-vision their doctoral dissertations as books. Author participants will submit a sample chapter and draft book proposal in advance. The interdisciplinary workshop will begin at 7 pm the day before the scheduled day-long symposium for a “Secrets of Publishing” Q&A session. During the day-long symposium sessions, each of three groups of approximately eight authors and three mentors will work intensively together discussing each project. We conclude the workshop with an all-group dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. Faculty from a range of disciplines, areas of expertise, gender identities, and levels of seniority will serve as mentors. Each mentor will have published at least one book and will specialize in a range of South Asian regions (including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) and come from various disciplinary backgrounds, including anthropology, history, literature, media studies, gender studies, and religious studies. For the Wednesday full-day symposium workshops, we will need three separate rooms, OR two separate rooms including one large room separated into two by a divider. We will follow the full-day conference symposium schedule, including the scheduled breaks.


Action and Effect in the Karmabhūmi: Jain Perspectives on Agency
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mikaela Chase - mochase@wisc.edu
Co-Organizer
Ana Bajzelj - abajzelj@ucr.edu (University of California, Riverside)
Co-Organizer
Gregory Clines - gclines@trinity.edu (Trinity University)

This symposium aims to think in an interdisciplinary manner about how Jains have historically imagined and enacted individual and collective agency. Jain Studies scholarship has primarily examined the Jain notion of action and non-action through karma theory, centering on the classification of action, factors that play a role in the mechanics of action, and the production of its consequences. Research on Jain ethics and conduct, which has also included discussions on the concept of action, has tended to focus on its regulatory aspects in the context of mendicant discipline. The symposium seeks to expand on these explorations by investigating conceptualizations of the underlying agentive forces involved in the performance of actions. Papers will attend to the embodied dimension of various forms of actions as well as their situatedness in historical and social networks. The contributions of this symposium to the field of Jain studies are manifold. First, it brings together scholars investigating Jain conceptions of agency through a variety of disciplines and methodologies, highlighting the complexity of its textual treatments and lived realities. The presenters include scholars who specialize in various areas such as the history of Jain philosophy, Jain grammatical traditions, Jain ritual culture, ethnography of Jain religious practices, Jain political and economic influence, and the history of science and artisanship within Jain communities. Second, by examining the practices of literary and scientific elites alongside those often overlooked or marginalized in scholarship, particularly lay women and artisans, the papers, taken together, recognize and explicate how different orders of agency exist and interact at every level of Jain social organization. Third, the papers cover a wide range of historical perspectives, spanning from the medieval and early modern periods to the contemporary era. This approach allows for a productive, diachronic examination of conceptions of agency writ large within the Jain tradition.


Right-Wing Aesthetic Grammars
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Radhika Govindrajan - rgovind@uw.edu (University of Washington)

Our proposed symposium explores the emergence of what we are calling right-wing aesthetic grammars in South Asia. We use the term grammar to gesture to the ways in which emergent aesthetic forms - both visual and sonic - forge distinctive right-wing languages. We wish to explore how these aesthetic grammars underpin instances of collective effervescence and undergird more sustained notions of belonging and potential political action. Our seminar aims to understand the everyday formations of these grammars, with all their complexities and contradictions, through several interrelated domains of inquiry: 1) how and why certain image-forms and sonic traces circulate virally across bodies, communities, and nation-state borders 2) how these circulations are shaped by and shape the specificity of the infrastructural and economic platforms through which they travel 3) how ordinary people play with these circulating aesthetic forms in ways that extend and deepen their communicative possibilities in unpredictable ways 4) how the structures of feeling that emerge through these aesthetic forms work to draw individuals into loose and fluid right-wing collectivities. We contend that South Asia, with its multiple histories of right-wing emergence, offers an important comparative site to analyze how images or sonic fragments that circulate, sometimes confusingly, across national contexts index different and sometimes competing popular political movements. By gathering anthropologists who work across South Asia, we wish to shed light on the crucial role that socially mediated audio-visual popular content plays as it is remixed by individuals in ways that breathe life into right-wing movements.


Everyday Life in Mughal India
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Emma Kalb - emma.kalb@gmail.com (University of Bonn)
Co-Organizer
Usman Hamid - uhamid@hamilton.edu (Hamilton College)

This symposium brings together scholars interested in the history of everyday life in Mughal South Asia. Our goal is to explore how thinking in terms of common practice, materiality, lived environments, and even lived experience can enrich and complicate understandings of the larger narratives, institutions, and personalities central to how Mughal history has most often been written. Approaching this era from the perspective of the commonplace helps us to instead bring into focus the complex social and material setting of the Mughal world, through not only incorporating the objects, spaces, and customary practice that framed everyday life but also through offering ways of integrating a wide array of social figures, from the emperor himself and the broader elite to the vast understudied range of other figures populating the Mughal city, qasba, and countryside, from servant to soldier, from shoe-maker to rural cultivator. Presentations will address areas ranging from everyday law, religious ritual, and understandings of the body to literary networks, the making of urban environments, epistolary practice, and histories of the senses. In the process, the symposium will also take advantage of the diverse disciplinary entry-points of contributions to reflect on the archival challenges and opportunities of approaching the Mughal period from this vantage point.


Hindu Textual Authority
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Eric Steinschneider - esteinschneider@ithaca.edu (Ithaca College)
Co-Organizer
Janani Mandayam Comar - j.mandayam@mail.utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)

While the contemporary study of Hindu traditions began with text, the latter’s centralization as the primary mode through which to understand Hinduism, as a unified religion in modernity, has long been contested. In the wake of postcolonial criticism and, more recently, the emergence of critical Hindu studies, the continued privileging of text and its perceived status has become fraught with issues of hierarchical relations and discourses of power. What, then, does it mean to study texts and their supposed authority in the field of Hindu studies today? How do textual scholars respond, for instance, to the rise of Hindu nationalism, an ideology that explicitly grounds itself in anachronistic textual readings, or to the continued marginalization of oppressed castes, Dalits, and women within textualized domains, or to the racist and exploitative legacies of colonialism, themselves informed by Orientalist textual scholarship, that mark the global Indian diaspora? As a first step toward addressing these matters, this symposium proposes to explore the ways in which textual authority comes to be constructed, negotiated, exercised, challenged, and constrained in Hindu spaces. Among the questions it seeks to engage are the following: How might textual studies and ethnographic perspectives complement one another in appreciating the elaboration, performance, or limitations of authority within textually pluralist, casted, and gendered contexts? How is textually generated authority utilized to create or reinscribe particular kinds of religious communities and associated logics of inclusion or exclusion? How do translation and historiographic practices mediate the authority of Hindu texts across literary, regional, and generic domains? How do conceptions of authority transform as texts move outside of South Asia and become part of digital spaces? Participants approach these topics from a range of methodological, temporal, geographic, and linguistic vantage points, creating new opportunities for collaboration on a pressing issue for the field.


Animal Subjects in South Asia
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Andrea Gutierrez - andreagutierrez@utexas.edu (Univ. of Texas at Austin)
Co-Organizer
Thomas Trautmann - ttraut@umich.edu (University of Michigan)

Animals, both real and imagined, are intricately woven into the histories, ideologies, images, and texts of South Asia. Likewise, human lives in South Asia have perennially existed alongside non-human animals within shared ecologies. Recent decades have been marked by the “animal turn” across the scholarly landscape, and the introduction of animal studies into South Asian studies is already well underway. This symposium radically centers animals in our study of South Asia without decentering humans, exploring human understandings of specific animals throughout the historical period, from deep history to the present day. Using a variety of methodological approaches including multispecies ethnography, history, textual studies, and material analysis, we delve into human-animal relations across diverse media, and trace how animals have been used for human purposes. Materials under study include various elephant science and elephant care manuals (gajaśāstra), Buddhist sculpture and architecture including at Bharhut and Sanchi, and colonial-era postcards and trade cards. We raise questions on the extent of animal personhood as natural personhood and ideal personhood, animal sentience, animal treatment, and animal categories and genders. Our projects include investigations of hospitality and interspecies relations with pigeons in Pakistan, a historical overview of the biological understanding of the elephant across the ages in South Asia and in Persian and Greek worlds, the overlap of nāga and elephant identities at ancient Buddhist sites, Buddhist animal identities in Āryaśūra’s Jātakamālā, and the role of the elephant in Mughal sovereignty. The symposium will dedicate a half day to one very exceptional animal—the elephant—and a half day to other animals in South Asia. Our research concerns animals as beings of their own; at the same time, focusing on animals aids our understanding of human histories, stories, archaeologies, ethnographies, and geographies.


Embodied Divinity in South Asian Religions
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Full Day
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Prathik Murali - prathikmurali@ufl.edu (University of Florida)
Co-Organizer
Máire White - mairepwhite@stanford.edu (Stanford University)

Embodied Divinity in South Asian Religions This year’s RBSN symposium seeks to amplify the interventions on the multifaceted nature of divine embodiments in the context of bhakti in South Asian traditions by bringing together scholars across disciplines working on hagiography, literature, and lived religion (Waghorne, Cutler, and Narayanan 1985). It endeavors to critically intervene in contextualizing the role of the divine as an embodied self wherein the divine is not confined to abstract transcendence but is intimately woven into the fabric of everyday life. As of yet, scholarly attention has focused on divine-devout relationships centering the devotee as the agent of bhakti. In this symposium, we hope to amplify and shed light upon the embodied divine as the perceived agent. The papers in this symposium illuminate how divine embodiments derive and confer meaning and efficacy, emerging from and giving shape to religious and nonreligious realms alike (Pintchman and Dempsey 2016). We examine what it means for the divine to exert agency in an earthly form: can we decenter the devout in making the divine? How does the divine act within relationships of bhakti? What role does materiality or the lack thereof play in embodying the divine in South Asia? How do oral and written texts substantiate beliefs and practices in lived religion that aid in embodying the divine as a living being subject to human-like conditions? The papers span a chronological arc from pre-modern textual and epigraphic sources, ritual analysis and philosophy, and anthropological analysis. Spanning varied religious traditions such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, this symposium addresses issues of materiality, paradox (i.e. a transcendent deity whose earthly embodied self is subjected to human-like conditions), and wonder (Srinivas 2023). Through such varied lenses, we invite scholars of bhakti to rethink the role of the divine in creating the social of bhakti.


Did Buddhism Decline in the Thirteenth Century: Rethinking Medieval Buddhism in Eastern India
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Half Day, Morning
Room: Off-Site
Floor: Off-Site

Organizer
Shaashi Ahlawat - shaashi@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)

The ‘decline’ of Indian Buddhism is often attributed to the twelfth-thirteenth century abandonment, destruction, and disrepair of several mega monasteries across Bihar, Bengal, and Orissa that emerged in the eighth-ninth century CE. However, recent scholarship by McKeown (2019), Waley (1932; also, Prasad 2021), and Hori (2018) has presented new evidence of a continuation of Buddhist monasteries and settlements, and Buddhist patrons respectively in the Magadha region (present-day south Bihar) questioning this understanding of the decline of Buddhism. This challenges the traditional understanding of the decline of Buddhism and raises questions about what happened to Buddhist institutions and their activities after the thirteenth century. This panel aims to examine the idea of the decline of Indian Buddhism and reconsider its fate during the medieval period (thirteenth to seventeenth centuries CE) in eastern India. The discussion will cover issues of historiography, patterns in artistic production, built landscape, patronage, and monastic and non-monastic Buddhism to better understand this phenomenon. The geographical area covered by the panel includes present-day Bihar, West Bengal, and Orissa in India, as well as Bangladesh. How was post-thirteenth-century ‘Buddhism’ in eastern India different from its ‘early medieval’ (c. 8th-12th century CE) aspects associated with mega-monastic institutions in Bihar, Bengal, and Orissa? What sources are available to reimagine the ‘final’ days of Buddhism in eastern India? What was the nature of continuing Buddhist monasteries and how did they cope with the newer forms of political authority? How did it affect their patronage and links with the laity in the existing settlements? With these questions, this panel brings together papers on different aspects of later medieval Buddhism in the eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent with papers on epigraphy, art and architecture, archaeology, ethnography, and textual studies as some of the approaches.


Regional Centers in South Asian Imaginaries: Geographies, Boundaries, & Polities
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Half Day, Morning
Room: PDR
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
John Nemec - nemec@virginia.edu (University of Virginia)

Since the publication of Sheldon I. Pollock’s monumental study of the South Asian political imaginaire, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men, scholars have frequently followed him in charting “cosmopolitan” and transregional conceptions of cultural and political identity and activity. With the present, proposed symposium we seek to look in the other direction, as it were, to examine the manner in which the specificity of place serves to shape the political, cultural, religious, and linguistic imagination and practices of the people who make these social realities. The panelists seek to answer the question as to what can be known of South Asian cultural, religious, linguistic, and political lives when privileging the concept of place. To what degree is social consciousness defined by place, how are boundaries formed in reality and imagination, and what do such distinctions do to shape ideas of self, literature, culture, language-use, and political representation and identity? Ultimately, we seek reflectively to complicate notions of the “regional,” “national,” “trans-regional,” and “transnational” by way of examining four exemplars from the Indian subcontinent, namely, those of the Kashmir Valley, Nepal and the Kathmandu Valley in particular, Western India between Rajasthan and Gujarat, and, finally, South India and Tamil Nadu in particular. Scholars participating in the panel hail from the gamut of academic institutions in the United States and Canada, work in various disciplinary traditions, and study a range of historical periods, from the early Medieval to the present day. Two panelists will speak to each of the four regions selected for discussion, with the intention that a ranging conversation will shed new light on what it means to speak of “regions” or “regionality” when examining culture, religion, politics, and language in South Asian Studies.


Understanding Bangladesh: An Insider Approach
Symposium

Location

Session: Symposium - Half Day, Afternoon
Room: PDR
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Hasan Mahmud - hasan.mahmud@northwestern.edu (Northwestern University in Qatar)

With the new geopolitical reality drawing global media and academic attention toward Bangladesh, scholars in social sciences are exploring Bangladesh through various academic lenses, evidenced in the publication of new books and scholarly journal articles. A notable observation in this new wave of scholarship on Bangladesh is the participation of young Bangladeshi scholars who grew up in Bangladesh but studied in Western academia and found their places in renowned universities and research institutions. While many of these scholars follow the early generation of scholars (i.e., anthropologists, historians, geographers, political scientists, and sociologists) in Bangladesh, the unique positionality of this new generation of scholars is evident in the choice of their research topics, analytical approaches, and publishing for both the academic and general audience. This half-day symposium gathers a group of these young scholars simultaneously positioned in academia in Bangladesh and the West, looking at their lived experiences from various disciplinary perspectives. The topics of research these scholars explore range from fictional depictions to historical and feminist understanding of the past, uncovering political struggles that significantly shaped the past and understanding the politics of the present and the future, political ideology influencing the institutional apparatus, including the state and its functions, authoritarianism and disinformation, securitization of society, racialization of religious identity and migrant transnationalism. While the collection of papers connects with ongoing discourses within relevant disciplines, the positionality of the authors allows for bridging Bangladesh with Western academia with both personal experience and professional expertise, making this symposium a unique space for germinating new insights about Bangladesh.


Excavation, Conservation and Preservation of Buddhist Caves at Shah Allah Ditta Islamabad
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Muhammad Azeem - ramay_zs@yahoo.com (Department of Archaeology & Museums Government of Pakistan )

The Buddhist caves ‘Shah Allah Ditta’, located in the heart of Margalla Hills, in the west of Taxila valley, east of Islamabad to be 2500 years old. Renowned scholar and historian, Late Dr. Ahmed Hassan Dani referred that in old days, the caves of Shah Allah Ditta, located in the east of Ban Faqiran Stupa (200-500 C.E.) were used by Buddhist monks, which were later, occupied by Hindus and after partition in 1947 inhabited by Muslim community. Shah Allah Ditta Complex is natural and archaeological complex. These caves are part of a compound of two large caves, natural water spring flowing since times unknown and a water tank probably built in Mughal era. These remains are source of confirmation of the different cultures flourished there. It was a one of the major stay stop to enter Taxila valley or move to Kashmir and central Asia. Historical personalities, Alexander the Great, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka the Great, Mughal emperor Jahangir visited the vicinity of Taxila. The excavation carried out by the Department of Archaeology and Museums in the premises of the caves that revealed significant cultural material from the different periods. Artifacts belong to late Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim era. It included T.C potsherds, oil lamps and arrowheads providing valuable insights into the lives of its inhabitants. The Department of Archaeology & Museums presently working on conservation and preservation of the caves which has been eroded due to the natural environment. The Kanjur stone used in these caves are very fragile to preserve. The preservation and conservation issues are main focus of this paper; it will further highlight the remedial preservation as well as the historical significance of these caves.


Enhancing Cultural Literacy: Museum Education in Pakistan
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Tayyab Shahzad - tayyabshahzad62@gmail.com (PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi)

Museum education in Pakistan plays a pivotal role in fostering cultural understanding, heritage preservation, and educational enrichment. Despite facing challenges such as funding constraints, limited resources, and socio-political instability, museums in Pakistan serve as dynamic spaces for learning and community engagement. This abstract explores the landscape of museum education in Pakistan, highlighting its significance, challenges, and potential for growth. Museums in Pakistan serve as repositories of the nation's rich and diverse cultural heritage, encompassing archaeological treasures, religious artifacts, folk art, and historical documents. Through exhibitions, educational programs, and interactive workshops, museums provide valuable opportunities for both formal and informal learning experiences. These initiatives aim to promote cultural literacy, critical thinking skills, and cross-cultural dialogue among visitors of all ages and backgrounds. However, the effectiveness of museum education in Pakistan is hindered by several challenges. Limited government funding often leads to insufficient resources for museum maintenance, exhibition development, and educational programming. Additionally, political instability and security concerns pose obstacles to museum accessibility and visitor engagement, particularly in regions affected by conflict or unrest. Furthermore, the lack of professional development opportunities for museum staff hinders the implementation of innovative educational strategies and practices. Despite challenges, museum education in Pakistan holds immense potential for growth and development. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, non-profit organizations, and international partners can help address funding gaps and support capacity-building initiatives for museum professionals. Embracing technology and digital resources can also enhance the accessibility and reach of museum education programs, particularly in underserved communities and remote areas. In conclusion, museum education in Pakistan serves as a vital platform for promoting cultural awareness, heritage conservation, and lifelong learning. By addressing existing challenges and harnessing opportunities for innovation and collaboration, museums can continue to enrich the educational landscape and contribute to the cultural enrichment of Pakistani society.


Setting the Lord of Time in Stone: A Historico-Architectural Study of the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Shreya Hari Nurani - shreyahari@vt.edu (Virginia Tech)

Temples have played a pivotal role in facilitating political expansion in India, since at least the 5th century CE. Alongside acting as a ‘locus of devotion’ (Eck 1981), a temple can be studied in multiple ways and be used as a tool to understand the landscape around it. Keeping this idea at its centre, this paper intends to bring forth an important pilgrimage site – the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain, which is also one of the twelve holiest Shaiva Hindu shrines in India, to examine the evolving relationship that exists between the temple and the political landscape of the region of Ujjain. While the earliest archaeological remnants of the temple trace back roughly to the 10-11th century, historical records indicate a continuous political patronage shaping the temple until about the 18th century. In this study, I shall closely examine the architecture and design of the temple to comprehend the different architectural layers which have, over the years, produced the unique religious structure that we see today. I contend that the architectural layers of the temple reflect the interactions between the political powers and the larger landscape. I do not just perceive the political landscape, but also examine the creation of a cultural memory (Schliephake 2016) and nostalgia as a product and a factor of continuous political patronage visible through constant temple-building activity that extends well into the present day. Over time, various rulers in the region have utilized temple constructions to solidify their authority and connect with the revered history, thus garnering political approval from the populace. Never a stranger to rulers’ patronage, the temple of Mahakaleshwar has recently caught the eye of the Indian government which has redeveloped the area around the temple to give it a major facelift, enduring the historical practices into modern way of life.


Preserving Cultural Heritage: Inventory of Displaced Architectural Elements at Makli Necropolis, Thatta, Sindh, Pakistan
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Serfraz Nawaz - serfarznawaz@gmail.com (Shah abdul latif University khairpur )

Makli Necropolis, located in Thatta, Sindh, Pakistan, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its vast array of historical tombs and mausoleums dating back to the 14th century. However, in recent years, the site has faced challenges due to environmental degradation, urban encroachment, and neglect, resulting in the displacement and deterioration of its architectural elements. This paper presents an inventory of displaced architectural elements at Makli Necropolis, documenting their current condition, location, and historical significance. Through a comprehensive survey and analysis, the study aims to shed light on the extent of the problem and propose strategies for the preservation and restoration of these invaluable cultural artifacts. Key findings reveal a significant number of displaced architectural elements, including intricately carved stone panels, columns, and decorative motifs, scattered throughout the site. Many of these elements are at risk of further damage or loss if appropriate conservation measures are not taken. Drawing on international best practices in heritage conservation, the paper recommends a multipronged approach involving documentation, stabilization, and restoration efforts. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of community engagement and capacity-building initiatives to ensure the long-term sustainability of conservation efforts. By highlighting the plight of displaced architectural elements at Makli Necropolis, this study contributes to broader discussions on the preservation of cultural heritage and underscores the urgent need for concerted action to safeguard these treasures for future generations.


Landscapes of Difference: Towards an Archaeological Exploration of the Northern Konkan Coast, 1400-1700 CE
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Prapti Panda - prapti.panda@u.northwestern.edu (Northwestern University)

The 15th-18th centuries witnessed two significant developments in peninsular India: the Deccan Peninsula experienced large-scale transformations in the political and social landscape and the coasts saw the establishment of European colonial enclaves. Fortified urban centers were located at the interface of these developments. While significant historical and archaeological work has been carried out on the plateau, far less archaeological enquiry has been directed towards the Konkan Coast. This is unfortunate as archaeology, with its focus on the material registers of everyday life, offers an important glimpse into these cosmopolitan landscapes by offering a counterpoint to dominant narratives. These narratives place considerable emphasis on the Portuguese presence in the region, not fully accounting for the diversity of political and economic actors at play. In this paper, I rely on preliminary archaeological reconnaissance from two fort-settlements, Chaul and Janjira, to contextualize the Konkan’s important role in not just South Asian history, but also in the larger Indian Ocean world. I do this by addressing two primary questions: How did these frontier settlements emerge as urban maritime centers in the early modern period? What can the archaeological record reveal about the organization and social composition of these settlements? I argue that to fully understand these dynamic and cosmopolitan settlements, we need to move beyond examining just the sociocultural elite and instead look at landscapes of inequality.


The Work of Joy in South Asian Literary, Religious, and Ritual Worlds
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Archana Venkatesan - avenkatesan@ucdavis.edu (University of California, Davis)

Discussant / Chair
Steven Hopkins - shopkin1@swarthmore.edu (Swarthmore College)

This panel examines how joy is articulated, understood, and generated in South Asian literary, religious, and ritual worlds. Each panelist seeks to understand the work of joy and how joy works in the text and traditions in which they are immersed. Through careful and close readings of texts and ritual praxis, the panelists explore questions of vocabulary, soteriology, and gender to delve into the place of joy in South Asian literary, religious, and ritual worlds. Panelist 1 draws on the Buddhist Pāli canon and commentaries to unpack the vocabulary of joy and its synonyms to argue that sukha (joy/happiness) is as important to Buddhist soteriology as the much more well-known emphasis on dukkha. Panelist 2 focuses on the conclusion of the Mahābhārata to draw attention to the text’s linking of desire and happiness, and in doing so appears to reverse course, suggesting that personal desire rather than being ruinous can be the source of a lasting, liberatory joy. Panelist 3 pays attention to the specific words for joy in the Sangam corpus—men speak of joy in terms of lust and pleasure, while women articulate it as relief—to argue for the gendered character of joy, most evident in the jasmine landscape that signals domesticity and patient waiting. Panelist 4 takes us into the festival world of a Tamil Śaiva temple to unpack how radically transparent ritual acts, such as public performance of the usually private ornamentation of the gods, creates a dynamic, mutually constituting relationship of pleasure and joy between priests and devotees that aims to recreate the rapturous joy of the tradition’s foundational Tamil poets. The discussant will respond to the four papers and provide comments to guide our appreciation of joy and its attendant affective dimensions—pleasure, desire, lust—in South Asian literary, religious, and ritual worlds.


Presenter 1
Maria Heim - mrheim@amherst.edu (Amherst College)
Soaring through the Air: Joy in Pali Buddhism

Presenter 2
Nell Hawley - nhawley@vassar.edu (Vassar College)
“Icchāmi (I Want): Desires, Attachments, and the Possibility of Joy at the End of the Mahābhārata”

Presenter 3
Martha Ann Selby - marthaselby@fas.harvard.edu (Harvard University)
Joy and Gender in the Tamil Caṅkam Corpus

Presenter 4
Archana Venkatesan - avenkatesan@ucdavis.edu (University of California, Davis)
The Joy of Ritual: Pleasure, Poetry, and Praise at the Nellaiyappar Śiva Temple, Tirunelveli


The Stitching and Sticking of Majoritarian Politics in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Bhoomika Joshi - joshibhoomika@gmail.com (National University of Singapore)

Discussant / Chair
Amy Johnson - amy.johnson@gcsu.edu (Georgia College & State University)

This double panel will revisit the special collection of essays on ‘Majoritarian Politics in South Asia’ published by Cultural Anthropology in 2021 for their ‘Hotspots’ section. Since the essays were published, there has been a contentious regime change in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formation of a new coalition government in Nepal and a new government in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of a political crisis and upcoming elections in India in the face of widespread changes to laws regarding citizenship and marriage among others . However, what has continued through these changes is the attachments to ideologies of ‘injury’ and ‘violation’ in everyday social, political, economic and cultural life. Selected contributors from the collection will examine their continued engagement with the issues from the collection and their respective understanding of how majoritarian regimes ‘acquire legitimacy and longevity through attaching themselves to the quotidian desires, aspirations, fears, and resentments of ordinary people in the region’. The presenters, strengthened with further ethnographic and research insights, will analyse the continuing stitching together and the ‘stickiness’ of majoritarian politics by examining blasphemy politics treason and the reconstitution of citizenship in Pakistan, land regimes of plantation and the gendered politics of dissent in the making of political futures in Sri Lanka, the politics of sub nationalist agitations, the contradictions of syncretism and the cartography of temple Hinduism in India, and how queer narratives navigate the political field of majoritarianism and precarity in Bangladesh . The broad aim of the panels is to provide insights into the particular as well as universalizing majoritarian politics across South Asia through the prism of contradictions and heterogeneity that it both negates and reifies.


Presenter 1
Mythri Jegathesan - mjegathesan@scu.edu (Santa Clara University)
Consenting lines of a “common sense” asset: taking shelter in Sri Lanka’s tea trenches

Presenter 2
Sarah Besky - sb2626@cornell.edu ()
Changing Occupations: Land, Labor, and the Politics of Retreat in the Eastern Himalayas

Presenter 3
Sanober Umar - sumar@yorku.ca (York University)
Mohallas as Archives: Rethinking ‘Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb’ in Contemporary Lucknow

Presenter 4
Seuty Sabur - seutysabur@bracu.ac.bd (BRAC University)
Code of Courage: Exploring Queer Narratives in the Digital Closet and Precarity within the Political Field


Best Practices for Integrating Cultural Exchanges in the Curriculum: Challenges for General Education Faculty
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Farah Habib - farah.habib@bristolcc.edu (Bristol Community College)

Chair
Farah Habib - farah.habib@bristolcc.edu (Bristol Community College)

Faculty cultural exchanges to less-traveled countries in South Asia enrich the participating institutions' academic environments, enhance their research capabilities, and contribute to their global reputation. For participating faculty, they foster knowledge exchange, research collaboration, cultural diversity, and institutional networking. The exchanges can also be a chance to challenge assumptions and build bridges for faculty and their students alike. But demanding course goals and outcomes and the time constraints of a semester prevent even the most well-meaning faculty from applying the knowledge gained abroad to their teaching practice. Democratic methods such as discussion boards are one way to culturally and globally enhance one’s curriculum using one’s experiences as a source of information. But are there other more creative ways to turn faculty cultural exchange experiences into meaningful teaching and learning opportunities for undergraduate students? Six faculty members, four from U.S. Community Colleges and one from a Pakistan college recently participated in a cultural exchange to each other’s countries. This Roundtable will engage the participants in a discussion on how faculty can integrate faculty cultural exchanges into their curriculum — lectures and class activities. This Roundtable will encourage an interdisciplinary and intercultural conversation on how to incorporate travel experience outcomes across disciplines and transnational institutions with a focus on U.S. and Pakistan


Presenter 1
Paul Edleman - edlemap@gmail.com (Sauk Valley Community College)
Presenter 2
Zubda.rashid@kinnaird.edu.pk Zia - zubda.rashid@kinnaird.edu.pk
Presenter 3
Stacie Charbonneau Hess - stacie.charbonneauhess@bristolcc.edu (Bristol Community College)
Presenter 4
Shelly Murphy - shelly.murphy@bristolcc.edu (Bristol Community College)
Presenter 5
Glenn Bodish - bodish.arts@gmail.com (Sauk Valley Community College)

Aura, Authority, Authenticity: Populist Women Leaders in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Nusrat Chowdhury - nchowdhury@amherst.edu (Amherst College)

Discussant / Chair
Sharika Thiranagama - sharikat@stanford.edu (Stanford University)

This panel explores the political aesthetics of contemporary populism by focusing on gendered personalization in South Asian politics. The papers invite us to contemplate the auratic power of a number of formidable women leaders around whom multiple aspects of South Asian democratic culture, such as, dynastic tradition, kinship, celebrity culture, and mediatization coalesce. While a masculinist configuration of sovereignty continues to dominate the discussion of populism in the West, South Asian women leaders and their brands of authoritarian populism expose a libidinal economy that suffuses personalist conceptions of political representation. Exceeding, re-signifying, and at times directly challenging the conventionally male, upper-class, and upper-caste categories of political authority, these leaders emerge as ambiguous fetishes that are at once of the people and far beyond them, marking a familiar oscillation between intense identification with the leader and her intrinsic singularity. By analyzing the visceral economy of affect and speech of politicians such as Indira Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Mayawati, Benazir Bhutto, and others, the papers on the panel document the material and symbolic registers through which these leaders have asserted their power in some of the world’s most populous democracies. The aim here is not simply to recognize South Asian, or even postcolonial, difference in shaping political charisma, but to rethink the global career of contemporary authoritarianisms from the vantage point of South Asian mass democracies.


Presenter 1
Gyan Prakash - prakash@princeton.edu (Princeton)
From “Dumb doll” to “Avenging Durga”: Indira Gandhi, Populism, and Gender

Presenter 2
Kajri Jain - kajri.jain@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Between Bahujan and Sarvajan: Mayawati’s Political Aesthetics

Presenter 3
Kamran Asdar Ali - asdar@austin.utexas.edu (University of Texas at Austin)
Benazir's Sacrifice

Presenter 4
Francis Cody - francis.cody@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Of Fame and Fear: J. Jayalalithaa’s Political Branding and the Right to Publicity


Contesting Ethnonationalist Hegemony in Spaces of Sri Lankan Post-War Memorialization
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Jude Lucksiri Fernando - jfernando@clarku.edu (Clark University)

Discussant / Chair
Mark Whitaker - mark.whitaker@uky.edu (University of Kentucky)

In November 2023, authorities in Batticaloa, a town in Sri Lanka's Eastern Province, detained nine Tamil individuals under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, seizing materials intended for a vigil commemorating those lost in the war. This incident is part of a sustained effort by the state to control narratives around war memorialization, supporting a dominant ethnonationalism that legitimizes authoritarian rule and suppresses democracy. This was a sustained process of the state taking control of the meanings of symbols, events, and practices of memorialization of the war to ensure the continuity of the majoritarian ethnonationalism narrative. This narrative provides legitimacy to authoritarian rule and denies democracy, disproportionately affecting the minority Tamils and their struggle for rights. This panel draws on interdisciplinary perspectives from Anthropology, Political Economy, Performance Studies, and Literature and incorporates both scholarly and artistic voices. It addresses memorialization as a site of contested histories of the conflicts. It explores how art and performance embody, challenge, and reconstruct collective memory, offering alternative genealogies that resist the erasure and homogenization of diverse experiences and truths. Contributing to ongoing debates on the role of art and performance in grieving, witnessing, and constructing post-conflict identities and memories, we offer critical perspectives into how Sri Lanka's contested pasts are navigated and memorialized within the public sphere. Central to our discussion is the exploration of how artistic mediums navigate the tension between hegemonic, state-sponsored historiography that erases the multiple histories of othered communities in post-conflict, post-war memorialization. Rather than presenting the aesthetic as a simple alternative or solution to state oppression, the four papers highlight the nuanced embodiment of grieving, recollection, and addressing the enduring repercussions of violence. Collectively, we provide insights into the politics of memorialization and the rise of ethnonationalist authoritarianism in postcolonial societies.


Presenter 1
Jude Lucksiri Fernando - jfernando@clarku.edu (Clark University)
Eternal Echoes in Carved Memory: Unveiling the Political Economy of Memorials and Social Reproduction.

Presenter 2
Marlon Ariyasinghe - marlona@stanford.edu (Stanford University )
Performing Counter Memory: Theatre as a Communal Space for Memorialization

Presenter 3
Shannon Constantine - r.shannon.constantine@gmail.com (Brown University)
Embodied Memories: Poetry, Performance, and Sri Lanka’s Ethnonationalist Conflict


Lyric, Satire, Eulogy, Critique: The Words of Mīrzā Rafīʿ Saudā
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Nathan Tabor - nathan.tabor@wmich.edu (Western Michigan University)

Discussant / Chair
Nathan Tabor - nathan.tabor@wmich.edu (Western Michigan University)

This panel presents revisionist approaches to the prose and poetry of foundational Urdu poet Mīrzā Muḥammad Rafīʿ Saudā (The Frenzy) (1706-1781), a Persian- and Urdu-language author whose range encompassed clever ġhazals, sectarian lampoons, devotional elegies, and historical criticism. Recent approaches to early Urdu history have forged new connections between authors, texts, and social contexts. So too, current historical scholarship on eighteenth-century Mughal India has refocused attention on public culture. While engaging these scholarly shifts, we aim to reexamine Saudā’s long and varied career as an intellectual shaped by South Asian literary traditions. The first two papers discuss Saudā’s rise in Delhi (ca. 1735-1755) as the “Poet Laureate of Reḳhtah,” acquiring an old title applied to a new literary style. The first paper examines Saudā’s ġhazals so as to elucidate his emulative dialogues that strategically distinguished his words in a crowded poetry scene. The second paper contextualizes an infamous qaṣīdah Saudā purportedly wrote to lampoon the reformer Shāh Walīullāh. Both papers analyze Saudā’s early notions of distinction as related to dialogue, humor, and social contexts. The next two papers present Saudā’s career in Awadh (ca. 1755-1781), which coincided with the emergence of Saudā’s critical voice. The third paper examines changing socio-literary norms through a discussion of Saudā’s abilities as a marṡiyah (eulogy) writer and strategies as a critic in a versified critique of marṡiyah conventions. The final paper analyzes Saudā’s approach to Persian literary history and style in a critical treatise penned at the end of his life, revealing Saudā to be a uniquely positioned Indo-Persian intellectual. Both papers consider the stakes of Saudā’s literary vision as it coalesced in his later career. From these vantages, the papers on this panel frame Saudā as a careerist writer who successfully navigated the competing economic, aesthetic, and linguistic demands of late Mughal society.


Presenter 1
Nathan Tabor - nathan.tabor@wmich.edu (Western Michigan University)
Spitting Rubies: Strategy and Style in Saudā’s Early Ġhazals, 1734-1748

Presenter 2
Zahra Sabri - zahrasabri@gmail.com (Habib University)
Hilarity, Wit, and Sectarian “Tensions” in Saudā’s Lampoons

Presenter 3
Peter Knapczyk - peterkusum@gmail.com (Wake Forest University)
“Tears do not come”: Negotiating Ritual and Literary Aesthetics in Mīrzā Rafīʿ Saudā’s Sabīl-e Hidāyat

Presenter 4
Syed Baqar Mehdi Rizvi - baqarmehdirizvi@utexas.edu (University of Texas at Austin)
A Warning to the Heedless: Saudā’s Indo-Persian Literary Criticism


Kitabkhana: Authority and Democratization of Knowledge in Rampur
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Razak Khan - writetorazakkhan@gmail.com (Goettingen University)

Chair
Razak Khan - writetorazakkhan@gmail.com (Goettingen University)

This Roundtable brings together interdisciplinary perspectives on the intellectual and social history of the Library (Kitabkhana) in South Asia. We focus on one of India's oldest and most significant collections of manuscripts housed in Rampur Raza Library. The Roundtable follows two sets of questions about texts and context. We plan to discuss the historical development of manuscript from pre-colonial royal private collection in Rohillkhand to public library in post-colonial Rampur. Here our attention will be to discuss the collection, preservation, and dissemination of manuscripts particularly, Arabic, Persian, Pashto, and Urdu in the historical development of the library. Instead of taking a princely or national framework, we hope to map the geographies of knowledge circulation that connects Rampur with Mecca, Najaf, Tehran, Kabul, Peshawar, Delhi, and Lucknow. First, we focus on patrons, manuscript collectors, calligraphers, musicians, dastango, print publishers, librarians, and scholars who were part of the development and dissemination of the manuscript collections. Contributors will speak about various manuscripts, their histories of circulation, and their significance in writing a multilingual South Asian history. (Presenter 1, 2, 3 will address these issues) The second set of questions brings the texts into conversation with changing historical contexts. Here we want to raise questions about the social and political life of texts and readers under changing political contexts from precolonial, colonial, princely to the national context and knowledge production in the global academy. The participants will speak about endangered manuscript archives, preservation efforts, the value of the library in small-town vernacular intellectual culture. We also discuss politics of access in the age of digital archives. (Presenter 4 and 5 will address these issues) We hope to start interdisciplinary discussion on politics of preservation and dissemination in writing a critical history of manuscripts, reading publics, and democratization of knowledge in South Asia.


Presenter 1
Naveena Naqvi - naveena.naqvi@ubc.ca
Presenter 2
Pasha Khan - pasha.m.khan@mcgill.ca (McGill University)
Presenter 3
Amanda Lanzillo - amandalanzillo@gmail.com (Brunel University London)
Presenter 4
Nur Khan - nursoberskhan@gmail.com (British Library)
Presenter 5
Tarana Khan - taranakhan213@gmail.com

Nahi Hatenge / We Shall Not Move: Perspectives on Muslim Belonging in South Asia: Part 1
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Shahwar Kibria Maqhfi - soufieshahwar11@ucla.edu (University of California, Los Angeles)

Discussant / Chair
M. Raisur Rahman - rahmanmr@wfu.edu (Wake Forest University)

Part 1 of 2. Our panel will discuss dominant and emerging ideas on being Muslim in contemporary South Asia through music, image, text, performance, active recollection, and memory, in the context of increased otherization. Papers will explore junctures, events, overlaps, and nodes, situated across time and space, which act as vestibules between the idea of “Muslimness” and “belonging”. Conceptions of belonging will explore linkages with religiosity, class, caste, gender, hegemonies, place making, pioneership, and rootedness. The aim is to move beyond problematizing authority and representation / mis-representation and invest in narratives which are first-person, self-reflexive, agency specific and advance critical foresight. This panel comprises of early career researchers, advanced doctoral students, and professional academics from across a range of disciplines, including history, religion, ethnomusicology, anthropology, and development studies. The panel is sponsored by the South Asian Muslim Studies Association (SAMSA).


Presenter 1
Shahwar Kibria Maqhfi - soufieshahwar11@ucla.edu (University of California, Los Angeles)
Qawwali Singing in Awadh: Music, Inclusion, and Belonging in a Sufi shrine

Presenter 2
Razak Khan - khan@mpib-berlin.mpg.de (Max Planck Institute for Human Development)
From Khilafat to Shaheen Bagh Movement: Muslim Women and Minority Belonging in India

Presenter 3
Zehra Mehdi - zm2261@columbia.edu (Columbia University )
Ethics of Belonging to Nations outside Nationalisms

Presenter 4
Maryam Syed - mnsyed@umich.edu (University of Michigan)
In the Shadow of Partition: Hyderabadi Muslims in a Changing India


Representation, Equality, and Constitution: Dalits, Adivasis, Socialists, and Colonial Liberalism
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Ramnarayan Rawat - rawat@udel.edu (University of Delaware)

Discussant / Chair
Ramnarayan Rawat - rawat@udel.edu (University of Delaware)

The four papers in the panel explore Dalit, Adivasi, and Socialist actors’ critical engagement with liberal ideas and institutions, especially with the politics of representation, the juridical transformation and secular constitution, and the emerging notions of social equality. The Government of India Acts of 1919 and 1935, the discussion over franchise and representation in the provincial assemblies (1928-1932), access to educational institutions, the judicial system, and the 1862 Indian penal code provide an important context. Colonial Liberalism enabled a new set of conversations and possibilities among Dalit and Adivasi organizations and they actively participated by engaging with the state and the caste-Hindu Indian nationalists, and in the process created new publics. Even the socialists and the communists keenly debated questions relating to popular sovereignty and franchise, and proposed radical constitutional transformations than those proposed by the Raj or the nationalists. The four papers will shed new light on the vital role of these diverse social actors in contributing to debates on representation and affirmative action, juridical transformation, and franchise and electoral politics. Recognizing the role of colonial liberalism as a tool of domination (U. Mehta, 1999 and N. Dirks, 2001), its interaction with Indian institutions (K. Mantena, 2010), and its role in enabling new discussions among elite Hindu actors and Bengali peasants (C. Bayly, 2011 and A. Sartori, 2014), the four panelists will introduce new social actors who actively engaged with these political concerns. The four papers will explore aspects of colonial liberalism by using Adivasi, Dalit, and socialist materials and pay special attention to the language deployed by the social actors.


Presenter 1
Ramnarayan Rawat - rawat@udel.edu (University of Delaware)
Negotiating Liberalism in British North India: ‘Unch-Niche’, ‘Mulki-haq,’ and Dalit Song-booklets in the 1920s

Presenter 2
Niharika Yadav - nyadav@macalester.edu (Macalester College )
The Revolutionary Road to Democratic Socialism: Socialists, Electoral Democracy, and Constitution, 1935-1950

Presenter 3
Tejas Parasher - tparasher@polisci.ucla.edu (University of California, Los Angeles)
Contextualizing M.N. Roy’s Constitution of Free India (1944)

Presenter 4
Uday Chandra - uc17@georgetown.edu ()
Colonial Liberalism and Subaltern Politics: Reappraisal


Missions, Music, and Caste Makers: Discourses on Caste in Colonial Tamil Societies
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Praveen Vijayakumar - vpraveen@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)

Discussant / Chair
Davesh Soneji - dsoneji@upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)

This panel examines discussions on caste in Tamil society in two British colonies, India and Mauritius, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century. This was a period during which deliberations around caste not only proliferated in the colonial records but also crammed private and public correspondences, caste periodicals, musical hagiographies and even brawls between poets. Speaker 1 studies the “Ida Scudder Papers,” an extensive collection of personal correspondences and speeches by the American Missionary based in Vellore (Madras Presidency), Dr Ida Scudder (1870-1960). She informs us that even though the missionary archives are quiet about caste in the Indian Christian community, a close reading reveals anxieties around mission and caste amongst non-Indians that shaped institutional practices of medical aid. Speaker 2 examines a pro-Gandhian Tamil periodical by vēḷāḷars, a non-brahmin caste community, which circulated in the 1920s, titled Vēḷāḷa Mitraṉ. The speaker suggests that the periodical invented discursive spaces of intimacy that obfuscated contradictions around commemorating their communal identity while simultaneously supporting Gandhi’s protests against untouchability to their presumably kin-based readership. Speaker 3 looks at the brahmin composer, Kopālakiruṣṇa Pārati’s (1811-1896) Nantaṉār Carittirakkīrttaṉaikaḷ (1861), a musical hagiography of the only Dalit saint in Tamil Śaivism. They demonstrate how the devotional-musical work developed a discourse on caste and ethical behaviour that avowed the “lord and slave” relationship. Speaker 4 moves us to Mauritius, to an emerging Tamil diaspora and unpacks the feud between two vēḷāḷar colonial bureaucrats cum poets – Soobrayan Pillai (1886-1978) and Selvam Pillai (1988-1978). This paper informs us that, although countering each other, both vēḷāḷar men contributed to the formation of militant Hindu landlordism in Mauritius. Altogether, the four papers bring to the foreground less attended to discussions on caste that circulated away from the “centre” but amongst Indians and non-Indians in British India and Mauritius.


Presenter 1
Stephanie Duclos-King - s.duclosking@mail.utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Casting Caste in Medical Missionary Archives

Presenter 2
Praveen Vijayakumar - vpraveen@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Vēḷāḷa Mitraṉ: The Communal Space of the Dominant-Caste Periodical in Early Twentieth Century South India

Presenter 3
Janani Mandayam Comar - j.mandayam@mail.utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
The Journey of Tomorrow: Discourses of bhakti and caste in the Nantaṉār Carittirakkīrttaṉaikaḷ

Presenter 4
Marek Ahnee - marekahnee17@gmail.com ()
Hypocrites Sing”: Lineage, Proselytism and Caste in the Debate of Two Tamil-Mauritian Scholars


Gendered Labor and Regulation in Contemporary Indian Media Industries
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Samhita Sunya - ss7dn@virginia.edu (University of Virginia)

Discussant / Chair
DARSHANA MINI - dmini@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Through ethnographic, formal, and comparative historical approaches to Indian media industries, this panel considers key understandings of contemporary global contexts, as well as key understandings of labor, regulation, and gender in accounts of South Asian cinemas. The first two papers explore tensions between national, regional, and cross-border political imperatives, especially as they have congealed around the labors of star actresses; and the latter two focus on grassroots unionizing by below-the-line women workers who decry the challenging and exploitative conditions of their places of work. Together, the four papers offer a wide view of gendered labor and regulation across Indian media industries, in order to reveal what kinds labor—and shifts therein—tend to fall through the cracks of global media studies. Speaker 1 begins with an account of Tamil-language Nayanthara-starrer Annapoorani (2023), which gained notoriety after its Netflix release was met with Hindu nationalists’ objections. Yet, the film’s initially unrestricted theatrical exhibition invites an analysis of complexities between regional, national, and nationalist media, in terms of contemporary reception and censorship. Speaker 2 continues with another case study of a contemporary commercial film, focusing on the Yash Raj Spy Universe’s Pathaan alongside its Tiger franchise, to argue that depictions of workplace romances between an Indian agent and a feminine Pakistani counterpart betray key shifts in the contemporary Indian spy film as well as ambivalent and contradictory nationalist and post-nationalist visions of justice. Speakers 3 and 4 offer contemporary case studies not of specific films, but of below-the-line workers in two unions: Federation of Western India Cine Employees, and South Indian Cine Women Workers Union, respectively. Speaker 3 emphasizes the patriarchal and exploitative working conditions that unionized women workers are fighting, and Speaker 4 highlights the tendency to overlook the contributions of below-the-line workers’ grassroots activism in studies of production and media industries.


Presenter 1
Monika Mehta - mmehta@binghamton.edu (Binghamton University)
Censorship, a Regional Vantage Point

Presenter 2
Samhita Sunya - ss7dn@virginia.edu (University of Virginia)
Love in the Time of the Spy Universe: Professional Agents and Workplace Romances

Presenter 3
Madhuja Mukherjee - madhuja001@gmail.com (JADAVPUR UNIVERSITY)
Doing Histories of Filmmaking in Absence of Toilets

Presenter 4
DARSHANA MINI - dmini@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Film’s Industry’s Below-the-line Labor Force: Theorizing Trade Union Activism in South India


The Global Forties: Perspectives from Late Colonial Bengal
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Titas De Sarkar - titasdesarkar@gmail.com (University of Chicago)

Discussant / Chair
Neilesh Bose - nbose@uvic.ca (University of Victoria)

The panel explores the long nineteen-forties in Bengal by engaging with modes and registers of anticolonialism which were constituted by ideas of cosmopolitanism, transcontinental intellectual solidarities, and global linguistic networks. Establishing a dialogue with the existent scholarly discourses on the 1940s, the panel focuses particularly on the international wave of decolonial and emancipatory politics which became a singular characteristic of the period. The panel seeks to highlight how histories of anti-colonial movement could be written in a global intellectual mode which guided much of the anti-fascist, peasant, trade union, and student movements. The first paper reads the student magazine of the Presidency College in Calcutta from the nineteen forties to highlight the global events that were gaining prominence among the youth, a rising engagement with leftist politics, and a consequent emergence of the magazine as a site for thinking through multiple forms of ideological positions. The second paper demonstrates the global aspirations of the working class in forties Bengal as they made their labor strikes speak for the cause of the proletariat across the globe. The paper further probes the increasing participation of women in these strikes which was adding another dimension to the protest lexicon. The third paper argues how the birth of East Pakistan differed significantly from West Pakistan in their articulation of national and moral sovereignty. By reflecting on the history of ‘consciousness’, the paper shows how Bengali Pakistanism collapsed political and literary realisms by presenting Pakistan as a site for Bengali Muslim ‘Renaissance.’ The final paper focuses on Hitosadhini Sabha from North Bengal and claims how it forged connections between the metropoles, colonies, presidencies, and the native states. Drawn at the intersection of transnational and micro history, the paper is an exploration of the various ‘affective communities’ that were formed at the brink of decolonization.


Presenter 1
Titas De Sarkar - titas@uchicago.edu (The University of Chicago)
Youth and the World: Forties and the Presidency College Student Magazine

Presenter 2
Manaswini Sen - manaswinisen1994@gmail.com (University of Hyderabad)
Hartal! Hartal! Hartal!: Striking in the 1940s and the Evolving Language of Protest in Late Colonial Bengal

Presenter 3
Ahona Panda - ahona.panda@claremontmckenna.edu (Claremont McKenna College)
Literary and Political Realisms: Pakistanism in Bengal, 1940-1947

Presenter 4
Anindita Ghosh - aghosh39@uic.edu (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Hitosadhini Sabha: Solidarities and people’s voices from the eastern native states of South Asia


Old Empires, New Angles, Part I: Perspectives on Mughal state formation & dissolution
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Sudev Sheth - sudev@wharton.upenn.edu (Univ. of Pennsylvania/Wharton School)

Discussant / Chair
Sudev Sheth - sudev@wharton.upenn.edu (Univ. of Pennsylvania/Wharton School)

This panel is part 1 of 2. It presents four interconnected papers that offer diverse perspectives on environmental, social, and political dynamics in early modern South Asia, particularly focusing on the Mughal Empire's formation and decline in the 18th century. The first paper delves into the history and symbolism of Kalhora wall paintings in Sindh, illuminating the religious beliefs and agrarian influences that shaped the Kalhora state within the broader context of Mughal hegemony. These papers offer new evidence in vernacular languages that shed light on precolonial 'rationalizations' and 'patrimonies' that made early modern political life possible. Moving to courtly visions and artistic representations, the second paper explores the forest as a worksite in Mughal, Mewar, and Awadh courts, highlighting how these spaces were integral to the empire's economic and symbolic frameworks. The third paper shifts focus to environmental migration and state formation, examining how the movements of pastoral communities like the Rebaris influenced territorial control and administrative infrastructure, crucial aspects of Mughal governance. Finally, the fourth paper presents a riparian perspective on the decline of the Mughal Empire, focusing on logistical challenges and economic shifts along the Ganga River that contributed to the empire's weakening and the rise of British influence in eastern India. Together, these papers weave a narrative of interconnectedness between environmental factors, artistic expressions, migration patterns, and imperial dynamics, offering fresh insights into the complex and multifaceted history of Mughal state power and its eventual giving way to instruments of early colonial hegemony in the eighteenth century which are explored in the panel to follow.


Presenter 1
Shayan Rajani - shayanrajani@gmail.com ()
Finding the Kalhora in their Wall Paintings: A History of Birds, Fruit, and Water

Presenter 2
Aparajita Das - aparajita_das@berkeley.edu ()
Energies in the Forest: A Close Look at Bhil Hunt in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Courtly Visions

Presenter 3
Sourav Ghosh - sourav@berkeley.edu ()
The Way of Water: Environmental Migration and State Formation in Early Modern India

Presenter 4
Murari Kumar Jha - murari.jha@ahduni.edu.in ()
Loss of the Ganga, losing the empire: Explaining Mughal decline from the riparian perspective


Hysteria and Revolution
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Zunaira Komal Shakur - zkomal@ucdavis.edu (University of California, Davis)

Discussant / Chair
Ali Mian - alimian@ufl.edu (University of Florida)

Hysteria goes by many clinical names: from conversion disorder, to dissociation, to histrionic personality disorder, to clinical muteness – the diagnostic muddle of hysteria is far from a thing of the past. This diagnostic muddle is not so much a question of misrecognition of hysteria, or lack of proper discovery, but rather the ambiguity generated is the very feat of hysteria itself. At the same time, much has been said about the supposed disappearance of hysteria or its refusal to disappear in the darker continents of the world, thought to be a hangover from a lingering western pathologization, arriving too late after its western disappearance onto the psychoanalytic scene of the postcolonies. On the contrary, this panel analyzes how in spite of this oft-repeated clinical anachronism, the thing that sometimes goes by the name hysteria appears as a decisive force in refusing to let the status quo narrative draw forward in any kind of linear way. From describing scenes of violence to revolutionary resistance, Frantz Fanon has helped us understand hysteria as both a clinical and a political – if not revolutionary – category and revolution itself as a hysterical process (David Marriott). This panel brings together researchers working in clinical and nonclinical contexts in South Asia – ethnographic, historical, and literary – to think with the generative ambiguity of the clinical and political category of hysteria. Ultimately, we might ask, in the recurring category of hysteria, summoned to such vastly different ends, what does the thing-called-hysteria itself become? And what are the political and clinical consequences of holding on to or undoing of this category?


Presenter 1
Zunaira Komal Shakur - zkomal@ucdavis.edu (University of California, Davis)
The Hysteria of Revolution: The Case of the Revolving Uterus

Presenter 2
Sarah Pinto - sarah.pinto@tufts.edu (Tufts University)
The Catatonic Revolutionary: Will, Melancholia, and Masculinity in the case of Jyotish Chandra Ghosh

Presenter 3
Rajbir Judge - Rajbir.Judge@csulb.edu (California State University, Long Beach)
Classifying Hysteria and Martyrdom

Presenter 4
Arooj Alam - arooj.alam@tufts.edu (Tufts University )
Ajeeb o Ghareeb: The Marvelous and Wonderous World of Hysteria


Decolonization, Class Struggle and Accumulation in Rural Pakistan: Revisiting the Agrarian Question
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Kasim Tirmizey - tirmizey@yorku.ca (York University)

Discussant / Chair
Divyani Motla - m.divyani@mail.utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)

South Asia has been the site of rich interventions in the "agrarian question," a Left debate on the role of agriculture and the peasantry in bringing about a post-capitalist future. At its heart is a political question on the agency of the peasantry, but it also involves theoretical disputes over the analysis of agriculture under capitalism. Our panel will revisit the "agrarian question" in the territory of what would become Pakistan by seeing its intersections with class, nation, gender, caste, and imperialism. Drawing on the colonial and postcolonial articulations of agrarian revolt, the panel will explore the implications for how we imagine the agrarian questions in Pakistan. Moreover, it explores its broader interfaces with the global agrarian question, through the exploration of M.N.Roy's contestations in the Second Congress of the Comintern, the politics of the Kirti Kissan Sabha (1927-1935), the West Pakistan Kissan Committee (1947-now), and the Mazdoor Kissan Party (1968-now). Moreover, through exploring the intermeshing of caste, tribe, gender, labour and land relations in Khyber Pakthunkhwa, the panel will complicate political articulations of the Agrarian Question within past and present agrarian movements and Marxist theorizing. These grounded reflections from Pakistan are designed to offer broader insights for those researching global agrarian histories by foregrounding movement literature and practices, and how these interact with the complex socio-material worlds within which global and local agrarian relations are woven.


Presenter 1
Kasim Tirmizey - tirmizey@yorku.ca (York University)
M. N. Roy and the anti-colonial geographies of the agrarian question

Presenter 2
Hashim Bin Rashid - hashimbr@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Left-wing Kissan Movements under Developmentalism: Synergies and Contradictions between the National and Agrarian Question(s) in West Punjab (1947-1972)

Presenter 3
Shozab Raza - shozab.raza@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
From Decaffeinated Decolonization to Worldly Marxism: Reading Walter Rodney in Rural Pakistan

Presenter 4
Hadia Akhtar Khan - hak78@cornell.edu (Cornell University)
Caste and Honor in Rural KhyberPakhtunkhwa: Re-thinking the Honor Code of Pukhtunwali


Hindu Rashtra and its Queer- Trans subjects: Examining Homonationalism in India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Rudrani Dasgupta Chaudhuri - rudranidasgupta@iitbhilai.ac.in (Indian Institute of Technology Bhilai )

Under the present right wing majoritarian regime, the political landscape of India reflects an increasing intolerance towards minority populations, curbing of democratic rights, and violent erasures of claims of heterogeneity following the ideological imperatives of a Hindu Rashtra (Nation). This paper argues that although Hindu Rashtra majorly defines itself through religious and xenophobic ‘othering’, recent legal and political developments show an impetus towards assimilation of alternately sexualised and gendered ‘others’ into the imagination of Hindu nationalist subjecthood. These are not contradictory but complimentary processes that contribute to a uniquely Indian homonationalist discourse. Following the recognition of ‘third gender’ by the NALSA judgement (2014), reading down of Section 377 of the IPC (2018), and the controversial Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act (2019), there can be seen a rise in self-identified Hindu nationalist queer-trans voices that seek to disengage from left-liberal intersectional minority politics and frame themselves as dedicated citizen-subjects of Hindu Rashtra. This paper examines contemporary social media content by queer trans people, news media reports and opinion pieces on landmark developments in LGBTQ+ rights in the country using the theoretical framework of Jasbir K. Puar’s idea of homonationalism, to argue that such a framing is dependent upon precarious formulations of exceptionalism. While the upper caste homosexual subject argues for inclusion by invoking an ideal homophilic Hindu past, transgender Hindu subjecthood is based on the conceptualisation of a ‘divinely othered’ third gender. This paper seeks to establish that assimilation of such exceptional subjecthoods within the Hindu nationalist fold is always already predicated upon the disavowal of the caste-based, religious and ethnic ‘others’ of Hindu Rashtra.


Transfemmes on the Dancefloor: Dispatches of Queer Sexuality from New Age Assam
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Rishav Kumar Thakur - rishavthakur@gmail.com (Columbia University )

In the dancefloors of Guwahati city in Assam, India, men and transfemmes share lingering gazes, teasing, and in heady intoxications of the night, they might even dance together. I use transfemmes not as an identity category but as emerging in performances of femininity by the male-assigned-at-birth who do not seek to or cannot pass as ciswomen. These performances of femininity are also performances of sexual practice as they accrue meaning in tacit scripts, economies of desire, or local sexgender systems. Specifically, these scripts suture masculinity to those who penetrate – mota or men– and femmeness to the sexually receptive, where the male-assigned-at-birth bifurcate from ciswomen to become “meti”. The erotic possibilities of finding motas draws gay men, nonbinary people, transwomen and hijras to nightlife venues that range from Vaishnav shrines and fashion runways to the new-age discotheque. These possibilities, while accentuating the night with excitement, are nevertheless circumscribed by the knowledge of their ephemerality: nothing lasting comes out of them. Why then do people return? I demonstrate that these spaces are unique sites for the improvisation, rehearsal, and innovation of gender within erotically charged conditions. Most of my interlocutors preserve their abilities to modulate their gender expressions to either pass as ciswomen or make the shift to present themselves as men through versatile pieces of clothing or accessories like scarves, facemasks and sunglasses. These allow people in these spaces to dynamically manage the risk of transphobic violence by situationally modulating gender on the way to, at the thresholds of, and inside these nightlife venues. My ethnography in and around Guwahati, where I too move as a transfemme, pays attention to these nighttime performances to ask how transness emerges in movement; and how movements –dance, gesture and gaze— alongside gendered clothing allow for its own peculiar staging of trans performances.


The Queer Politics of Illegibility in South Asian Women’s Writing
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Namrata Verghese - namratav@stanford.edu (Stanford University)

In 1944, Indian writer Ismat Chughtai narrowly escaped jail. She stood trial for obscenity, on the grounds that her short story, “Lihaaf” (“Quilt”), exploded the moral standards of the British Empire, codified into the Indian Penal Code. The obscenity in question: a queer relationship between the two women at the center of “Lihaaf.” But despite the prosecutors’ best efforts, no one could pinpoint exactly what, exactly, was obscene about “Lihaaf.” Its queerness was not cognizable in a courtroom. It inhabited the shadowy spaces of euphemism and homosociality, but did not cross the threshold of legibility under the law. Ultimately, after pressing the prosecution to point to exactly which of the words in “Lihaaf” were obscene, the judge ruled that there were none. Chughtai was free to go. This paper examines the long history of illegibility in queer Indian literature. It moves from “Lihaaf” to Kamala Das’s quietly queer short story, “The Sandal Trees,” to Sarah Thankam Mathews’s 2022 debut novel, All This Could Be Different, which spotlights an “illegible” queer South Asian woman who refuses the cultural mandate to render her queerness visible under Western taxonomies of sexuality and gender. It takes seriously illegibility as a strategy—a mode of operating under the radar of infrastructures of legal discipline—but also as a politic unto itself: a refusal of the norm, a gesture towards alternative ways of being. Illegibility can be capacious, expansive; it can make space for queerness in its fullest, most unruly forms. Far from obscuration, illegibility can be an invitation—a suggestion to take a closer look, because things are not always as they seem. Gayatri Gopinath dubs the queer South Asian woman’s subject position one of “impossibility.” How, then, to tell an impossible story? Perhaps by not telling it. By denying access, claiming opacity. By inhabiting the impossible.


Queer/Trans Communing and Affective Politics: Liberation Beyond State Legitimation
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 1: Thursday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Lauren Ruhnke - lauren.ruhnke@temple.edu (Temple University)

This paper provides an ethnographic interpretation of conversations and proceedings at a pan-India conference for queer mobilization held in Hyderabad in December 2022. Over the course of the two-day event, representatives from each Indian state discussed the status of queer/trans activism across the country, revealing widespread government failures to implement welfare schemes and legal provisions supporting queer and trans justice. Despite such official conditions of foreclosure, the two-day event was animated by affects of joyful, celebratory fun. As participants gathered for post-conference performances, dancing and fabulating along with drag kings and queens, they engaged in a politics of pleasure that did not require state legitimation. This paper examines such affective communing as a practice of mazaa, a Hindi-Urdu term for sensuous, fun, playful pleasure. Considering mazaa as a political practice oriented toward experiential indeterminacy, an expression of and conduit for the subversive capacities of joyful intimacy (Anjaria & Anjaria 2020), I analyze how this space of queer/trans communing became a site of insurgent solidarity and strength in the face of hegemonic disavowal. Juxtaposing formal conference commentary with event affects, I suggest that the sociality of queer mobilizing may occasionally supersede the capacities of formal state recognition to foster lived experiences of queer liberation. While broader conditions of state failure engendered this site of collectivization, participants’ refusal to submit to hopeless futurity decentered official foreclosures in favor of a regenerative, creative celebration of queer/trans abundance. The effects of this queer communal space extend beyond the limited temporality of the event, carried through new bonds of solidarity and fond memories of collective support.


Stone Beads of the Indus Tradition (2600-1900 BCE) and their Legacy in South Asia and Beyond
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Jonathan Kenoyer - jkenoyer@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Jonathan Kenoyer - jkenoyer@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)

The study of stone beads found at site of the Indus Tradition (2600-1900 BCE) in northwestern South Asia provides an important window into multiple aspects of ancient social, economic, and ideological organization. Ongoing studies of beads from regional sites located near the agate and carnelian mining areas of Gujarat in western India provide direct evidence for the development of localized styles of ancient beads manufacturing technology and bead shapes. Presenter 1 will discuss the robust evidence for local production at two well excavated sites, Ghola Doro (Bagasra) and Shikarpur. Presenter 2 will focus on stone bead production and bead styles from the major urban center of Harappa, Punjab, as well as other sites in Pakistan to illustrate the important connections between sites in the core regions of the Indus River Valley and the resource area of Gujarat. Based on the comparative data from the earlier periods at Harappa, it is possible that craftspeople from Gujarat may have had a major role in spreading specific bead making technologies and bead styles throughout the Indus region. Presenter 3 will examine stone beads made from other types of rock some of which might come from regions outside of Gujarat, such as amazonite, grossular-vesuvianite and lapis lazuli. These other rocks were incorporated into the bead making traditions of the Indus cities and even are distributed in sites throughout Gujarat, showing the multidirectional movement of raw materials and also bead production technology and bead styles. Presenter 4 will examine the legacy of Indus stone beads that were produced in the Indus or Mesopotamia and traded to West Asia and the Mediterranean region during the 3rd millennium BCE or Bronze Age. There is also evidence for the hierlooming of Indus beads and trade of these rare ornaments more than 1000 years later during the Iron Age.


Presenter 1
TAHIR SAEED - t_saeed2000@hotmail.com (Department of Archaeology and Museums Government of Pakistan, Islamabad, Pakistan)
Recent Archaeological Investigations in Potohar (Pakistan) by Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums

Presenter 2
Kuldeep Kumar Bhan - bhankuldeep07@gmail.com (The Maharaja Sayajirao Unversity of Baroda)
Stone bead production at Gola Dhoro (Bagasra) and Shikarpur, Gujarat, India: New perspectives on Harappa Phase bead making (2600-1900 BCE)

Presenter 3
Jonathan Kenoyer - jkenoyer@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)
Stone bead traditions at Harappa, Pakistan: Evidence for Regional Interaction and Technological Innovation

Presenter 4
Randall Law - rwlaw2@gmail.com (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
After steatite and agate: The less common stone bead materials of the Indus Civilization

Presenter 5
Geoffrey Ludvik - geiludvik@gmail.com ()
Indus-style Beads in the Eastern Mediterranean: Indirect Trade and Curation of High Value ornaments between the Bronze Age (3rd Millennium BCE) to the early the Iron Age (1200 BCE)


Multivocality of the Ramayana Textual Tradition
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Amrita Chowdhury - achowdhury7@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Philip Lutgendorf - philip-lutgendorf@uiowa.edu (The University of Iowa)

At a time when socio-political actors seem intent on seizing the Ramayana for their own ends and narrowing its interpretation, this panel highlights the work of younger scholars who continue to emphasize the diversity and multivocality of this narrative tradition. The papers, spread across different temporalities and regions in South Asia, discuss the role of translation and the multifarious applications of genre-making in the epic tradition in addressing questions of gender and domesticity, caste, geo-political and historical imagination, and moral subjectivities in the subcontinent. The four papers each look at a different genre and style of the epic and intend to foreground a critical conversation on the distinct functions that a multivocal text serves and arrive at a framework to understand its translations therein. By bringing different epic sub-genres into conversation, this panel seeks to analyze how the Ramayana serves as a medium to understand the historical realities and aspirations of South Asian society. Speaker 1 and Speaker 2 study medieval Ramayanas to highlight two distinct styles of composition, the erotic and the historical. Speaker 1 scrutinizes the ways in which the fifteenth-century Punam’s Ramayana, composed in the hybrid manipravalam style, uses irony and sarcasm to critically engage with the oft-neglected conjugal life of Rama and Sita. Speaker 2 investigates the sub-genre of historical realism within the epic canon and analyzes the devotional, theological and political compulsions that fueled the need to undergird the epic’s historicity. Speaker 3 and Speaker 4 study colonial and post-colonial epics. Speaker 3 studies the writing of children’s Ramayana and the role of abridgment and selective illustrations in the making of Hindu childhoods in colonial Bengal. Speaker 4 traces the impact of Periyar Lalai’s Singh’s Hindi translation of EV Ramaswami’s modern classic “Ramayana: A True Meaning” in rearticulating “Dravidian” anti-caste politics.


Presenter 1
Sivan Goren Arzony - sivangoren@gmail.com (Bar-Ilan University)
First Glance, Last Glance: Sītā and Rāma’s Story in Punam’s Maṇipravāḷām Rāmāyaṇa

Presenter 2
Justin Henry - jwhenry@usf.edu (University of South Florida)
Historical Realism in Ramayana Literature

Presenter 3
Amrita Chowdhury - achowdhury7@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Children’s Ramayana and the Making of Hindu Childhoods in Colonial Bengal

Presenter 4
Aaron Sherraden - aaron.sherraden@gmail.com (University of Texas at Austin)
Censureship, Censorship, and Translation: How E.V. Ramasami’s Rāmāyaṇa Critique Was Brought to North India


The Stitching and Sticking of Majoritarian Politics in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Bhoomika Joshi - joshibhoomika@gmail.com (National University of Singapore)

Discussant / Chair
Mubbashir Rizvi - mubbashir.rizvi@gmail.com

This double panel will revisit the special collection of essays on ‘Majoritarian Politics in South Asia’ published by Cultural Anthropology in 2021 for their ‘Hotspots’ section. Since the essays were published, there has been a contentious regime change in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formation of a new coalition government in Nepal and a new government in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of a political crisis and upcoming elections in India in the face of widespread changes to laws regarding citizenship and marriage among others . However, what has continued through these changes is the attachments to ideologies of ‘injury’ and ‘violation’ in everyday social, political, economic and cultural life. Selected contributors from the collection will examine their continued engagement with the issues from the collection and their respective understanding of how majoritarian regimes ‘acquire legitimacy and longevity through attaching themselves to the quotidian desires, aspirations, fears, and resentments of ordinary people in the region’. The presenters, strengthened with further ethnographic and research insights, will analyse the continuing stitching together and the ‘stickiness’ of majoritarian politics by examining blasphemy politics treason and the reconstitution of citizenship in Pakistan, land regimes of plantation and the gendered politics of dissent in the making of political futures in Sri Lanka, the politics of sub nationalist agitations, the contradictions of syncretism and the cartography of temple Hinduism in India, and how queer narratives navigate the political field of majoritarianism and precarity in Bangladesh . The broad aim of the panels is to provide insights into the particular as well as universalizing majoritarian politics across South Asia through the prism of contradictions and heterogeneity that it both negates and reifies.


Presenter 1
Arsalan Khan - khana@union.edu (Union College)
Contesting Sovereignty: Islamic Piety against Blasphemy Politics in Pakistan

Presenter 2
Sarah Eleazar - saraheleazar@gmail.com ()
State in the Mob: How blasphemy and treason allegations shift modalities of sovereignty

Presenter 3
Bhoomika Joshi - joshibhoomika@gmail.com (National University of Singapore)
Temple Hinduism and the Cultural Politics of Majoritarianism in India

Presenter 4
Sidharthan Maunaguru - maunaguru.sidharthan@gmail.com ()
Dissent and Political Futures: Tamil Women and Politics from the Past for a Future


Judgement & Literacy: How to Justify Studying South Asia?
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Matthew Baxter - mhbaxter@syr.edu (Syracuse University)

Discussant / Chair
Shalini Ayyagari - sayyagari@pitt.edu

There are eight Title VI NRCs for South Asia–far behind Latin America (19), East Asia/Pan-Asia (19), Africa (13), and the Middle East (13). One might conclude that South Asia is not of great pressing strategic concern to the United States, despite the region’s importance from politics and population to language and history. When higher education is facing demographic challenges from within and defunding challenges from without, how are we to justify studying South Asia? This panel critically reflects on “study” in terms of judgment and literacy. Their relationship is a persistent puzzle: why are polities with high levels of education not immune from dangerous policies and horrifying acts? Our papers suggest that studying South Asia is less about cultivating cross-cultural literacies and more about honing abilities to judge right from wrong—that is, providing opportunities for better understanding the relationship between judgment and literacy itself. Our panel leverages South Asia scholarship and National Resource Center administration. Paper 1 starts the panel with the ways in which epigraphy inspired the British Raj to cultivate political legitimacy through the support of vernacular education, paving the way for literacies to justify anti-colonial projects as right against imperialism as wrong. Paper 2 shifts from early colonial India’s epigraphy to contemporary India’s social media, exploring the ways in which digital literacies fuel political polarizations and how such polarizations complicate right/wrong distinctions. Paper 3 takes up the theme of polarizations in a comparative frame examining recent developments in India and the US, interrogating the relationship between “Hinduphobia” and racism to illustrate the role of classroom censorship in cultivating judgment. Finally, Paper 4 explores the relationship between literacy and refusal in forging world citizens, arguing that the latter grounded “cosmopolitan” efforts in interwar Tamil-speaking South India to cultivate right/wrong distinctions.


Presenter 1
Walter Hakala - walterha@buffalo.edu (University at Buffalo, SUNY)
The British Raj, the Urdu Public Text, and the Cultivation of Legitimacy

Presenter 2
joyojeet pal - joyojeet@umich.edu (University of Michigan)
A New Language of Hate: Social Media and the Gutting of Indian Secularism

Presenter 3
Anirban Gupta-Nigam - anirbangn@berkeley.edu ()
"Hinduphobia," Black Studies, and the Problem of Thinking

Presenter 4
Matthew Baxter - mhbaxter@syr.edu (Syracuse University)
Non-Brahmin Cosmopolitanism: Iconoclastic Refusal vs. Literate Travel


Political Figuration and the City: Aesthetics and Forms of Belonging, Exclusion, Violence, and Civility in Contemporary India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Lawrence Cohen - cohen@berkeley.edu (University of California, Berkeley)

Discussant / Chair
Lawrence Cohen - cohen@berkeley.edu (University of California, Berkeley)

The “political” is usually approached through inquiries into institutions of sovereignty, governance, distribution, and force, and through standardized conceptual repertoires. This panel offers a distinctive approach, attuning analysis to aesthetic assemblages of form, material, and affect that authorize and produce a sense of the political. It is concerned with the present political moment in India. Panelist 1 focuses on the anti-CAA protests in Mumbai, attending to the materiality of kaaghaz (paper) and khoon (blood) in constituting psychologically individuated and affectively laden awaaz (voice) as the ground and evidence of citizenship. Voice is shown to be grounded in the crowd, which emerges as a “socio-technical, material infrastructure for the production and circulation of digital-renderings of awaaz-images.” Panelist 2 focuses on the contested Central Vista Redevelopment Plan in New Delhi and the emergence of a Hindutva grammar of the secular actualized in architectural form, offering a way to address emergent languages and affects of community and alienation and to delineate a range of political imaginaries being built into the revised aesthetics of monumental urbanism. Panelist 3 focuses on a collaboration between NGOs and designers in Mumbai rethinking autorickshaw interiors as a response to gendered violence. At stake is a “spatialized philosophy of design-as-politics” through the material and aesthetic production of a “de-gendered experience of the city” as civil space. Panelist 4 focuses on aesthetic and biopolitical claims for the architectural assemblage of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi as emblematic of a new political grammar of vikaas (development), one that relieves the city and its concretions of religious value from the biological toxicity of the crowds produced by an alleged history of Muslim encroachment, and creates a new kind of crowd that can see the city and the nation differently.


Presenter 1
Lisa Bjorkman - lbjorkman6@gmail.com (University of Louisville)
Khoon and Kaaghaz [Blood and Paper]

Presenter 2
Rashmi Sadana - rsadana@gmu.edu (George Mason University)
Building Consent: Urban Plans and the Place of Politics in Delhi’s Redeveloped Central Vista

Presenter 3
William F. Stafford, Jr. - wstafford.jr@gmail.com (UC Berkeley)
“This Auto Respects Women”: Gendered Circulations, the Driver as Design Element, and the Aesthetics of Service

Presenter 4
Lawrence Cohen - cohen@berkeley.edu (University of California, Berkeley)
On the encroaching crowd and the crowd yet to come: Architectural form and political figuration at the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor


Bordering Movements: Indian Punjabi Sikh Women’s Migration Stories
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Diditi Mitra - diditimitra@gmail.com (Brookdale Community College)

Discussant / Chair
Diditi Mitra - diditimitra@gmail.com (Brookdale Community College)

The panel considers factors impacting Indian Punjabi women’s, Sikh specifically, decision to migrate, or to not migrate. The presenters, who are also collaborators for a project on international migration from the Punjab funded by a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) grant, explore this objective in the context of women located in the Indian Punjab as well as the United States. This participatory audio-visual project combines insights from a range of disciplines – sociology, global studies, religious studies, feminist theory, visual anthropology, narrative theory, critical race studies, migration studies – to develop documentary filmmaking tools for engaging with academic research questions through creative practices. Hence, the methodology employed by each panelist is distinct. Speaker 1, as a sociologist, includes observations obtained from semi-structured interviews and ethnography. Speaker 2, as a filmmaker, presents a visual lens in analyzing the footage collected from Punjabi-Sikh women, which includes the interviews conducted by another panelist. Speaker 3's gender and cultural studies framework expands the range of methods in storytelling in shedding light on the topic. Together, their interdisciplinary approach enhances the tools of analysis to access the many nuances that inform international migration decisions and experiences of the informants. The presenters also grapple with understanding both visible and invisible borders for women’s mobility.


Presenter 1
Diditi Mitra - diditimitra@gmail.com (Brookdale Community College)
Sikh women and migration: the diversity within

Presenter 2
Shashwati Talukdar - mail@shashwati.com ()
Visualizing Her Border: Punjabi Women and Migration

Presenter 3
Nida Sajid - nidasajids@gmail.com (university of minnesota)
Moving Stories: Public-engaged scholarship on Transnational migration"

Presenter 4
Harjant Gill - hgill@towson.edu (Towson University )
Respondent-Moderator


Sri Lanka’s Hybrid Democracy: Retrospect and Prospect
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Neil DeVotta - devottn@wfu.edu (Wake Forest University)

Chair
Neil DeVotta - devottn@wfu.edu (Wake Forest University)

Had Sri Lanka embraced pluralism—something it was well positioned to do—the island may well have established a liberal democracy. But having disenfranchised the Indian Tamils within a year of gaining independence in 1948, the country steadily moved in an ethnocentric direction. It is now best branded a hybrid democracy that combines relatively free and fair elections amidst malgovernance and ethnocracy. In this milieu, certain leaders have utilized executive powers to operate in authoritarian fashion, thereby compounding the country’s democratic deficits. But such democratic backsliding gets challenged, causing the political pendulum to swing between relative authoritarianism and illiberal democracy. This democratic regression and progression have been major aspects of the country’s politics especially since the semi-presidential system was set up in 1978. Sri Lanka is slated to hold a presidential election by September-October 2024 and parliamentary elections before August 2025. The present government postponed local government elections that were due in March 2023, claiming the bankrupt country lacked funds. Many fear it may do the same with the presidential election. A postponed election could unleash a violent uprising. On the other hand, if the presidential election is held on schedule and the new government alters course, that could exacerbate the extant crises. The upshot is that if democratic politics fails to minimize the present widespread angst, the country could well become even more authoritarian than any time in the past. Within this context, the proposed panel will discuss issues ranging from debt structuring and its gendered impact, how a weakened judiciary and parties contribute to democratic backsliding, the attendant illiberalism, and resulting resistance.


Presenter 1
Vidya Samarasinghe - svidya@american.edu
Presenter 2
Amita Shastri - ashastri@sfsu.edu (San Francisco State University)
Presenter 3
Sumudu Atapattu - sumudu.atapattu@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Presenter 4
Arjun Guneratne - guneratne@macalester.edu (Macalester College)
Presenter 5
Jude Lucksiri Fernando - jfernando@clarku.edu (Clark University)

Sustaining the Past in the Present: Persianate Poetics in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Ravi Prakash - ravip@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)

Discussant / Chair
Ali Mian - alimian@ufl.edu (University of Florida)

For many decades now, the “Persianate world” has served as a useful framework for discussing vast areas of western, central, and southern Asia in which Persian was the shared language of cultural prestige, disrupting nationalist and religion-centric approaches to historiography. While generally invoked to approach premodern cultural and political geographies in transregional, multilingual, and non-anachronistic terms, recent scholarship has started to examine the persistent and changing relevance of the “Persianate” to the period of European colonialism, nationalism, and modernization. Our panel hopes to develop this conversation by asking: what happened to Persianate ways of being, thinking, and creating in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? The first speaker will consider the continued importance and usage of Persian among Urdu literati during the nineteenth century. Through an attentiveness to matters of continuity, the paper develops a new framework for the study of the Persian in the colonial period. Speakers two and three will focus on more specific case studies, examining how Persophone intellectuals from Iran and South Asia in the early twentieth century repurposed and rethought Persianate poetics to meet the demands of the present. Speaker two will introduce the work of the pandit-scholar Padmasiṃha Śarma who, by taking recourse to the works of Alṭāf Husayn Ḥāli, mounted a defense of the tradition of Braj poetry in a time when literary practice was moving towards standardized Hindi. The third speaker, meanwhile, will reassess the attitudes of the Iranian poet-scholar, Muḥammad-Taqī Bahār to the so-called Indian style of Persian poetry, situating them within his broader literary commitments and understanding of the Indo-Persian tradition. Taken together, these papers suggest new ways of thinking about the persistence and transformation of the Persianate in its encounter with modernity.


Presenter 1
Gregory Maxwell Bruce - gmbruce@berkeley.edu (The University of California, Berkeley)
The Persistence of Persian in the Persianate

Presenter 2
Ravi Prakash - ravip@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)
A Persianate Model for Indic Poetics: Padmasiṃha Śarmā and his reading of the Bihārī Satasaī

Presenter 3
Shaahin Pishbin - spishbin@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)
“May the Persophones of India be nourished!” Reassessing Muḥammad-Taqī Bahār’s views on India & the Indian Style

Presenter 4
Ali Mian - alimian@ufl.edu (University of Florida)
Discussing the Persianate in times of Modernity


Reading for Failure: 'Seeing Things' in South Asian Public Culture
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Lotte Hoek - lotte.hoek@ed.ac.uk (University of Edinburgh)

Chair
Francis Cody - francis.cody@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)

On the occasion of the publication of Kartik Nair’s "Seeing Things: Spectral Materialities of Bombay Horror" (University of California Press, 2024), this roundtable stages a discussion about the felicity of failure in plumbing social, political and material histories in South Asia. Committed to a close reading of glitches within film frames for their indexical trace of a historical touch that provides entry to histories of production, bodies, labour, control and pleasure, "Seeing Things" challenges us to perceive this trace as a series of aesthetic effects to be parsed speculatively and uncertainly to generate historical accounts beyond the familiar, the canonical and the normative. Exploring the ramifications of Nair's method for scholarship on South Asia, this roundtable brings together an opinionated panel of scholars who have worked with disregarded, degraded, disappeared, disdained and dubious public cultural forms to discuss how the glitch or tear is the entry point to an ‘uncanon’ (Nair 2024:39) of social and cultural life. The five speakers will respond to a different provocation of Seeing Things from the diverse geographic, historical and thematic contexts of their own research in South Asia. Speaker 1 will draw on his research on performance cultures to consider the performativity of glitches - the embodied and fleshy life of these aesthetics and their ability to work the body and activate the audience. Speaker 2 will examine how failure constitutes a form of worlding, creating transnational circuits of influence that render film genres 'globally familiar'. Speaker 3 will draw out how the ‘bad object’ of genre film encourages faltering interdisciplinary conversation between film studies and anthropology. Speaker 4 will discuss the significance of production and circulation cultures for aesthetic and material practices in South Asian visual culture. Speaker 5 will respond to these interventions and set out future lines of enquiry.


Presenter 1
Kareem Khubchandani - kareem.khubchandani@tufts.edu (Tufts University)
Presenter 2
Nitin Govil - ngovil@usc.edu (University of Southern California)
Presenter 3
Lotte Hoek - lotte.hoek@ed.ac.uk (University of Edinburgh)
Presenter 4
Kajri Jain - kajri.jain@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Presenter 5
Kartik Nair - kartiknair@gmail.com (Temple University)

Nahi Hatenge / We Shall Not Move: Perspectives on Muslim Belonging in South Asia: Part 2
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Shahwar Kibria Maqhfi - soufieshahwar11@ucla.edu (University of California, Los Angeles)

Discussant / Chair
M. Raisur Rahman - rahmanmr@wfu.edu (Wake Forest University)

Part 2 of 2. Our panel will discuss dominant and emerging ideas on being Muslim in contemporary South Asia through music, image, text, performance, active recollection, and memory, in the context of increased otherization. Papers will explore junctures, events, overlaps, and nodes, situated across time and space, which act as vestibules between the idea of “Muslimness” and “belonging”. Conceptions of belonging will explore linkages with religiosity, class, caste, gender, hegemonies, place making, pioneership, and rootedness. The aim is to move beyond problematizing authority and representation / mis-representation and invest in narratives which are first-person, self-reflexive, agency specific and advance critical foresight. This panel comprises of researchers from across a range of disciplines, including gender studies, language, and literary studies. The panel is sponsored by the South Asian Muslim Studies Association (SAMSA).


Presenter 1
Aarshi Jahan - ajahan.20@stu.aud.ac.in (Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University)
The Queerness of being a Muslim woman in the field: Identity as methodological hindrance

Presenter 2
Mohd. Siddique Khan - khansiddiq02@gmail.com (University of Lucknow)
Urdu Metaphors and Muslimness: Reclaiming the language

Presenter 3
Harshit Sharma - reachharshitsharma@gmail.com ()
The Liminal Beings: Constructing and Complicating Identities in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Presenter 4
Muhammad Hassan Qadeer Butt - hassan.butt@abo.fi (Åbo Akademi University, Turku)
Lineages and Places of Muslim Belonging in Qurratulain Hyder’s Kar e Jahan Daraz Hai


The Making of Minority Rights in South Asia: Future Directions
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mou Banerjee - mbanerjee4@wisc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON)

Chair
Cynthia Farid - cynthiafarid@gmail.com

Contemporary South Asian constitutions are by and large progressive and enumerate a host of socio-economic rights and civil liberties. Yet the Minority Question is yet to be substantially resolved. Strategic litigation has in some instances afforded citizenship rights, but the othering of diverse minorities across the region are a reminder of a colonial past that continues to haunt contemporary South Asia. In this roundtable, we propose to examine South Asian legal history over the long nineteenth and twentieth centuries as it relates to the making of minorities. We seek to engage in an interdisciplinary conversation between history and law, and in particular constitutional studies. A historical inquiry will not only help understand how minority questions developed in South Asia, but also the complex webs of local knowledge production which shaped the meaning of group identities. The proposed roundtable, therefore, will not only set a precedent for the larger epistemological objective of internationalizing Legal History but simultaneously conceive it from below by creating space for its local articulations including sites in the periphery of the Global South—and South Asia in particular. We propose to discuss the following non-exhaustive categories: i) Production of Minorities and Group identities ii) Personal Laws: Historical Reflections and Contemporary Relevance iii) Ethnic Minorities: Path Dependencies and Militarization (both colonial and contemporary) iv) The othering of Sexuality and Gender


Presenter 1
DINA SIDDIQI - dmsiddiqi@gmail.com (New York University)
Presenter 2
Rohit De - rohit.de@yale.edu (Yale University)
Presenter 3
Sumudu Atapattu - sumudu.atapattu@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Presenter 4
maryam Khan - maryam.paro@gmail.com
Presenter 5
Mou Banerjee - mbanerjee4@wisc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON)

Making Contemporary Indian-Language Theatres Intelligible in the US Theatre Classroom
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Aparna Dharwadker - adharwadker@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Chair
Aparna Dharwadker - adharwadker@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

This roundtable will focus on the pedagogic challenges that the inherently multilingual, non-Europhone, non-Western field of contemporary Indian theatre offers to both instructors and students in the American graduate classroom. The moderator (Speaker 1) will outline some key theoretical, critical, and interpretive strategies for negotiating the problems of linguistic and cultural access because of which Indian theatre remains marginal in Western academic curricula and scholarship. The other five speakers will reflect on various methods of connecting this more or less unfamiliar field to their respective areas of interest and expertise, which include the theatres of Iran, India, Nigeria, and the Vietnamese-American diaspora. The roundtable thus potentially offers a unique composite portrait of what it means to study modern and contemporary Indian theatre in the thoroughly international setting of a US graduate program.


Presenter 1
Aparna Dharwadker - adharwadker@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Presenter 2
Shrinjita Biswas - sbiswas29@wisc.edu
Presenter 3
Ali Mansouri - mansouri2@wisc.edu
Presenter 4
Kehinde Olukayode - kolukayode@wisc.edu
Presenter 5
Gloria Pham - gpham2@wisc.edu
Presenter 6
Arijit Banerjee - abanerjee36@wisc.edu

Materializing Indian Film Cultures: Regions, Industries, Publics
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Spandan Bhattacharya - spandan@hyderabad.bits-pilani.ac.in (BITS-Pilani)

Discussant / Chair
Trinankur Banerjee - trinankur@ucsb.edu (University of California, Santa Barbara)

The plurality of film cultures in South Asia not only centers the region as a critical framework in understanding histories of popular media, but also offers multiple registers of cinema historiography. While the cinematic texts and their symptoms have shaped much of historiography (Prasad 1998, Mazumdar 2007, Sarkar 2009, Vasudevan 2011), the panel looks to participate in the more recent turn towards material histories to excavate encounters, cross-border exchanges, and minor histories (Mahadevan 2016, Mukherjee 2020, Siddique 2022, Nair 2024). The panel asks: if cinema, both in terms of its institution and intimacy, gets mediated by contiguous material cultures, what are the different constituents of such mediations? By looking at materials like gossip, photo albums, popular print, and production stills from diverse regional contexts across the colonial-postcolonial divide of the last century, the papers show how film cultures proffered new modes of participation and new performative possibilities in modernity. They employ region as an analytic category to demonstrate how caste, gender, and taste were mobilized through material cultures of Maharashtra, Bengal, and Hindi-speaking regions. The industrial milieu, another key determinant, shows how cinema as an industry became a space for voyeuristic speculation, alternative modes of production, creative interlocution with other media practices such as literature and portraiture photography. The papers also address how the public sphere becomes both the imagined and empirical locus to mobilize new cultural possibilities- be it through circulation of pleasurable fragments, proliferation of anti-caste attitudes, or infusion of literary sensibilities. Finally, while thinking through interconnected material registers spanning affective public cultures, industry patrons and paratextual interlocutors, the panel also seeks to reassess dominant articulations of the filmic archive, offering exploratory non-instrumental ways to think about the impact of cultural archives on public imagination.


Presenter 1
Rutuja Deshmukh - rutujawakankar@gmail.com (Michigan State University)
Kolhapur Film Enterprise: A History of Feudal Patronage in India

Presenter 2
Amrita De - ajd7145@psu.edu (Penn State University)
Gender, Filmy Gossip and the 1940s Bombay Film Hero: Reflections on Manto’s Film Journalism

Presenter 3
Spandan Bhattacharya - spandan@hyderabad.bits-pilani.ac.in (BITS-Pilani)
Revisiting DG’s Photo Albums: Confluence of Cinema and Literary Modern in Early Twentieth Century Bengali Print Culture

Presenter 4
Rahul Kumar - rak187@pitt.edu (University of Pittsburgh)
The Literary Meets the Cinematic: Poetry and Popular Fiction in the Hindi Film Magazine Sushma


From the Bengal Renaissance to Bangladesh
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Asif Iqbal - aiqbal@oberlin.edu (Oberlin College )

Discussant / Chair
Asif Iqbal - aiqbal@oberlin.edu (Oberlin College )

This panel is Part I of the double panel, "Bengal and its South Asian Neighbors," that seeks to initiate a dialogue with regards to the Bengal region, as it has evolved into a contested terrain shaped by the Partition and the creation of Bangladesh. In the recent decades, communal fragmentations have flared up. Thus, the impact of historic political forces, attuned to addressing the region’s heterogeneous ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities, requires reassessment. Part 1 includes four papers. Speaker 1seeks to explore the significance of language reform, initiated during the Bengal Renaissance, and its relation to affective histories, while Speaker 2 illuminates the longue durée framework of the idea of the Indian or Bengal Renaissance. Thereafter, Speaker 3 revisits the contested alliance between Islam and Marxism in East Bengal with an aim to recuperate the global history of alliance between Leftists and Islamists. Speaker 4 navigates the works of Bengali writers—all born outside East Bengal— to enunciate the manifold hauntings of the Partition in Bangladeshi literature.


Presenter 1
Ahona Panda - ahona.panda@claremontmckenna.edu (Claremont McKenna College)
On Language and Reform: Bengal’s Long Nineteenth Century

Presenter 2
Proshanto Dhar - proshantodhar@gmail.com ()
The Idea of a Renaissance in Bengal

Presenter 3
Zunayed Ahmed Ehsan - zehsan@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Marxism and the Question of Religion: An Intellectual History of Leftist Politics in East Bengal

Presenter 4
Hasan Al Zayed - hasan.zayed@iub.edu.bd ()
Bangladeshi Literature and the Specter of Partition


Old Empires, New Angles, Part II: ‘Patrimony’, ‘Rationality’, & alibis of early colonial state formation
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Sudev Sheth - sudev@wharton.upenn.edu (Univ. of Pennsylvania/Wharton School)

Discussant / Chair
Aparajita Das - aparajita_das@berkeley.edu

This panel is part 2 of 2. It brings together authors of four new monographs and student discussants to delve into the complexities of early British colonial rule in South Asia, exploring themes of rationality, patrimony, and legal structures that made colonial discourse and effecting its rule possible. The first paper investigates the early colonial legal history under the East India Company's rule, questioning whether it established a rule of law or merely a rule by law, especially in relation to property rights and administration. The second paper delves into gendered property disputes in Awadh during the mid-19th century, highlighting how contested claims to royal patrimonies shaped notions of statehood and sovereignty. The third paper focuses on the financial intricacies within Baroda, showcasing indigenous actors' navigation of colonial economic frameworks to assert princely autonomy and economic viability. Finally, the fourth paper explores the concept of sovereignty in international law as applied to the princely states of colonial South Asia, analyzing jurisdictional politics and debates over legal status. These papers collectively offer a nuanced understanding of colonial governance, legal rationalization, economic strategies, and sovereignty dynamics in South Asia, shedding light on the interplay between colonial hegemony and indigenous agency. By examining historical contexts and power structures, the panel contributes to a broader discussion on the impact of colonialism on legal systems, economic landscapes, and political identities in the region, inviting critical reflections on the legacies of British imperial rule and its enduring effects on post-colonial societies. The Chair and Discussant are graduate students who will lead comments and critiques of the papers presented.


Presenter 1
Faisal Chaudhury - fchaudhry@umassd.edu ()
A Rule by Law? Rationalizing the Alignment of Property, Administration, and Adjudicatory Rectification under the East India Company

Presenter 2
Nicholas Abbott - nabbott@odu.edu (Old Dominion University)
'’The rule of this state’: Patrimony, statehood, and sovereignty in Awadh, c. 1844

Presenter 3
Sudev Sheth - sudev@wharton.upenn.edu (Univ. of Pennsylvania/Wharton School)
The Evolution of Baroda: From Bankruptcy to Princely Entrepreneurship

Presenter 4
Priyasha Saksena - p.saksena@leeds.ac.uk ()
The Many Meanings of Sovereignty: International Law and the Princely States of Colonial South Asia


Beyond ‘Marginality’: Spaces of Care and Resistance in Contemporary India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Yash Sharma - sharmaym@mail.uc.edu (University of Cincinnati)

Discussant / Chair
Laura Dudley Jenkins - laura.jenkins@uc.edu (University of Cincinnati)

The state of Indian democracy has suffered a series of debilitating reversals since 2014. Amidst a climate of state-sanctioned anti-minority violence, dismantling of political institutions, and throttling of political dissent, the future of Indian democracy appears bleak. In this context, our panel revisits the idea of ‘margins’ and ‘marginality’ by presenting a narrative of resistance and care that animates the various cases under study. Two of our presentations ‘center’ the informal colonies or squatter settlements of the nation’s capital, New Delhi, and the practices of its inhabitants. The other two presentations draw attention to the political lifeworlds of Muslims in India, who have suffered the brunt of state repression and violence under the BJP. Speaker 1 foregrounds how informal doctors provide essential medical care to working poor residents in Delhi’s squatter settlements, whereas Speaker 2 investigates the legal claim-making efforts of the urban poor in New Delhi in the context of rising evictions and dispossession. Speaker 3 studies the contradictory and contested ways in which Muslims engage with the ascendancy of Hindu nationalist forces through Muslim political mobilization in Rampur, while Speaker 4 interrogates the anxieties and aspirations driving the political lifeworlds of Muslims in Assamese chars (riverine islands). The panel aims to recenter these spaces of spatial, socio-cultural, political, and economic marginality as nodes of incipient resistance and sustained care in contemporary India. In doing so, the panel offers an image of guarded optimism. At one level, these studies outline the long history of political exclusion and social oppression in these spaces that precede the BJP. At another level, these studies offer accounts of hope, defiance, and solidarity within these ‘margins’ that assume critical valency at a time when the presumptions underlying the promise of Indian democracy appear to be slipping rapidly.


Presenter 1
Tanuj Luthra - tanuj.luthra@anthro.ox.ac.uk (University of Oxford)
Medicine in the Margins: Informal Health Providers and the Work of Care in Delhi

Presenter 2
Shatakshi Singh - ssing176@ucsc.edu (University of California Santa Cruz)
Mobilization from Below: Legal Claims-making by the Urban Poor in India

Presenter 3
Yash Sharma - sharmaym@mail.uc.edu (University of Cincinnati)
Rethinking Political Mobilization: Muslim Identity Politics under Hindutva

Presenter 4
Pinaki Chandra - chandrpr@mail.uc.edu (University of Cincinnati)
Between floods: Property, Patronage and Justice in chars of Lower Assam


Mapping the Hydrosphere: Geopolitics, Technology, and Infrastructure in South Asian Waters
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Ayesha Vemuri - ayesha.vemuri@mail.mcgill.ca (McGill University)

Discussant / Chair
tamara fernando - tamara.fernando@stonybrook.edu (SUNY Stony Brook)

Water shapes our contemporary and historical worlds, from intimate, individualized scales, to vast global and geopolitical ones. In turn, the hydrosphere is shaped by contesting political, legal, cosmological, bureaucratic, aesthetic, cultural, and technoscientific concerns that render legible claims of territory, sovereignty, governance, belonging and livelihoods. This panel draws attention to the intersection of hydropolitics and mapping in colonial, postcolonial and contemporary South Asia to ask: How does mapping operate as a political technology of (il)legibility in watery spaces? What are the different mapping technologies at play in the hydrosphere, and what effects do they have on our understanding of the histories, politics, cultures, and ecologies in which they are deployed? And how does a transdisciplinary lens allow us to trace the intersections of water with caste, class, religion and citizenship in relation to increasingly precarious democracies and rising authoritarianism? By understanding mapping as a political technology as well as a lived experience, this panel highlights the constant tension between the politics of governance and the governed, and hence between sovereign space and lived place in the watery, soaking and muddied ecologies of South Asia. The four papers in this panel span a range of spatial and temporal hydrogeographies - from urban water infrastructures in colonial Madras, postcolonial water disputes between India and Pakistan in the Indus basin, and Cold War alliances to map the Indian Ocean, to contemporary negotiations about citizenship and nationhood in the border regions of Northeastern India. This interdisciplinary panel brings together anthropology, history, media studies, and science and technology studies to understand how the South Asian hydrosphere has been mapped. Drawing attention to the afterlives of British colonialism, partition and its still unraveling effects, and the rise of contemporary majoritarian politics, we cast light on the shared histories and ongoing intimacies of hydropolitics in South Asia.


Presenter 1
Ayesha Vemuri - ayesha.vemuri@mail.mcgill.ca (McGill University)
Negotiating Nationhood: Media, Mapping, and the Contours of Indian Nationalism

Presenter 2
Aditya Ramesh - aditya.ramesh.2@gmail.com (University of Washington)
Mapping Madras: From Infrastructure and Hydrogeography to a History of Segregation

Presenter 3
Maira Hayat - mhayat@nd.edu (University of Notre Dame)
The Indus Basin and Postcolonial Resource-Making: War, Water, and the Knowledge of Water

Presenter 4
Mehak Sawhney - mehak.sawhney@mail.mcgill.ca (McGill University)
Sounding the Ocean: Submarine Mapping and Planetary Imaginations during the International Indian Ocean Expedition (1959-65)


Songs of Demolition: Popular Sovereignty and Bulldozer Raj in India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Shachi Seth - shachi379@gmail.com (OP Jindal Global University)

In September 2017, the Chief Minister of India’s most populous State, declared that the government would ‘bulldoze’ the homes of anyone who even thought of committing a crime. This form of fast-paced, anticipatory governance has acquired the moniker of ‘bulldozer raj’ (rule by bulldozer-led demolitions) in popular narratives. By 2022, overnight decisions to demolish homes without due process had begun to be replicated and celebrated across States in India-- so much so that a bulldozer featured in a rally by Hindu Indian Americans in New Jersey. In the popular press, these incidents have been described as signalling yet another turn in India’s liberal democracy towards authoritarianism. These narratives assume democratic governance as antithetical to authoritarian rule, and by doing so, view such governmental logics as novel ‘rules of exception’. Although aspersions of a unilateral top-down governance which is extrajudicial is an accurate descriptive frame, it limits our understanding of the collective sensory desires that animate and legitimize the bulldozer into discursive centrality. Scholars have characterized ‘New Hindutva’ as seeking to occupy governmental institutional spaces, departing from its earlier cultural movement of identity formation. The bulldozer operates in a language of legality, but through institutional bypass, and “erasures of government”; however, such repurposing of the state apparatus is rooted in cultural references, economies of desire, and collective affect, animated by a sensory ‘excess’ crucial to its legitimacy.In this paper, I examine the popular discursive space occupied by the bulldozer (songs, memes, toys, speeches, television series) and argue that its iconography acts as a floating signifier of the encounter between the institutional and affective cultural domain of Hindutva authoritarianism. The bulldozer repurposes existing systems of legality, and captures the erotic encounter of the institutional, the technocratic, the affective, and the familial-- activating desires for its spectacular ‘excess’.


From Narrative to Marginalization: A Discourse Analysis of the Anti-Minority Policies in India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Md Harun Or Rashid - mrashid@kent.edu (Kent State University)

This research analyzes electoral politics in majoritarian democracies and its relationship with structural violence (marginalization and inequality), focusing on India. This study uses discourse analysis and process tracing to examine the chain of events connecting the majoritarian election system (MES) with structural violence. Based on reviewing two policies, it hypothesizes that structural violence may exist and be sustained in multiethnic societies through the MES, where the political parties can use the system to win elections by manipulating fear against minorities in the name of protecting majorities. This study traces the process through which the political parties create an anti-minority narrative, and then they make policies along with the narratives they created earlier. The data collection includes speeches of party leaders and political elites in India regarding anti-minority policies. In examining the rhetoric of these speeches, this study looks specifically for the tools used to marginalize populations via accusations and then advocate for policy remedies related to the allegations.


“Women’s Empowerment” as a Mode of Majoritarian Governmentality: Hindu Nationalism and Modi’s India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
RAKA SHOME - raka.shome@villanova.edu (Villanova U)

This paper addresses how in Hindu nationalist imaginations in contemporary India, promoted by the authoritarian Modi regime, the logic of ‘women’s empowerment’ functions as a mode of majoritarian governmentality I posit that in Modi’s India the rhetoric of ‘women’s empowerment’ functions as a mode of governmentality through which the Hindu middle class heterosexual woman is shored up as the normative woman needing empowerment and protection (seen also in ‘love jihad’ campaigns). Through the governmentality of ‘women’s empowerment,’ traditional (Hindu) notions of female honor (izzat), heterofamilialism, and heteropatriarchal protection of (Hindu) women (that also functions to vacuum up Hindu male anxieties) are being shored up while excluding from the folds of empowerment of a whole host of women such as Dalit, Adivasi, lesbian, transwomen (who are sometimes coopted in troubling ways into the nationalist imagination), and Muslim women. In order to demonstrate this, I examine the ongoing Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) or the Clean India movement that was launched by the government in 2014 to much global applause. ‘Women’s empowerment’ is a rhetorical fulcrum around which toilet building, under this movement, has been encouraged and even enforced in rural and semi urban India. Analyzing mediated campaigns of this movement, I demonstrate the limits of ‘women’s empowerment’ in SBA and discuss how they offer a window into a larger Hindu nationalism imagination that has coopted and Hinduized ‘women’s empowerment.’ I close with a discussion of how the Indian case evinces a larger global trend. In many parts of the world, right-wing (and often authoritarian) nationalisms today foreground gender in order to flag their “pro woman nationalist” agendas, but in doing so reinstate dominant and essentialized gender norms that are typically coupled with assertions of ethnic and religious majoritarianism.


Impact of Radical Hindutva Ideologies on the Representation of Female Subjects in Bollywood Movies
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 2: Thursday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Phebyn Joseph - phebyn.joseph@students.mq.edu.au (Macquarie University)

Bollywood has had a significant impact on the psyche and social life of the Indian public. Misrepresentation, absence of brown female actors, and brownface representation in popular Indian cinema reflects the ideology of gendered colourism, and contributes to real life discrimination for dark skinned Indian women. This obsession with fair skin complexion primarily originates from India’s colonial legacies, caste prejudices and neoliberal notions of beauty. My thesis focuses on the complex interplay between colourism and representation in popular Indian cinema, and how the current politics of India has had a significant impact on gender representation. This paper will highlight how Hindu nationalist ideologies under the current Narendra Modi government influence the representation of female subjects in Bollywood, and how colour prejudice also stems from radical Hindutva ideologies and caste segregation. Cultural producers in Bollywood have spoken about the increased visibility of the upper class, upper caste, light skinned Hindu female protagonists in popular cinema in the past decade. These portrayals construct and glorify a specific female identity - one that aligns with notions of feminism accepted within the contemporary Hindu nation. Located at the intersection of cultural production, study of the creative class and Critical Race Theory (CRT), this paper presents an ethnographic study of the Indian creative class and the ways in which they negotiate, confirm and challenge the dominant ideologies of colourism and gender representation in Indian popular cinema. Bourdieu’s theory of cultural production is used to unpack the institutional, caste/class structures and ideological processes through which Indian cultural producers negotiate their decisions and conflicts. Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concepts of intersectionality are applied to draw attention to how race, caste, gender, and skin colour converge to affect the representation of Indian women of darker skin tone.


The Future of Studying Indus Seals and Writing
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Gregg Jamison - gjamison@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Chair
Gregg Jamison - gjamison@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Seals and writing from the Indus Civilization (2600-1900 BCE) continue to receive considerable scholarly and public attention, and for good reasons. The script has yet to be deciphered, and the seals inscriptions are often engraved upon represent some of the best evidence of Indus administrative behaviors and technical virtuosity. A small but dedicated group of scholars across the world are applying new methods to study seals, writing, and the dynamic role both played in Indus organization and integration. For nearly 50 years, the Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions (CISI) project headed by Dr. Asko Parpola and colleagues has been the primary source of data to study Indus seals and writing. As the project nears completion and fewer materials are recovered and published, how can we continue to study the earliest South Asian seals and writing and ensure accessibility? Given the significance of both in the development and fluorescence of the Indus Civilization, now is the time to prepare for the future of studying seals and writing after the completion of the CISI project. This session highlights current efforts and outlines future goals to ensure that what first identified and heralded the Indus as a unique, indigenous South Asian cultural phenomenon will continue to drive scholarship and public interest in the future.


Presenter 1
Gregg Jamison - gjamison@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Presenter 2
Marta Ameri - marta.ameri@colby.edu (Colby College)
Presenter 3
Akinori Uesugi - southasia.ua@gmail.com
Presenter 4
Jonathan Kenoyer - jkenoyer@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)

Fostering Interreligious Relationships Through Marian Devotion in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Joe Evans - jevans25@villanova.edu (Villanova University)

Discussant / Chair
Joe Evans - jevans25@villanova.edu (Villanova University)

Promoting cordial interreligious relations is essential for reducing conflict between Hindus, Muslims, and others amid the religious plurality of South Asia. Likewise, it is crucial for minority religious communities to engage with other traditions to navigate a heightened sense of religious nationalism and discrimination which are on the rise in parts of the subcontinent. A common point of devotion can help facilitate better relations. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is venerated by many Christians and non-Christians in South Asia. Mary is the mother of God for Christians, highly regarded in the Qur’an, and occasionally adopted as a goddess among Hindus and Buddhists. The papers in this panel explore how Marian devotion can foster interreligious relationships in South Asia. Specifically, what are the possibilities, what are the obstacles, what are the reasons why might Mary be appealing to both Christians and non-Christians? The first two presentations will draw on scholarly materials to offer a glimpse into the possibilities and challenges for interreligious relations related to Marian devotion. Speaker 1 will provide a theoretical foundation for this analysis by examining the importance of Peter Phan’s notion of “being religious interreligiously” in a South Asian context. Speaker 2 will examine Muslim veneration of Mary in South Asia with a particular focus on the differences in doctrine and devotion, as well as the fluidity of religious boundaries. The last two presentations draw from fieldwork conducted in Nepal and northern India, respectively, to examine practical applications of Marian devotion for interreligious peacemaking. Speaker 3 will look at these broader assessments in the specific context of Nepal to determine the implications of Mary’s interreligious relatability to Himalayan women. Speaker 4 will examine how Mātā Mariyam, is understood and experienced by Hindu Khrist Bhaktas and the Catholic nuns who mediate her to these devotees.


Presenter 1
Ngoc Nguyen - ngoc.nguyen@marquette.edu (Marquette University)
The Importance and Application of Peter Phan’s Concept of “Being Religious Interreligiously” in a South Asian Context Through Marian Veneration

Presenter 2
Irfan A. Omar - irfan.omar@marquette.edu (Marquette University)
Muslim Veneration of Mary in South Asia

Presenter 3
Joe Evans - jevans25@villanova.edu (Villanova University)
Polydoxical Mother: Implications of Mary’s Interreligious Relatability to Himalayan Women

Presenter 4
Kerry San Chirico - kerry.sanchirico@villanova.edu ()
Mātā Maryam among Religious Women and Women Religious


Democracy, Development and the Subaltern
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Jay Sharma - jasharma@syr.edu (Syracuse University)

Discussant / Chair
Jay Sharma - jasharma@syr.edu (Syracuse University)

Development, which served as a raison d’état for modern nation-state building in India, led to rapid industrialization and economic growth for the state. However, development also created a category of marginalization that furthered the historical oppression of certain social groups, particularly indigenous tribes inhabiting resource frontiers. This category of marginalization measured economic progress through state GDP markers and social markers of modernity while simultaneously excluding communities who had alternate views about socio-economic progress steeped in their place-based relationships with land and livelihood. Despite numerous critical assessments from both within and outside academia, development continues to function as a hegemonic force, advancing political and economic agendas across various forms throughout the post-colonial landscape. In this development narrative, tribal communities continue to be relegated to the image of a primitive “other” and their political assertion against the exploitative and extractive resource regimes is viewed as antagonistic to the narrative of development and modernity. In this backdrop, the papers in this panel examine alternative demands for political and economic inclusion. We ask: How do indigenous communities perceive and engage with development, both on an individual and collective level? How are their hopes, desires, and sense of futurity mapped onto the unrelenting spree of development that saturates their everyday lives?


Presenter 1
Jay Sharma - jasharma@syr.edu (Syracuse University)
Claiming Modernity from below: Cultural Politics of Development and Tribal Youth Aspiration

Presenter 2
Nimisha Thakur - nithakur@syr.edu (Syracuse University)
Fluid land and futurity on the Brahmaputra floodplains

Presenter 3
Kanwaljit Singh - ksingh22@syr.edu (Syracuse University)
Mapping “vikas” in Shehar-e-Khaas: Exploring the transformation of traditional Kashmiri spaces and lieux de mémoire by analysing different cartographic (conventional and non-conventional) representations of the Srinagar city in Kashmir

Presenter 4
ASHA DEVI - asha.devi@rutgers.edu (RUTGERS UNIVERSITY )
Title: Navigating Political Shifts in Naya Bharat: Adivasi Youth Activism and Aspirations in Assam


Reimagining Aspirations in Education Research in India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Mili Bhatnagar - mbhatnagar2@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Mili Bhatnagar - mbhatnagar2@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

How can we reimagine people’s aspirations in and from education, and researchers own aspirations through education research that we do? Presently, aspirations are predominantly framed either within the current neoliberal social imaginary and its critiques, or social reproduction theories. The former emphasizes individuals' choices, responsibilities and skills as the key for their social mobilization through education. Its critiques tell us about the fault in this neoliberal logic. The latter postulates that individuals' aspirations are influenced by their social locations and their imagined place in society. Oscillating between unrestricted possibility and determinism, these two social theories also include collective views on education, including what and who it is for. As early stage researchers housed within neoliberal universities, our research also risks being subsumed within dominant theories, in part to respond to the “so what” question of our work. But what about many different hopes, aspirations and experiences of people, including our own as researchers, that can get lost within these prevalent ways of understanding communities, their aspirations and ourselves? What can we learn from the aspirations of individuals, families, and communities by studying them on their own terms within education research? Our panel aims to reimagine aspirations in formal education research based on our work with various communities in India. Two of our presentations seek to center people’s own understandings and thereby highlight the limitations of these dominant models of understanding aspirations in education. The other two of our presentations seek to show how researchers can build up on their own aspirations to reimagine what our education research can do, and how our experiences of participation in neoliberal education can be reflected on. Doing so, they highlight Dalit women’s liberation epistemologies; and how we can become allies to communities being marginalized and advocates of social equality in engineering education.


Presenter 1
Aditi Tandon - aditi.t@gmail.com (Indiana University Bloomington)
Radical Possibilities: Educating, Agitating, and Organizing for Liberation

Presenter 2
Mili Bhatnagar - mbhatnagar2@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
College-educated Naga Youth’s Personal Aspirations: Beyond Neoliberal Presents and Futures

Presenter 3
Savitha Rajamani - srajamani@umass.edu (University of Massachusetts Amherst )
Critical Caste Theory

Presenter 4
Nivedita Kumar - nkuma015@fiu.edu (Florida International University)
Aspirations and Challenges: Questioning Castelessness in Engineering Education—An Autoethnographic Reflection by a Brahmin Doctoral Student


Where the River Meets the Border: The Puzzling Lines of South Asian Geographies
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Parag Jyoti Saikia - paragjs@live.unc.edu (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Discussant / Chair
David Gilmartin - gilmarti@ncsu.edu (North Carolina State Universtiy)

What happens when borders encounter the confounding nature of rivers in South Asia? This panel seeks to explore the complicated terrain of rivers as borders, where together, they visibilize the various ecological, political, and social anxieties of a landscape. Some rivers cut across boundaries to become trans-boundary rivers, some act as a border themselves, political and/or social. Rivers in border regions are also often crucially implicated in infrastructural projects of various kinds such as energy, irrigation, mobilities, and more. Thinking through such a bounding of space with the integral presence of a flowing river extends our understanding of the environment, nation-making, and society. As borders - spatial, political, and social - encounter flowing and shifting rivers, what becomes of the landscape that is produced? We propose this panel to answer this animating puzzle in different ways - how an incomplete dam on the Subansiri River reshapes the everyday life of communities along the inter-state borders in Northeast India (Speaker 1); the ways in which engineering interventions along the Ganga-Padma river-border reveal a science and statecraft that is saturated with an anxiety about fixing a landscape (Speaker 2); what forms of political mobilizations and activisms emerge from the ‘recalcitrant rurality’ of living root bridges at the Khasi Hills-Sylhet floodplains of the Indo-Bangladesh borderlands (Speaker 3); and how by looking at the history of infrastructures, the transboundary Ganges is transformed into an object that contained or relayed data, an information flow that in turn defined the border itself (Speaker 4). Within such a site of rivers and borders, this panel thus examines various sets of actors, objects, and spaces which are involved in the making of such often precarious geographies.


Presenter 1
Parag Jyoti Saikia - paragjs@live.unc.edu (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
From Fluid Rivers to Concrete Borders: Everyday Life and Geopolitics around an Incomplete Dam in Northeast India

Presenter 2
Antara Chakrabarti - antara.c@columbia.edu ()
Anxious Engineering: Infrastructures, Expertise, and Disasters along the Ganga-Padma River-Border

Presenter 3
Aparajita Majumdar - am2885@cornell.edu ()
Coping Cultures, Co-labouring Worlds: Towards a Recalcitrant Rural Across the Khasi hills (India)-Sylhet floodplains (Bangladesh)

Presenter 4
Ramya Swayamprakash - swayampr@gvsu.edu ()
Chasing an idea, training a line: Seeing two states of being of a river border


Inheriting the Political: Gendered Intimacies in Urban South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Sana Malik Noon - sana.malik.noon@emory.edu (Emory University)

Discussant / Chair
Ahona Palchoudhuri - ahona_palchoudhuri@brown.edu (Brown University)

How do political intensities travel through time and across generations? What political ideas and practices do we inherit, reject, or choose to adopt from our kin-based networks? As a first step to answering these questions, this panel brings together two otherwise divergent bodies of literature: histories of political flux and the anthropology of kinship, sex and gender. Scholars from South Asia have joined these literatures in ways that center the nation: images of the motherland (Mitchell 2004), dynastic fiefdoms (Ali and Rushdie 1985), and concepts of fraternity that tend to metaphorize kin-based relations towards larger political agendas (Kapila 2021). In addition to this, the political has often been gendered as a masculine arena of authority in which decisions are singular, absolute and final (Schmitt 1932). As a second step, therefore, this panel shifts this conversation to feminine domains of intimacy, aesthetics, and relatedness, and examines how political insights are nourished and facilitated within them. In doing so, our panel thinks alongside scholars who have attended to the liminal zones of the political, that exist between the public and the private (Basarudin 2015, Fraser 1990), individual and community (Elyachar 2010), and the state and home (Ahmad 2017). Within these interstitial spaces, we examine how kinship and politics come together to enable the conveyance of power and knowledge. What forms of community does this fortify? What inequalities does it reproduce? Our papers examine these questions through mother-daughter relationships in urban Lahore, kin-based aesthetic relations among musicians in West Bengal, family histories of student and worker movements in 1960s Pakistan, and sibling-based mourning practices in Uttar Pradesh. Together, we will also go on to consider transnational convergences of concepts of kinship and politics beyond South Asia, and how they have transformed in relation to global movements between democracy and authoritarianism.


Presenter 1
Sana Malik Noon - sana.malik.noon@emory.edu (Emory University)
A “passive” generation of “active” mothers: Exploring women’s agency across generation in Pakistan

Presenter 2
Ahona Palchoudhuri - ahona_palchoudhuri@brown.edu (Brown University)
Dos and Don’ts while singing the Indian National Anthem: Kinship, Music and the Inheritance of Political Aesthetics in West Bengal

Presenter 3
Anushay Malik - sana.malik@gmail.com ()
Between the Local and the Global there Lies the Nation: Selected Stories of the 1960s in Lahore

Presenter 4
katyayni seth - katyayni_seth@brown.edu (Brown University)
Remembering and Forgetting: Mothers, Daughters and Sisters


Disjunctions and Connections: Region, Nation, and Multilingualism in Indian Literature
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Ulka Anjaria - uanjaria@brandeis.edu (Brandeis University)
Co-Organizer
Anjali Nerlekar - anjali.nerlekar@rutgers.edu (Rutgers University)

Chair
Anjali Nerlekar - nerlekar@amesall.rutgers.edu
Co-Chair
Ulka Anjaria - uanjaria@brandeis.edu (Brandeis University)

On the heels of the 2024 publication of The Oxford Handbook of Modern Indian Literatures, this roundtable examines the paratactic structure of the Handbook to see what the genre affords in its discussion of its three major terms: “the modern,” “the Indian,” and “the literary.” Taking a multilingual and a multimodal approach, the roundtable addresses how cosmopolitanism, regionalism, and nationalism produce a modern Indian literary sphere, as they are configured through local realities such as caste hierarchies and Dalit assertions, patriarchy and women’s writings, and political violence and utopian imaginaries. The roundtable addresses these questions through some of the locus-based studies of literature from the Handbook—in Marathi, Punjabi, Bangla, Urdu, and English—while bringing in insights from other languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Kashmiri, and Assamese. The roundtable, organized by the volume’s co-editors, includes five of its contributors and an external discussant. The organizers are scholars of modern Indian literature, interested in questions of form, genre, realism, and modernism. Speaker 1’s expertise is in Marathi modernism, poetry and poetics, and translation. Speaker 2 is a scholar of comparative literature and refugee studies, focusing on realism and fantasy in the Indian novel in English. Speaker 3 studies Urdu modernism, destabilizing the perceived boundaries between modernism and progressivism in Urdu, in both India and Pakistan. Speaker 4 studies material histories of print in colonial Punjab, focusing on little magazines. Speaker 5 focuses on Bengali literature and subaltern approaches. The different regional, linguistic and thematic expertise of the panel participants allows us to approach the question of Indian literary modernity from multiple angles. Lastly, our external interlocutor is a scholar of the vernacular in Indian literature, and she will raise larger questions that address the relationship of the individual literary traditions to the field as a whole.


Presenter 1
Sangeeta Ray - rays@umd.edu
Presenter 2
Zain Mian - zainmian@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Presenter 3
Aditya Mohan Bahl - aditya25488@gmail.com (Johns Hopkins University)
Presenter 4
Vinay Dharwadker - vdharwadker@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Presenter 5
Auritro Majumder - amajumder@uh.edu (University of Houston)
Presenter 6
Akshya Saxena - akshya.saxena@vanderbilt.edu (Vanderbilt University )

Seva: Bridging Faith, Kinship, Politics, and Community in Contemporary India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Anirvan Chowdhury - anirvanc@berkeley.edu (Harvard)

Discussant / Chair
Radhika Govindrajan - radhikagovindrajan@gmail.com (University of Washington at Seattle)

This panel unites four explorations of the multiple dimensions of seva (selfless service) across India's moral and socio-political landscape, engaging with gender, caste, politics, and social relations through the lenses of anthropology, political science, and divinity studies. Speaker 1 sets the stage by modeling seva, drawing connections between seva and the Hindu philosophical ideal of karmayoga. This analysis, grounded in a review of pop-psychological texts, interrogates how actions across a spectrum of personal cost and social benefit can all be encompassed within the idiom of seva, suggesting a rethinking of action typologies in social sciences. Second, Speaker 2 investigates seva's dual role in reinforcing and challenging traditional family structures and electoral politics in North India. Through a critical genealogy, Kowalski traces the evolution of seva in anthropological and political discourses, arguing for its significance in blurring the lines between private and public spheres, and re-evaluating classical categorizations of relatedness and political activity. Speaker 3 continues this theme by examining women’s paradoxical activism in the religiously conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This paper develops a theory of norm-compliant mobilization, illustrating how the BJP’s framing of politics as seva, publicly validates women’s domestic roles, downplaying political engagement as potentially transgressive. This bridges women’s private and public spheres and reduces parties’ coordination costs. While caste has been an undercurrent in preceding presentations, Speaker 4 explicitly addresses this by focusing on savarna elites in the non-profit sector. This final paper examines caste dynamics within the phenomenon of brown saviourism, highlighting the racialized caste hierarchies and contradictions that emerge when savarna elites attempt to engage in humanitarian and development work, challenging the notion of casteless interventions. Collectively, these papers provide a comprehensive examination of seva as a critical lens for understanding the intricate connections between personal beliefs, societal norms, and political strategies in contemporary India.


Presenter 1
Swayam Bagaria - swayambagaria@gmail.com (Harvard University)
Steps Towards Modeling Seva

Presenter 2
Julia Kowalski - julia.kowalski@nd.edu (University of Notre Dame)
Seva across scales: Rethinking relatedness and politics

Presenter 3
Anirvan Chowdhury - anirvanc@berkeley.edu (Harvard)
Domesticating Politics through Seva: How Religiously Conservative Parties Mobilize Women in India

Presenter 4
Arjun Shankar - as4679@georgetown.edu ()
The Caste of Brown Salvation


The State, Community, and Class in the Making: Displacement and Remembrance in Postcolonial Pakistan
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Md Mizanur Rahman - Mrahman9@ucsc.edu (University of California at Santa Cruz )

Discussant / Chair
Subho Basu - subho.basu@mcgill.ca (McGill University)

This panel engages with the state-society relationship in East Pakistan through the lens of refugee settlement, community formation, and Hindu- Muslim tensions in local contexts. The collection of papers in this panel moves away from a given and static description of the state-society relationship and explains how the ongoing processes of the formation of communities play a critical role in mediating the state-society relationship. Speaker 1's paper examines the impact of the Partition of India in 1947 and its effect on various religious or ethnic groups. His paper problematizes the plight of working classes in Calcutta to understand their experiences of being displaced to the other side of the border. Speaker 2’s paper, in the same vein, explores the complexities of how labeling individuals from Chittagong, Bangladesh, as ‘evacuees’ and ‘refugees’ obscured the long journey that formed their socio-political identities, beginning in the colonial period and stretching into post-colonial Bangladesh. Speaker 3’s paper unravels the concept of community and theorizes the origin of the idea of the political community through a discussion of the political understanding of Muslim scholars in late colonial South Asia. Speaker 4’s paper examines how Hindu-Muslim local tensions in Noakhali continued as much before as did after partition, impacting local and national political rhetoric.


Presenter 1
M M Azizul Islam Rasel - m.rasel@mail.mcgill.ca (McGill University )
The Partition, Refugees, and Shaping of Working Classes in Post-Independence East Bengal/East Pakistan, c.1946-1954

Presenter 2
Azrin Afrin - a.afrin@sms.ed.ac.uk ()
Journeys of Loss and Longing: Postcolonial Dynamics of Chittagong-Burma Relationships through Intergenerational Memory

Presenter 3
Md Mizanur Rahman - Mrahman9@ucsc.edu (University of California at Santa Cruz )
Maulana Akram Khan and the Idea of a Community

Presenter 4
Parvez Rahaman - mpr3c@mtmail.mtsu.edu (Middle Tennessee State University)
Political Propaganda of Hindu-Muslim in Noakhali: Fear and Fractured Relations 1939-1947


South Asian Scholars and the Palestinian Question – Solidarities, Affinities and Connections
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Zaib un Nisa Aziz - aziz130@usf.edu (University of South Florida, Tampa)

Chair
Zaib un Nisa Aziz - aziz130@usf.edu (University of South Florida, Tampa)

This roundtable aims to reflect on our collective duty as scholars of South Asia, in the context of the ongoing violence in Palestine. As many legal experts have noted, Israel’s ferocious assault on Gaza has been and continues to be genocidal in intent, scope and scale. This has been war on children as well as on journalists, aid workers and medical staff. It has also featured deliberate and systematic attack on scholars. An integral part of the Israel’s multipronged war strategy has been the targeting of students, scholars and cultural and educational institutes in Gaza, a policy the Palestinian scholar, Karma Nabulsi, has termed “scholasticide”. This is the latest, most severe chapter in Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine, which has been supported by the United States, and aided by other Western powers for over a century. It demands attention from scholars worldwide, including and especially of South Asia, given our connected histories. This roundtable brings together scholars of South Asia, situated in various disciplines, including Gender and Women’s Studies, Anthropology, History and Classics to deliberate on the ethical responsibilities of South Asian scholars towards Palestine. Scholars will bring their particular expertise to discuss various topics including the interconnected histories of anti-colonial struggle in Palestine and British India, the history of Palestine solidarity movements in postcolonial South Asia, the comparable relationship between citizenship, exclusion and violence in Israel and Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and Palestinian feminist critiques of global empires and concepts such as “reproductive genocide”. The panelists will discuss actions scholars can take up to support Palestinian academics and students through pedagogy, research, and academic activism. At the same time, the group will also discuss the lessons we can draw from the Palestinian struggle and consider how the work of solidarity opens political possibilities in South Asia.


Presenter 1
Elora Shehabuddin - eshehabuddin@berkeley.edu (University of California, Berkeley)
Presenter 2
Ali Usman Qasmi - ali.qasmi@lums.edu.pk
Presenter 3
DINA SIDDIQI - dms17@nyu.edu
Presenter 4
Nafisa Tanjeem - ntanjeem@worcester.edu (Worcester State University)
Presenter 5
Aditi Rao - ar1994@princeton.edu
Presenter 6
Hafsa Kanjwal - kanjwalh@lafayette.edu (Lafayette College)

Book Panel: Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
DARSHANA MINI - dmini@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Chair
Monika Mehta - mmehta@binghamton.edu (Binghamton University)

Focusing on a new book, Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India (University of California Press, 2024) that looks at sexuality, gender and desire in India, this panel brings together five senior scholars in the field of cinema and media studies to discuss the stakes of this book, and its contribution to study of film and media. Each of the speakers addresses aspects of theoretical framing, methodological premises and stakes of Rated A, and the book’s impact in the field of South Asian film and media. In the 1990s, India’s mediascape saw the efflorescence of edgy, soft-porn films that emerged in the Malayalam-speaking state of Kerala. In Rated A, the author examines local and transnational influences such as vernacular pulp fiction, illustrated erotic tales, and American exploitation cinema that shaped Malayalam soft-porn cinema. Through a mix of archival and ethnographic research, the author traces how actresses and production personnel negotiated their social lives marked by their involvement with a taboo form. Rated A maps the soft porn industry’s utilization of gendered labor and trust-based arrangements in tandem with the genre’s circulation among blue-collar workers of the Indian diaspora in the Middle East, where pirated versions circulate alongside low-budget Bangladeshi films and Pakistani mujra dance films as “South Asian” pornography. By locating the tense negotiations between sexuality, import policy, and censorship in contemporary India, Rated A offers a model for understanding film genres outside of screen space, emphasizing that they constitute not just industrial formations but entire fields of social relations and gendered imaginaries. Chair: Associate Professor, Binghamton University Panelists: Associate Professor, Loyola Marymount University; Professor, Michigan State University; Associate Professor, University of Virginia; Assistant Professor, Stanford University


Presenter 1
Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai - mswarnavel@gmail.com (Michigan State University)
Presenter 2
Usha I - ushaiyer@stanford.edu (Stanford University)
Presenter 3
Anupama Prabhala - prabhalaanupama@gmail.com (Loyola Marymount University)
Presenter 4
Samhita Sunya - ss7dn@virginia.edu (University of Virginia)

From East Pakistan to Bangladesh and the China Factor in the Bengal Region
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Asif Iqbal - aiqbal@oberlin.edu (Oberlin College )

Discussant / Chair
Auritro Majumder - amajumder@uh.edu (University of Houston)

This is Part 2 of the double panel, “Bengal and its Neighbors,” that seeks to initiate a dialogue with regards to the Bengal region since it has evolved through the anti-colonial movement in the early Twentieth Century to a contested terrain shaped by the Partition and the creation of Bangladesh. In the recent decades, communal fragmentations have flared up despite the persistence of the anti-communal nation-building imperative. Hence, the impact of historic political forces attuned to addressing the region’s heterogeneous ethnic, linguistic, and religious communities requires reassessment, which is the aim of this double panel assessing the past in the light of Bengal region’s turbulent present. Part 2 explores the relation between China and Bengal, as well as East Pakistan and Bangladesh. Speaker 1 close reads the travelogue of Utpal Dutt Titled Chinjatri to explore the Chinese Revolution in the context of politics in the Bengali theatre. Speaker 2 examines the disbanding of the Bangla section in the Foreign Language Press in China as well as the extension of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiatives in South Asia. Bengali literary works are evoked by Speaker 3 to understand the contested narratives of the anti-Pakistan freedom struggle in postcolonial Bangladesh. Speaker 4's ethnographic account of recent public actions against sexual oppression taking place within public universities in Bangladesh seeks to explain their perception as “events” within the framework of liberal democracy.


Presenter 1
Arijit Banerjee - abanerjee36@wisc.edu ()
The Chinese Cultural Revolution in Utpal Dutt’s Chinjatri

Presenter 2
Yue Qiu - qiu86@wisc.edu ()
Anti-Colonial Translation Prior to Decoloniality: New China (naya cina) from the Travelogue of Ali Nawaz in the 1960s

Presenter 3
Asif Iqbal - aiqbal@oberlin.edu (Oberlin College )
Politics of Insurgency in East Pakistan and the Bengali Novel

Presenter 4
Zobaida Nasreen - zobaidanasreen@gmail.com (Durham University)
Eventification of oppression/dominance and protest movements in a liberal democracy


Author Meets Critics Roundtable: Rajbir Singh Judge’s Prophetic Maharaja: Loss, Sovereignty, and the Sikh Tradition in Colonial South Asia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2024).
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Hafsa Kanjwal - kanjwalh@lafayette.edu (Lafayette College)

Chair
Hafsa Kanjwal - kanjwalh@lafayette.edu (Lafayette College)

This roundtable brings together both senior and early career scholars who work in various fields within South Asia Studies to respond to Prophetic Maharaja: Loss, Sovereignty, and the Sikh Tradition in Colonial South Asia, published by Columbia University Press in July 2024. The book examines Sikh sovereignty in today’s northern India and northeast Pakistan in the middle of the nineteenth century, when the British annexed the Sikh kingdom and, eventually, exiled its child maharaja, Duleep Singh, to England. In the 1880s, Singh embarked on an abortive attempt to restore the lost Sikh kingdom. Judge explores not only Singh’s efforts but also the Sikh people’s responses—the dreams, fantasies, and hopes that became attached to the Khalsa Raj. He shows how a community engaged military, political, and psychological loss through theological debate, literary production, bodily discipline, and ethical practice in order to contest colonial politics. The panelists will probe and discuss the intellectual and political implications of this book for South Asian Studies and for contemporary South Asia more broadly. Speaker 1: Anthropologist of Asian diasporas and scholar of Sikh Studies Speaker 2: Socio-cultural Anthropologist whose research focuses on Islam and Muslim societies in contemporary India Speaker 3: Anthropologist whose work focuses on medical anthropology and psychoanalysis as well as Islam and Kashmir Speaker 4: social and cultural historian of Modern South Asia whose work focuses on religious, linguistic, and status identities, including of the Khalsa Martial Tradition Speaker 5: Historian of Modern South Asia whose work focuses on religious formations in precolonial and colonial South Asia Speaker 6: The author of the manuscript, who will respond to the comments and questions raised by the other speakers


Presenter 1
Rajbir Judge - Rajbir.Judge@csulb.edu (California State University, Long Beach)
Presenter 2
Purnima Dhavan - pdhavan@uw.edu (University of Washington, Seattle)
Presenter 3
Shruti Patel - sapatel@salisbury.edu
Presenter 4
Harini Kumar - harinik@princeton.edu (Princeton University )
Presenter 5
Zunaira Komal Shakur - zkomal@ucdavis.edu (University of California, Davis)
Presenter 6
Randeep Hothi - randeephothi@ucla.edu (University of California, Los Angeles)

From the Contours of Coloniality: Gender, Health and Morality in Colonial and Postcolonial India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
sohini Mukhopadhyay - sohini61294@gmail.com (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Discussant / Chair
Rama Mantena - rmantena@uic.edu (University of Illinois Chicago)

This panel explores the marginalization of women in medical and legal discourses in colonial and post-colonial India. Interrogating the differential treatment of bodies at the margins of colonial society by medicine, philanthropy and law– centering the orphan, the prostitute, the patient and the protestor – this panel seeks to study epistemological shifts in understanding how gendered relations are interspaced with questions of negotiations of power in the colonial and postcolonial period. Sexual health, family, and morality emerge as intertwined motifs across the papers, revealing how colonial ideologies shaped notions of bodily purity, moral conduct, and gender norms. By putting studies of missionary activity, healthcare and incarceration in conversation, we highlight common patterns in regulating subaltern female subjects, underscoring the intersectionality of gender, religion, and caste in constructing medico-legal discourses. Through nuanced examinations of missionary activities, colonial health discourses, shifting perceptions of venereal diseases, and the political incarceration of women, the papers offer insights into the complexities of gender, health, and morality in South Asian history and their enduring relevance in contemporary society. The papers collectively engage with the enduring legacies of colonialism in the region, highlighting how colonial interventions in areas such as education, healthcare, and incarceration continue to shape contemporary discourses and practices, revealing common themes that resonate across temporal and geographical boundaries.


Presenter 1
Disha Ray - dr1244@princeton.edu (Princeton University)
Health, Hygiene and Happiness: Heathcare Advice for Women and Children in Colonial India

Presenter 2
Sohini Mukhopadhyay - smukho4@uic.edu ()
From ‘Sin’ to Sexual Health; The Changing Notions of Venereal Diseases in Colonial Bengal

Presenter 3
Avijit Singh - singh.2004@osu.edu (The Ohio State University)
The Girl Child in the American Missionary Institutions in Colonial North India

Presenter 4
Nitika Khaitan - nitika.khaitan@yale.edu (Yale University)
The Aftermath of Shaheen Bagh: Colonial Continuities and Disjunctures in Women’s Incarceration


The Work of Aspiration: Perspectives from Post-Liberalization India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Isabel Salovaara - isalovaa@stanford.edu (Stanford University)

Discussant / Chair
Dolly Kikon - dkikon@ucsc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ)

In the midst of an ongoing contraction in government employment and agrarian crises, aspirations for a better life in India are still on the rise. While many scholars have noted aspirational shifts in relation to previous historical events—the Green Revolution and bank nationalization (Varma 1998), expansion of educational opportunities (Jeffrey et al. 2008), and economic liberalization (Fernandez 2006), to name a few—this panel seeks to analyze the ways that today’s aspirations across India both build on these historical moments and are tied to a radically new terrain of possibilities as to who can aspire and what they are aspiring for. In this panel we bring both the diversity of aspirations that have proliferated in this moment, whether in the private sector or in relation to the continued prevalence of the state, as well as the geographical orientations of these aspirations, that reify, scramble, and reconfigure the designated “rural” and “urban” (Dyson and Jeffery 2022). Papers in this panel explore how acts of aspiration re-work categories of caste, gender, and life stage as new pathways and new aspirants emerge. We also pursue the connections among labor, leisure, and rest that are articulated or implied within aspirational discourses. This panel explores the ways post-liberalization India has been an especially fruitful context for the theorization of aspiration (e.g. Mathew & Lukose 2020) beyond Appadurai’s influential conceptualization of aspiration as a “navigational capacity” (2004, 69), a formulation that frames aspiration as the natural province of already-privileged subjects. In this panel, we take up Appadurai’s emphasis on the importance of futurity as a cultural concern while seeking new understandings of aspiration for and as particular types of work.


Presenter 1
Tanya Matthan - t.r.matthan@lse.ac.uk (LSE)
Aspiring to Risk: Agrarian Desires in Central India

Presenter 2
Kristina Nielsen - knielsen@binghamton.edu (Binghamton University )
Aspiration and aspiration: Global English, linguistic markedness, and puffs of air in the Indian BPO industry

Presenter 3
Alexa Russo - arusso18@stanford.edu ()
The Aspiration to Not Work: Adivasi Farmers and the Politics of (non-)Labor

Presenter 4
Isabel Salovaara - isalovaa@stanford.edu (Stanford University)
Names, Jobs, and the Identities of Aspiration in Bihar


Seeing, Reading, Speaking the State: Dynamics of Political Cultures and Powers in India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 3: Thursday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Vipin Krishna - vipin@g.ucla.edu ()

Discussant / Chair
Rebecca Waxman - rwaxman@g.ucla.edu (University of California, Los Angeles)

This panel proposal, titled “Seeing, Reading, Speaking the State: Dynamics of Political Cultures and Powers in India,” presents an exploration of the political cultures and powers that have shaped India through its colonial and postcolonial phases. It seeks to understand the complex relationships between identity, nationalism, violence, and the state, and their influence on the political landscape from historical and contemporary perspectives. The discussion will encompass the tension between democratic aspirations and authoritarian governance, the roots and impact of communalism on Indian society, the colonial legacy of ethnicity and philology, the dual role of the state in (gendered) violence, and the public’s response through political participation and resistance. The interdisciplinary composition of our panel will enable us to furnish a rich conversation that thinks through our shared themes of political cultures and powers across subjects. Various permutations of speakers will touch on gender and embodiment, subaltern conceptions of power and contestation, community memory and aftermaths of violence, and narratives of identity. These topics are explored in our panel across time periods and locations ranging from Kashmir to Maharashtra, and the colonial period to the present day. Additionally, speakers will utilize diverse interpretative approaches to analyze literature, official documents, press publications, and other popular sources to offer insights into the various ways the state and its politics are read, understood, and critiqued by society. In doing so, the panel will aim to foster a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted political cultures in India and encourage a dialogue that bridges historical divides and offers perspectives on the evolving nature of power and governance.


Presenter 1
Thwayib Rajab - thayyibrajab@gmail.com ()
Life After Death: Reconfiguration of Kinship Structure among the Muslim survivors in the aftermath of communal violence in Delhi, India

Presenter 2
Shabeeh Rahat - shabeehrahat@gmail.com (Jamia Millia Islamia)
Negotiating Citizenship, Reclaiming Azaadi: Kashmiri Muslim Women and their tales of Resistance

Presenter 3
Rebecca Waxman - rwaxman@g.ucla.edu (University of California, Los Angeles)
Gendered Repression and Resistance: Narratives of Sexualized Violence in the Chimur Kranti, August 1942

Presenter 4
Vipin Krishna - vipin@g.ucla.edu ()
Why North India? The Epistemological Footprint of North on the Politics of the Subcontinent


Pahari Painting: New Insights on Practice, Patronage, Collecting, and Display, 1600 to the Present
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Sonya Rhie Mace - smace@clevelandart.org (Cleveland Museum of Art)

Discussant / Chair
Sonya Rhie Mace - smace@clevelandart.org (Cleveland Museum of Art)

Paintings created in the Pahari region of the western Himalayas have defied scholarly attempts to categorize them according to court styles. Recent research suggests a different model involving communities of artists from various backgrounds working collaboratively and across media for multiple groups of elite clients. This panel examines how the geographic position of Pahari kingdoms on the outskirts of Mughal cultural and imperial influence allowed for flexibility in artistic praxis and patronage choices. Local microhistories, considerations of vicissitudes in economic prosperity, evidence for interarea alliances and rivalries, and materials and techniques are now being brought to bear on issues of attribution along with evaluations of artistic style. Papers also reconsider the purpose of paintings in the context of gift-exchange economies, religious practice, and cultures of entertainment specific to life in the western Himalayas. Beyond their engagements with historical evidence, presenters also critically evaluate the role of scholars, dealers, curators, collectors, and the art market at large in promoting and entrenching the court model in museums and publications on Pahari painting. The nature of the archives, challenges of access, and regional linguistic characteristics will also be discussed with a view to encouraging future research.


Presenter 1
Sarang Sharma - sarang.sharma93@gmail.com (Faculty of Fine Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda)
Tracing Pahari Painter Families through Genealogical Scrolls at Hindu Pilgrimage Sites

Presenter 2
Sonya Rhie Mace - smace@clevelandart.org (Cleveland Museum of Art)
Reassessing the “Shangri” Rāmāyaṇa

Presenter 3
Vrinda Agrawal - vragraw@umich.edu (University of Michigan)
The modern rasika: M. S. Randhawa as a scholar and collector of Pahari painting

Presenter 4
Ainsley Cameron - ainsley.cameron@cincyart.org (Cincinnati Art Museum)
Collecting and Displaying Pahari Painting: past, present, and future

Presenter 5
Catherine Glynn Benkaim - cgbarts@me.com (Smithsonian Institution)
Discussant


Ritual Landscapes and Vernacular Epistemologies: Mapping Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi Lifeworlds in Telangana
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Shiva Sai Ram Urella - shiva.sai.ram.urella@emory.edu (Emory University)

Discussant / Chair
Vislavath Rajunayak - raju@efluniversity.ac.in (The EFl University Hyderabad, India)

This panel maps the diverse ways in which Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi communities in Telangana engage with ritual practices, oral narratives, and devotional traditions to articulate their lived experiences, negotiate socio-political representations, and construct alternative epistemologies. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork and archival data, the panel explores how these communities create and inhabit ritual and narrative landscapes that enable them to remember, reproduce, and renegotiate their histories, identities, and systems of meaning-making. Focussing on sites such as annual jataras and temple rituals and centering the body of the marginalized ritual specialists and oral-performing communities this panel analyzes how notions of “rootedness,” caste self-identification, and vernacular epistemologies are articulated. They investigate how ritual performances, oral narratives, and devotional practices by ritual specialists such as the Ogguvandlu and Shivashaktis serve as modalities for communities to map out their sense of belonging and construct sacred landscapes that reflect their contemporary subjectivities within Telangana's broader cultural and political formations. By analyzing the convergence of ritual specialists, devotees, caste associations, and political actors at their respective field sites, the panel sheds light on the intricate negotiations and contestations that shape these communities' lived experiences. It highlights how ritual and oral traditions offer alternative interpretations and epistemological frameworks that challenge mainstream knowledge systems, enabling communities to deconstruct dominant narratives and assert their agency in the face of marginalization, displacement, and socio-political aspirations. Conclusively, the panel aims to explore and map the complex interplay between religion, memory, placemaking, and decolonial epistemologies, underscoring the centrality of ritual landscapes and vernacular traditions in mapping the diverse lifeworlds of Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi communities in contemporary Telangana.


Presenter 1
Vislavath Rajunayak - raju@efluniversity.ac.in (The EFl University Hyderabad, India)
Indigenous Oral Narratives: Exploring and Understanding Indigenous/ Tribal Oral Narratives

Presenter 2
Archana Rao - archanarao@uohyd.ac.in ()
“We marry along with you Yellamma”-A study on the annual wedding ritual of Balkampet Temple, Telangana

Presenter 3
Shiva Sai Ram Urella - shiva.sai.ram.urella@emory.edu (Emory University)
Migrant Deity and Displaced Devotees: Ritual, Memory and Domination in a Telangana village

Presenter 4
Vivek Joseph - vivek.joseph@duke.edu ()
Where Our Gods Come To Dance: The Geography of the Jatara and the Making of Contemporary Telangana


Understanding Authoritarianism in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Zunayed Ahmed Ehsan - zehsan@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Zunayed Ahmed Ehsan - zehsan@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

This panel is part 1 of 2. While South Asia, a diverse and dynamic region, has witnessed various forms of governance throughout its history, in recent times, concerns have been raised about the rise of populism and/or authoritarianism. This panel seeks to explore the nature of authoritarianism in this region. Is the nature of authoritarianism the same in this region compared to Western/European counterparts? In response to Ramin Jahanbegloo's question "Is there an Indian fascism?" Ashis Nandy (2006) argues, “Indian civilization, which has no direct experience of that particular version [European] of authoritarianism and has always worked with ill-defined, open ended concept of evil, finds it more difficult to deal with various modern versions of authoritarianism”. This panel critically examines the features (distinct or otherwise) of authoritarianism in South Asia and aims to identify and analyze historical antecedents contributing to the emergence of authoritarianism and to explore the socio-cultural factors influencing the development and sustenance of authoritarian regimes. Simultaneously it investigates the role of cultist and paternalist discourses in shaping and reinforcing authoritarian tendencies. Speaker 1 engages with Indian history to investigate the paternalistic role of the postcolonial state, especially in terms of biopolitics and social relations of production and shows how it translates to fascist tendencies. Speaker 2 revisits the “first dictatorship” in India and identifies a parallel regime of dictators within the democratic state. Speaker 3 argues that the early Muslim Leaguer zamindars and landowners created conditions that coerced Pakistan’s military to establish and maintain a system of authoritative control in the state’s political system since independence. Speaker 4 contextualizes the idea of modern cultism and how it shaped “constitutional fascism” in Bangladesh.


Presenter 1
Titas Ganguly - titasganguly55@gmail.com ()
The Greatest Trick: A Case for Paternalism Through the History of Authoritarianism in South Asia

Presenter 2
Vineeth Mathoor - vineethmathoor@gmail.com ()
The Great Indian Dictators: India Under the State of Emergency (1975-1977)

Presenter 3
Muhammad Saad Ul Haque - msaaduh@nus.edu.sg ()
The Muslim League and Pakistan’s First Dalliance with Military Rule

Presenter 4
Rezaul Karim - rkrony@live.com ()
Messiah to Cultism and “Constitutional Fascism” in Bangladesh


Understanding Marginalized Youth's Secondary Education Experiences: A Mixed Methods Study in Tamil Nadu, India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
ARPITH ISAAC - atisaac@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Nancy Kendall - nancy.kendall@wisc.edu

How do youth living in marginalized communities in more and less-urban India experience and make sense of the relevance of secondary schooling? This panel explores four aspects of this question, as they developed through a mixed-methods, multi-country study conducted in two focal schools from 2020-2023. The first three presentations draw on the ethnographic data collected in an urban and rural site in Tamil Nadu, India. The final presentation draws on survey data collected from a larger school cachment area. The first presentation describes the educational experiences of grade 9 students in the rural public school site, whom we followed into grade 10. The focus of this paper is on how the school and its teachers navigated significant resource paucity, while continuing to set high standards of achievement expectations in the grade 10 board exams. The second presentation addresses NGO actors in the state and how they wield power over policy and training decisions through their work in different Program Management Units (PMUs) set up by the government. They are considered the de facto experts in policy conversations, leading to some tension between the teachers and their unions and the NGOs themselves. The third presentation looks at visual media, films in particular, and their influence and impact on young people’s gender norms and relations. The presentation draws on data collected using Visual Cued Ethnography with grade 12 youth, who also participated in the construction of the research methods themselves. The final presentation draws on survey data from 16 urban and rural secondary schools. The focus of this presentation is the socio-emotional skills of students and their sense of belonging that is associated with education. Early findings reveal that peer and teacher-student relationships are negatively associated with feelings of alienation.


Presenter 1
Nancy Kendall - nancy.kendall@wisc.edu ()
The ‘9th – 10th dipole system’ that constitutes high school in marginalized contexts in Tamil Nadu, India

Presenter 2
Miriam Thangaraj - miriam.thangaraj@apu.edu.in ()
“Speaking for the State?” NGO-led Project Management Units (PMUs) in education in Tamil Nadu

Presenter 3
ARPITH ISAAC - atisaac@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Films, strongmen and gender: a visual cued ethnographic exploration of gender representations and practices among youth.

Presenter 4
Aanchal Gidra - gidraaan@msu.edu ()
“The Role of students’ relational environments for their sense of belonging in Secondary Schools in India.”


South Asian Urbanism: From Colonial Cities to Post-Colonial Modernisms.
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Ujaan Ghosh - ughosh2@wisc.edu (Ohio State University )

Discussant / Chair
Lisa Trivedi - ltrivedi@hamilton.edu

This panel brings together a diverse group of scholars to discuss the nature of spatial practice, urban negotiation, and evolutionary urbanism in colonial and post-colonial South Asia. Geographically the session spans a territory that covers parts of both India and Pakistan and their entangled urban pasts in between. The session explores the questions of “modernization,” migration, urban amalgamation, and everyday negotiation to shed light on the complex urban biographies of Southern Asia. The four papers look at interactions and negotiations between planners, builders, architects, residents, and migrants as they carved out spaces for themselves in their cities. Historiographically, the panel focuses on sites that have often been left out from the canons of urban history in South Asia. By bringing together voices from the spatial margins of the discourse—spanning colonial and post-colonial temporalities in a single analytic field—the panel proposes to tread new directions in the study of South Asia’s urban past. Primarily, the panel foregrounds the question of dialectics in shaping the nature of urban form and experience. Spk 1 and 2 scrutinize the question of international modernism in spatial and social planning in post-partition India and Pakistan. Spk 1’s focus on building university spaces in Pakistan and Spk2's emphasis on the building of “new towns” in Delhi demonstrate the emergence of overlapping ideas about migration, population, mobility, and evolutionary urbanism in the Third World. In a similar vein, the dialectical nature of interaction between the inhabitants of the city and those who govern it plays a pivotal role in the works of Spk 3 and 4. Both Speakers demonstrate how the marginalized residents of colonial Kanpur and Puri innovatively carved out a space for themselves in the face of increasing exclusion brought about by powerful pressure groups.


Presenter 1
Meher Ali - msali@princeton.edu ()
The City and the University, or “the Whole and the Part”: Ecochard, Doxiadis, and University Planning in Pakistan, 1953-68

Presenter 2
Michael Dodson - msdodson@indiana.edu (Indiana University)
Postcolonial Town Planning in the Midst of Urgency: 1947-50

Presenter 3
Brock DeMark - bjdemark@iu.edu ()
Inhabiting an Industrial City: Housing and Urban Design in Kanpur, India 1880-1910

Presenter 4
Ujaan Ghosh - ughosh2@wisc.edu (Ohio State University )
The Taming of the Shoe: Everyday Contestations, Urban Microhistories and the Right to the City in Colonial India


Sex/Scandal: Dissent in the Breach
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Anjali Arondekar - aarondek@ucsc.edu (UCSC)

Discussant / Chair
R. Benedito Ferrão - rbferrao@wm.edu (William & Mary)

Scandal, or so the story goes, hews closely to the secret of sex and its concomitant intimates –caste, gender, religion - engrossing its audience in salacious details that violate the very infrastructure of the public propriety it aims to embrace. And while scandal teaches carceral lessons, designed to produce conformity, its unfolding drama often incites dissent to the very majoritarian norms it seeks to enforce. As scandal recasts the secret activities into a shared story of exposure, it makes questions about truth, evidence, history increasingly unreliable and even impossible. Our panel proposes “scandal” as an episteme that gathers disparate regimes and genres, histories and regions, to interrupt, even corrupt, settled orientations of histories of dispossession, citizenship and authoritarianism. For each of our panelists, even as “sex” founds the grammar of scandal, there is too much that goes awry. Each speaker takes as their starting points a different problem-event or scene of scandal: a sensationalized porn corpus in Kerala; suicide and the oceanic itineraries of silent cinema in Fiji; inter-religious and inter-caste romances in Himalayan India; and the incursions of caste and sexuality within archives of indenture in Mauritius. In every iteration of sex/scandal, we see the emergence of a variegated landscape of dissent and refusal whereby the demands to “show and tell,” to expose, as it were, give way to itinerant and errant stories of possibility and succor. We can do no better than to summon those stories.


Presenter 1
DARSHANA MINI - dmini@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Madakarani as Screen Pleasure: Scandal and Soft-porn Imaginary

Presenter 2
Radhika Govindrajan - rgovind@uw.edu (University of Washington)
Ghosts of Kaand Past: Scandal as Archive and Speculation in Himalayan India

Presenter 3
Anjali Arondekar - aarondek@ucsc.edu (UCSC)
When Sex is not a Scandal: Archiving Indenture

Presenter 4
Debashree Mukherjee - m.debashree@gmail.com (Columbia University)
Zarina: Sex, Suicide, and Scandal Across the Indian Ocean


Karma and Grace: Book forum / Author-Meets-Critics Session
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Neena Mahadev - neena.mahadev@gmail.com (Yale-NUS College)

Chair
Sharika Thiranagama - sharikat@stanford.edu (Stanford University)

This roundtable features a conversation about Karma and Grace: Religious Difference in Millennial Sri Lanka (Columbia University Press, 2023), by Neena Mahadev. The ethnography examines Theravada Buddhist and Christian disputes over religious conversion that intensified in the early 2000s. Informed by broader histories of inter-religion, the study analyzes how the growth of Pentecostal and dominionist discourses became contentious in a country which majoritarian nationalists take to be the sovereign “Island of the Dharma” (Dhammadipa). In 2004, Theravadin Buddhists began a campaign to lobby for a ban against “unethical” religious conversions. While Pentecostal evangelists publicize “the Good News” (Sinhala, Subha Aranchiya), the study interrogates what happens to this “news” when it is propagated among subsets of a population that sharply resists it. Delineating how exclusivist claims of Pentecostal ministerial discourses go against the grain of nationalistic efforts to recuperate the Sinhala Buddhist heritage of the postcolony, this phenomenon of inter-religious contest adds a new dimension to studies of secularism and the politics of religious freedom. The work also elucidates why religious belonging became a revived source of conflict in a country that had been long afflicted by ethnic war, and what effect nationalistic postwar political maneuvering had upon the perceptions of minorities. Addressing locally and doctrinally-specific claims about the _ethics_ of mass mediated religious persuasion, the author examines the interplay of Buddhist devotional repertoires, Born-again Pentecostal and Catholic rituals of receiving grace, and how hostilities are channelled through vernacular media. It offers new insights on competing political theologies, competitively-wrought religious innovations, and how ordinary people navigate a multi-religious public. The book proposes a “multicameral” methodological and theoretical approach to pluralism. together with author, five commentators draw upon their own expertise in the anthropology of religion, nationalism and ethno-religious conflict, postwar sovereignty, to discuss the book’s contributions to South Asian Studies.


Presenter 1
Sidharthan Maunaguru - sasms@nus.edu.sg (National University of Singapore)
Presenter 2
Mark Whitaker - mark.whitaker@uky.edu (University of Kentucky)
Presenter 3
Vivian Choi - vivianychoi@gmail.com (St. Olaf College)
Presenter 4
Justin Henry - jwhenry@usf.edu (University of South Florida)
Presenter 5
Neena Mahadev - neena.mahadev@gmail.com (Yale-NUS College)

Translating Gender, Situating Texts
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Laura Brueck - laura.brueck@northwestern.edu (Northwestern University)

Chair
Laura Brueck - laura.brueck@northwestern.edu (Northwestern University)

This roundtable engages translation as a central praxis in the inter-disciplinary scholarship of South Asia that is too often under-theorized. Does translation make it possible to inhabit another space, time, body and language? We will think through forms of translation as trans-migration and dwell upon ideas of embodiment. Inviting discussion on gendered bodies and translation we ask: What does a feminist methodology mean when translating South Asian texts, from antiquity to the contemporary moment? (How) do you translate misogyny? How might trans studies influence the way we understand translation studies? Is there a non-binary translation, or are all translations - and all texts - gendered? Can a non-binary “trans”-lational methodology help us move beyond the tired trope of the “original” and the “shadow,” “copy,” “derivative” of translation? In practice, the gendered forms of many South Asian languages allow for coy cloaking and dramatic reveals that find no ready counterpart in English. How does a translator learn to play along with these verbal feints? Finally, we explore the subtextual lives of translation, of the women hiding in the attic, and ask if translators turn away from the unexpected encounters or change their mandate along the way. The Roundtable will have seven speakers, all of whom are acclaimed literary translators working in several different South Asian languages: Gujarati, Hindi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Tibetan, and Urdu. Together our conversation will catalyze a more rigorous field-wide discussion around the theorization of South Asian translation, and translation as a feminist praxis.


Presenter 1
Martha Ann Selby - marthaselby@fas.harvard.edu (Harvard University)
Presenter 2
Aniruddhan Vasudevan - ani.vasudevan@princeton.edu (Princeton University )
Presenter 3
Rita Kothari - rita.kothari@ashoka.edu.in (Ashoka University )
Presenter 4
Christi Merrill - merrillc@umich.edu (University of Michigan)
Presenter 5
Daisy Rockwell - daisy.rockwell@gmail.com (The Breakaway Republic of Daisyabad)

No Offence: The Seriousness of Joking in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Alisha Elizabeth Cherian - alishaec@stanford.edu (Stanford University)

Discussant / Chair
Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi - parvis@anthropology.rutgers.edu

Both humor and hurt sentiments play a central role in South Asian social and political life, and joking is a powerful tool that can often result in either or both. Joking can simultaneously achieve various ends through the delight and discomfort it engenders; it can establish community boundaries, expose moral anxieties and tensions, and maintain, negotiate, and disrupt social orders. This panel takes joking seriously, drawing inspiration from seminal South Asian Studies scholarship on humour (Ghassem-Fachandi 2012, Hall 2019), offence (Scott 2023, Rollier et al 2019), and fun - queer and feminist fun (Kirmani 2020, Phadke 2020), authoritarian and nationalist fun (Hansen 1999, Verkaaik 2004), and ‘fun for fun’s sake’ (Anjaria & Anjaria 2020). This panel also aims to expand upon the classical anthropological inquiry (Douglas 1975, Mauss 1928, Turner 1967) into joking relations beyond structural-functionalist assumptions of harmony and cohesion towards a recognition of messier and more nuanced realities. The papers on this interdisciplinary panel examine the politics of humour and offence in South Asia and the diaspora in literature, on stage, and in daily life. Speaker 1 argues that anti-blasphemy activists in Pakistan formed both violent and humorous intimacy with the sacred by entering into joking relations with God. Speaker 2 examines how the relations between and interactions amongst comedians and audience members at stand-up comedy shows in Delhi determine and mediate collective framings of offence. Speaker 3 explores how derogatory jokes in Urdu and English literature reveal an adherence to ritualistic purity and casteism that is often otherwise societally denied. Finally, Speaker 4 investigates the social role of gallows humour and ‘roasting’ as two forms of joking popular in Indian Singaporeans social gatherings that required navigating the delicate balance between the funny, the taboo, and the painful.


Presenter 1
Saad Lakhani - saadlakh@stanford.edu (Stanford University)
Humorous Friends and Violent Lovers: Blasphemy Politics and Joking Relations in Pakistan

Presenter 2
Karandeep Mehra - mehrak@umich.edu (University of Michigan)
The Pragmatics and Participant Frameworks of Offended Audiences in Indian Comedy Halls

Presenter 3
Safia Mahmood - smahmood@iba.edu.pk (Institute of Business Administration)
Choohrahs in Pakistan: jokes as disempowering agents in social hierarchy

Presenter 4
Alisha Elizabeth Cherian - alishaec@stanford.edu (Stanford University)
“We laugh so we don’t cry”: Joking Around Among Indian Singaporeans


Islam in Pakistan or Pakistan in Islam: Beyond the Sufi-Extremist Divide
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mohammad Waqas Sajjad - msajjad@ses.gtu.edu (Beaconhouse National University, Lahore)

Discussant / Chair
Sana Haroon - sana.haroon@umb.edu (University of Massachusetts Boston)

A mainstream approach to studying Islam in Pakistan, especially since the early days of the war on terror, is to divide individuals, traditions, and institutions into neat categories of extremists and moderates – what has popularly been described as good Muslim/bad Muslim. With two decades of correctives to this approach, and developments such as perceived moderate Sufis being redefined as extremists, have now opened up new avenues to study and understand Islam in the country. Many recent and ongoing phenomena warrant attention, not only since they affect over 230 million Pakistanis but also because they engage with more global discourses about Islam. These include: the use of religious discourses by mainstream political parties, the emergence of a religious organization and political party centered on the core issue of blasphemy, the rise of a popular feminist movement, the reappearance of extremist narratives and terrorist attacks, the popularity of religious celebrities on social media, and reforms in religious education, etc. Simplistic essentialization and the building of normative categories must then be replaced by more nuanced approaches that bring forth discursive contexts. In this panel, the presenters aim to explore some of these developments in greater detail, enabling different perspectives of Islam in the country to emerge through social history. While discussing distinct subjects, they bring together interrelated themes. Broadly, the presenters deal with the conceptualization of Islam and secularism in politics; a new public face of Sufism through a religious political party often described as extremist; mosques and the mapping of local communities; and the politics of blasphemy.


Presenter 1
Sana Jamal - sana.jamal@yale.edu (Yale University)
Beyond the Binary: Reframing Islam and Secularism in Pakistan

Presenter 2
Najeeb Jan - najeeb.jan@ahss.habib.edu.pk ()
The Biopolitics of Blasphemy

Presenter 3
Mohammad Waqas Sajjad - msajjad@ses.gtu.edu (Beaconhouse National University, Lahore)
Blasphemy and Politics in Pakistan: the Motivations and Aspirations of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan

Presenter 4
Sana Haroon - sana.haroon@umb.edu (University of Massachusetts Boston)
The Mosques of Gazdarabad


A Global History of the Peasant? An Engagement with Navyug Gill’s Labors of Division
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Adeem Suhail - asuhail@fandm.edu (Franklin and Marshall College)

Chair
Navyug Gill - gilln2@wpunj.edu (William Paterson University)

This roundtable assembles a diverse group of interdisciplinary scholars to discuss the contributions and implications of Navyug Gill's new book Labors of Division: Global Capitalism and the Emergence of the Peasant in Colonial Panjab (Stanford University Press, 2024). The book explores the landowning peasant and landless laborer as novel political subjects forged in the encounter between colonialism and struggles over culture and capital within Panjabi society. One of the most durable figures in modern history, the peasant has long been a site of intense intellectual and political debate. Yet underlying much of this literature is the assumption that peasants simply existed everywhere, a general if not generic group, traced backward from modernity to antiquity. Through a careful interrogation of a disparate archive - settlement reports and legal judgments to labor contracts, vernacular poetry, and family budgets - Gill challenges the givenness of the peasant by explicating the ideological and material divisions that transformed power in Panjabi society as well as global history. Drawing on the disciplines of history, anthropology, and economics, the panelists will put Gill's work in conversation with debates in several fields: religious identities, commodity studies, social hierarchy, diaspora politics, and political economy. By implicating economic logic with cultural difference, this book roundtable will allow us to re-think the itinerary of comparative political economy alongside alternative possibilities for emancipatory futures.


Presenter 1
David Gilmartin - gilmarti@ncsu.edu (North Carolina State Universtiy)
Presenter 2
Sarah Besky - sb2626@cornell.edu
Presenter 3
Adeem Suhail - asuhail@fandm.edu (Franklin and Marshall College)
Presenter 4
Amrit Deol - amritdeol@mail.fresnostate.edu (California State University, Fresno)
Presenter 5
Danish Khan - dkhan@fandm.edu

Interdisciplinary Reimaginations: Political Inventiveness through South Asian Performance Practices
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Uddipta Roy - uroy@umd.edu (University of Maryland College Park)
Co-Organizer
Shrinjita Biswas - sbiswas29@wisc.edu ()

Discussant / Chair
Rini Tarafder - tarafder@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Co-Chair
Uddipta Roy - uroy@umd.edu (University of Maryland College Park)

In this panel, we seek to ask what forms of political visions can be reimagined in artistic performances across South Asia in troubling times. Captivated by historical/ contemporary violence from all ends: crumbling democratic structures, aggressive neo-liberalization, environmental crisis, along with caste, class, gendered, and religious marginalizations, this panel intends to understand artistic performances enacting the political forcefulness of inhabiting these webs of violence. Despite the continuous reverberation of state-sponsored censorship and other mechanisms of repression and exclusion, artists—through sensory, embodied, and affective registers—continue to strive to create infrastructures of experience and experiment that allow them to carve out a different possibility of political imagination. Ranging across interdisciplinary and multimedia engagements with performative aesthetics—theatre, dance, and music videos—presenters on this panel engage with the artistic articulations that lay out the ongoing tensions and possibilities of playing with, for, and against regimes of oppression. Structured around the neglected theme of the ordinary, this panel delves into narrations and practices of alterity, and subversion of marginalized communities in South Asia by intricately analyzing the multifaceted relationship between politics, performance, violence, and precarity. Such attempts rely on the centering of the quotidian negotiations of art and artistic labor in experimenting with agency, choice, political inventiveness, and lives that make visible and challenge hierarchies that structure social life in South Asia.


Presenter 1
Rini Tarafder - tarafder@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Intermediality and the Work of Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry: A Queer Phenomenology of Trunk Tales (2022)

Presenter 2
Shrinjita Biswas - sbiswas29@wisc.edu ()
The Actor’s Body as a Site of Resistance: Savitri’s Enactment of Draupadi (Heisnam Kanhailal, 2000)

Presenter 3
Uddipta Roy - uroy@umd.edu (University of Maryland College Park)
On Poromboke: (im)possible solidarities, musical tasks

Presenter 4
Kristen Rudisill - rudisik@bgsu.edu (Bowling Green State University)
Barriers for Jaffna-based Tamil Popular Dancers in Sri Lanka


Media Publics in Postcolonial India: Discourses, Aesthetics, Genres
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Abhisek Roy Barman - abr119@pitt.edu (University of Pittsburgh)

Discussant / Chair
Rakesh Sengupta - rakesh.sengupta@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)

That publics are intimately connected to media forms is a given anywhere. In postcolonial India, the question of the public vis-à-vis media has received attention from myriad directions- forms of address (Vasudevan 2010, Prasad 2015, Alonso 2023), fandom and mass politics (Pandian 1992, Srinivas 2016), the construction of new audiences and events (Batabyal 2012, Cody 2023) etc. This panel is prompted by the recent turn towards conceptualizing media publics by attending to how the media texts, events, and publics produce each other through interconnected processes (Mukherjee and Singh 2017, Sunya 2020, Sarkar 2022). More specifically, this panel asks: what could be the modalities of the production of media publics that help draw a throughline through the plural, multi–local, and fragmented nature of the public sphere in postcolonial India? It attempts to answer the question by destabilizing the categories of the national and regional publics through a media-specific lens. The papers on disaster relief and experimental documentary touch upon how divergent imaginaries of national publics shaped the social welfarist impetus of film stardom and aesthetic choices of state-sponsored documentary practice. The papers on popular comedy and erotic thrillers underline how even the regional public can be fragmented by conditions of media production, wherein genre becomes the decisive modality of production. Alongside genres, another throughline emerges through discourses, since discourses of humanitarian aid in the context of disaster relief and taste cultures in the context of popular comedy become instrumental in understanding how the public makes meaning out of the film star as a mediated formation. Finally, whether it is the media event of film functions or media texts ranging from B-grade video and popular comedy to experimental documentary, the aesthetics of representation emerge as a connective thread in shaping the imagined, addressed, and intended publics across the papers.


Presenter 1
Rakesh Sengupta - rakesh.sengupta@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Useful Stars: Film Culture and Disaster Relief in Postcolonial India

Presenter 2
Abhisek Roy Barman - abr119@pitt.edu (University of Pittsburgh)
Responding to 'the sea of humanity': Imagining peoples in Mani Kaul's experimental documentary

Presenter 3
Trinankur Banerjee - trinankur@ucsb.edu (University of California, Santa Barbara)
A Public and its Fragments: Popular Comedy and the Post-Partition Bengali Public Sphere

Presenter 4
Ishita Tiwary - ishita.tiwary@concordia.ca (Concordia University)
Video as Intimacy: Biography of the Straight to Video Erotic Thrillers


What is the matter with Bengal?: The Possible Futures of a Historiographic Field
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mou Banerjee - mbanerjee4@wisc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON)

Chair
Rochona Majumdar - rmajumda@uchicago.edu (The University of Chicago)

(Part 1/2) Bengal as a field of scholarly analysis has dominated the field of South Asian historiography in US academia over the last 40 years. The range of scholarly discourse on Bengal has spanned methodologies of social, cultural and economic history. From the early 2000s there have been signal contributions to the transnational and broader Indian Ocean dimensions of this historiography, as well as rich explorations on the themes of feminist and gender histories of Bengal. More recently, a new group of historians have broadened the scope of our understanding of Bengal by expanding their analysis to post-1947, postcolonial Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, there have been recent pushbacks about the continued relevance of Bengal. Critiques have ranged from the issues of over-exploration and exhaustion of archives, repetitiveness, and paucity of new ideas. An important aspect of these critiques has been questions regarding the hegemonic dominance of elite upper-caste histories and historians. These critiques point out that an over-extended focus on the study of Bengal perhaps does a signal disservice to the nuanced understanding of South Asia as a historiographic field. This roundtable hopes to provide a moment of critical reflection and discussion about the state of the field of Bengal studies in the face of such critiques. The question, at the center of these discussions, is this – is Bengal exhausted as a space for scholarly exploration? What are the future that we might hope to see in our research? We propose to discuss the following non-exhaustive categories: i) New postcolonial and transnational histories of Bengal: economic, legal, literary ii) Bengal as a colonial province, postcolonial state and sovereign nation : Historical Reflections iii) Interdisciplinary and cross-discipline conversations on Bengal, focusing on debates about presentist political revisionism and their contemporary relevance iv) Histories of Sexuality and Gender


Presenter 1
Mou Banerjee - mbanerjee4@wisc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON)
Presenter 2
Tariq Ali - ta563@georgetown.edu
Presenter 3
PRIYANKA BASU - priyankabasu85@gmail.com (King's College London)
Presenter 4
Cynthia Farid - cynthiafarid@gmail.com

The Long Seventies and Its Afterlives: South Asia in Comparison
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Preeti Singh - preetisingh309@gmail.com (Dartmouth College)

Discussant / Chair
Preeti Singh - preetisingh309@gmail.com (Dartmouth College)

The long seventies is often staged in scholarly accounts as the aftermath of the revolutionary sixties. Across South Asia, the seventies were marked by the specter of diminishing democracy and the rise of authoritarian regimes. The Bangladesh War, Indira Gandhi’s imposition of a national Emergency in India, and the dictatorship of Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq in Pakistan all marked the fading of the dreams of decolonization. In Sri Lanka, 1976 saw the formation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, setting the stage for the Sri Lankan Civil War, and Afghanistan witnessed the April coup with the deposition of Muhammad Daoud Khan. Despite these democratic challenges, the Seventies was also a time of revolutionary social and political movements that persisted alongside rising authoritarianism. Writers, filmmakers, and public intellectuals responded to the crises of the seventies in myriad ways. From international conferences to prison accounts to underground poetry, genres of resistance and subversion flourished during the period. The South Asian novel post-1947 has turned to the seventies to narrate postcolonial life through the decades of decolonization. In recent years, print and social media have evoked the seventies in memes and political cartoons to critique, through comparison, the growing turn to the right in their respective countries. The papers in this panel stage a comparative dialogue on the Seventies in South Asia. Through a reading of literature and film from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, the papers renegotiate characterizations of the period as one of decline and malaise. In turn, we hope to establish a comparative framework for reading the Seventies across national and regional traditions in South Asia.


Presenter 1
Sara Kazmi - kazmi@sas.upenn.edu ()
Protest Poetry in 1970s India/ Pakistan: Anti-Authoritarianism and Regional Vernacular Tradition

Presenter 2
Maryse Jayasuriya - maryse.jayasuriya@slu.edu (Saint Louis University)
The Long Seventies in Sri Lanka through Literature

Presenter 3
Supurna Dasgupta - supurnadg@gmail.com (The University of Chicago)
Agamemnon, Rustom, Daedalus: Fathers in 1970s Bangladeshi Poetry

Presenter 4
Preeti Singh - preetisingh309@gmail.com (Dartmouth College)
Documenting the Indian National Emergency: Anand Patwardhan’s Seventies' Documentaries


Beyond “Mother and Child Care”: Vulnerability and Crisis in India’s Medical Systems
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
katyayni seth - katyayni_seth@brown.edu (Brown University)

Discussant / Chair
Sarah Pinto - sarah.pinto@tufts.edu (Tufts University)

Bringing together scholars of pregnancy, childbirth and pediatric medicine in India, this panel seeks a conversation about vulnerability in medicine. It asks how institutions produce and manage crises, and how people absorb their repercussions. Drawing together concerns that often fall under the umbrella of “reproduction”, we experiment with languages beyond “risk,” “fertility,” and “reproductive disruption” to understand concatenated struggles and losses. The panel is oriented toward the ways state health structures—many established in the name of national development—become spaces of triage and distributed vulnerabilities (Solomon 2021) that often fall in line with class and caste demarcations (Pinto 2008). We both draw upon and depart from important work that sees religious and everyday moral frames as informing assisted fertility in nationalist conditions (Singh 2017), understands fertility as “kin work” (Singh 2022), considers the social implications of new technologies (Bhardwaj 2016), and recognizes the conditions that make fertility a marketplace (Deomampo 2013, Pande 2014). This panel seeks a perspective that considers reproduction as an assemblage of medical and state sites, processes, and imperatives. Papers addressing miscarriage, obstetric violence and child death will allow us to juxtapose medical settings that attend to life in what are deemed its most vulnerable forms. They will also illuminate how losses and violences are absorbed into expressions of normality. How do South Asian experiences provide insight into the ways that political and economic landscapes shape conditions of vulnerability across a spectrum of care associated with pregnancy, birth, and infancy? How do different crises in care overlap and shed light on each other? How are terrible outcomes absorbed by those they happen to, those who witness them, and those charged with care? What do crises in scenes of reproduction and generativity tell us about Indian health systems and how people manage loss in contemporary conditions?


Presenter 1
Dhiwya Attawar - dhiwya.attawar@umanitoba.ca (Institute for Global Public Health )
Obstetric violence and governance in healthcare institutions in north India: Negotiating power and who counts in assemblages of birth

Presenter 2
Clemence Jullien - clemence.jullien@ehess.fr ()
Free of charge yet costly? Vulnerabilities in India's obstetrics sector

Presenter 3
Suman Rawat - sumanrawat.rs.hss19@itbhu.ac.in ()
Women and Fear of Illness during Childbirth: Navigating Medicinal Usage Patterns by Crossing the Dehri in Eastern Uttar Pradesh

Presenter 4
Payal Hathi - phathi@berkeley.edu (University of California, Berkeley)
Giving birth to death: Narratives of stillbirth and the production of stillbirth statistics in India

Presenter 5
katyayni seth - katyayni_seth@brown.edu (Brown University)
Communicating Uncertainty: The practice of Pediatrics in a Public Neonatal ICU


Eco-Authoritarianism in the Indus Basin
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Jahan Zeb Ahmed - jahanzeb@ucsb.edu (UC Santa Barbara)

Discussant / Chair
Abdul Aijaz - abdul.aijaz@uky.edu

As the anthropogenic climate crisis intensifies, South Asian countries are facing grave ecological challenges ranging from devastating floods, water scarcity, heat waves to land grabbing, mass displacement, and uneven development. Home to more than a quarter of the global population, the region has a long history of political instability, resource conflicts, and territorial disputes. A resurgent authoritarian politics and widening power inequities between the haves and have-nots have made matters worse. Within South Asia, Pakistan has emerged as the flashpoint of the ecological threat caused by the global climate crisis. The recent extreme environmental events, monsoon rains, floods, droughts, and wildfires, suggest a worsening trend in the extreme weather events. The state and society in Pakistan face grave ecological challenges. These ecological challenges cannot be divorced from the political context within the state and the region. Political realities governing the state and society determine the way ecological threats are negotiated and managed. As the worsening environmental crisis intensifies so too struggles around environmental commons, it feeds into existing conflicts and power hierarchies and reconfigures the prevalent power relations. How do existing political inequalities figure into the dynamics of resource struggles as the ecological crisis picks up speed? How do resource struggles reconfigure state-society relations in Pakistan at multiple political, spatial, administrative scales? How does ecological crisis put strain on regional and international relations? These are some of the central questions that animate reflections at the intersections of ecological and political crises in Pakistan. The panel will explore how ecological scarcity figures into the political dynamics of the state and society in Pakistan. The speakers will dissect the authoritarian state apparatus that is intent on further accumulation through building more highways, gated housing schemes, hydropower stations, and tourist facilities, all the while shrinking living space for ordinary Pakistanis.


Presenter 1
Jahan Zeb Ahmed - jahanzeb@ucsb.edu (UC Santa Barbara)
Kishanganga/Neelum Diversion Feud: Water Scarcity Narrative and Indigenous (Dis)Empowerment

Presenter 2
Abdul Ghaffar - abdulghaffar@ucsb.edu (University of California Santa Barbara )
Authoritative Conservation or Collaborative Care: Exploring Sustainable Practices in Gilgit Baltistan

Presenter 3
Aamir Yaqoob - aamir9465@gmail.com ()
Attabad Lake Disaster in Gilgit-Baltistan: Local Tragedy or Tourist Opportunity

Presenter 4
Muhammad Ilyas - milyaskhan100@uop.edu.pk (University of Peshawar)
Land Grabbing, Displacement and Loss of Productive Farmland: Neoliberalization of Real Estate Business in Pakistan


Imperiled States and Risky Bodies, Part 1 of 2: Rethinking Value in South Asia and Beyond
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 5: Friday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Geeta Patel - patel.weston@gmail.com (University of Virginia)

Discussant / Chair
Geeta Patel - patel.weston@gmail.com (University of Virginia)

A question haunts South Asianists of various persuasions: How do we account for, explain, or theorize the sustained presence of divisive politics amidst rising inequality and multiple crises, including ecological ones? This double panel turns to the framework of ‘value’ to speak directly to the many dimensions of that question. Our conceptualizations of value seek to go beyond conceiving value either in terms of holism (Structuralist/Structural functionalist/Agambenian totalizations) or exclusively via a materialist ontology (Marxist surplus/ Need Economy). Rather, we foreground genealogies that intertwine power, agency, governance, and coloniality to produce and reproduce imperiled states, threatened environments, and risky bodies. We want to look at the complications, co-productions, interleaving, and encapsulations that bring the local, regional, and global together. The value optic we propose is contentious, relational, and differential. Its ambit expands laterally with desires, intimacies, aspirations, flights, and deterritorializations. Its optic also operates hierarchically in governance, policies, empires, disciplines, extractions, expropriations, and distinctions. More extensive processes or nuanced totalities and material dimensions of life often remain sublimated in the contentious, cooperative, and exploitative relations through which technologies, calculations, evaluations, and creditworthiness shape orientations and imaginations of the past, present, and future at diverse registers. To enable us to rethink and reimagine value through these various contingencies, we will focus on/hone down on the performative dimension of the multifarious evaluative practices undergirding the dispersed political responses to glaring inequalities and impending crises. The first part ‘Governance, Risky Bodies’ will bring colonial pensions in Madras, with value translated into concepts like qadr in Urdu, to grapple with their historical valences alongside attending to value filtered through the more contemporary production of the allure of the middle class in India and governance in Sri Lanka that rationalizes marginalized bodies into the neoliberal structural adjustments that produce indebted states.


Presenter 1
Geeta Patel - patel.weston@gmail.com (University of Virginia)
Reconfiguring Pensions through Corporate-Colonial Bodies

Presenter 2
Osama Siddiqui - osama.siddiqui@providence.edu (Providence College)
Indo-Persianate ‘Values’ and Ricardian Political Economy in South Asia

Presenter 3
Sarasij Majumder - smajumd4@central.uh.edu ()
Articulating the Middle: Reading the Allure of “Suzhi” or Quality in Mrinal Sen’s Kharij

Presenter 4
Pradeep Peiris - pnpeiris@gmail.com (University of Colombo)
Too Old, Too Poor, and Too Tired: Risky Bodies in Sri Lanka’s Imperiled State


Writing, Eating, & Imagining Community: Translations of Self and Other in the Indian-English Short Story
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Chandana Krishnegowda - ck3191@columbia.edu (Columbia University)

In Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s short story, “They Eat Meat!”, a Santhal family moves to Vadodara and rents a flat owned by upper-caste Telugu Hindus, who forbid eating meat in the building in order to be accepted by their clean neighbors. Over many months, the women of both houses begin consuming the “simple sin of an egg” in hiding from their husbands. The story, written and published in English, showcases the translations of self that permits meat-eating families to be accepted into vegetarian Vadodara. In English, both families occupy an ambiguous identity that can be hidden, morphed, and revealed at will. I argue that English allows for forms of democratic translation within India’s fraught politico-linguistic milieu. English becomes the medium through which the subaltern can speak, and escape registers of alterity encoded in the vernacular. But, the question arises, does this come at the cost of language loss? Are we losing bhāśa vernaculars to the English vernacular? As Lydia Liu and Anupama Rao note in their introduction to Global Language Justice, the lifeworlds of languages are shaped dynamically in relation to one another. Drawing from contemporary short stories like “They Eat Meat!”, I use the poetics and politics of contemporary “Indian-English” writing to restate Fanon’s conception of national culture and Ngũgĩ’s Decolonising the Mind. By placing English not in opposition to the vernacular languages of the subcontinent, but within a framework of mediating relationality, it is possible to think of language---and translation---as developing new registers of politics and expression.


The Truth of a Well-Told Tale: Salman Rushdie’s Victory City as a Found-Translation Thought Experiment
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Meenakshi Nair - meenakshinai@umass.edu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

In this paper, I consider Salman Rushdie’s Victory City (2022) as an experiment in ideating India through fiction. This novel, styled as a found translation of 14th century Sanskrit verse to 21st century literary-academic English prose, offers an imagined foundational civilizational epic from which to trace an idea of India that, to readers in the know, is in tension with a totalizing idea of India. By deploying translation – a creative impulse that implies the existence of multiple versions of a text – Rushdie calls attention to the manifold ideas of India, perceptible or otherwise. Set in a geography that is identifiable as the historical precursor to modern-day southern India, and attentive to the long histories of mobility, cosmopolitanism, and robust oceanic exchange that have shaped the region, Victory City suggests an alternative space to examine for the origins of a history of India. This goes against the grain of civilizational narratives of India that often focus disproportionately on the empires, exchange, and environs of the north. With this shift in perspective, Rushdie gestures to the constructedness of narratives of national identity and urges a consideration of multiple narratives, narrators, and geographies. Victory City is firmly rooted in a reading of the past but addresses the politics of the present. I contend that in Victory City Rushdie highlights the artificiality of narrative and demonstrates the possibility of alternative constructions in order to unsettle simplistic linear connections between the past and the present. I argue that in doing so, mounts a resistance against contemporary narrations of the past that are undergirded by narrow presentist concerns that intend to colonize the future.


Feminism and Cosmopolitan Identity in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Hena Ahmad - hahmad@truman.edu (Truman State University)

This essay offers a feminist interpretation of cosmopolitanism in Shamsie’s Home Fire, putting forward that the term “cosmopolitanism” includes advocacy of global justice and human rights, issues that have been equally integral to contemporary feminism. Aneeka, a modern-day Antigone, seen through Shamsie’s “cosmopolitan feminist” lens, challenges the revocation of her brother’s British citizenship by the state when his body is denied burial in England and sent to Pakistan. Grounded in the context of global terrorism and the “war on terror,” the novel focuses on the interrelated issues of state and citizenship, human rights and civil liberties, law and justice, terrorism and Islamophobia and suggests that the war on terror has failed to examine the root causes of terrorism or provide a tangible solution to the global predicament. The novel further emphasizes that it is necessary to recognize the complicit ways in which factors of class, race, religion, and gender differences impact and underpin cosmopolitan feminism. Drawing on the writings of Gayatri Spivak, I argue that Shamsie’s feminism is subsumed under a cosmopolitanism defined by human rights, justice, and civil liberties.


History, Tension and Possibility in Transformations of South Asian Religions Across Cultural Boundaries
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Kyle Dougherty - kdougherty@wisc.edu ()

Discussant / Chair
John Dunne - jddunne@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)

When traditions cross cultural boundaries, they inevitably find themselves facing the need to adapt to and negotiate with the assumptions and values, both tacit and explicit, underlying the new worldviews to which they find themselves exposed. In this panel, we look at various ways that South Asian religions have transformed and continue to transform in interaction with previously novel cultural contexts. Two panelists look at the historical interaction of South Asian religions with the American counterculture, considering questions such as: how have the values and goals of the 1960s counterculture been influenced by, and continued to influence, American conceptions of Tibetan Buddhism? How have South Asian religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism historically influenced spiritual interpretations of experiences with LSD? Another panelist considers the intentional productive possibilities of cross-cultural interaction: how can dialogue with fields such as early Christianity, New Testament Studies, and Church History inform the fields of Early Buddhist studies, Buddhist philosophy, and Buddhist philology? Finally, the fourth panelist explores tensions in cross-cultural interaction by arguing for the validity of Buddhist “magic” – pragmatic rituals that aim to alter the physical and social world as well as manage non-physical entities and crises – as elaborate technologies for being in the world, not to be ignored or disparaged as they often are by western interpreters and Buddhist modernists.


Presenter 1
Kyle Dougherty - kdougherty@wisc.edu ()
Outer Science, Inner Yoga: East Meeting West as “The Great Transformation of our Age”

Presenter 2
Tess Durham - tdurham3@wisc.edu ()
Exploring the sociological and cultural relationship between LSD and South Asian religions during the American counterculture.

Presenter 3
Aaron Ullrey - aaron_ullrey@hds.harvard.edu ()
Buddhist Magic: Elaborate Technologies for Being in the World

Presenter 4
Fabien Muller - fmuller@hds.harvard.edu ()
Early Buddhism and Early Christianity: A Theological Perspective on Buddhist Problems


Understanding Authoritarianism in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Zunayed Ahmed Ehsan - zehsan@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Zunayed Ahmed Ehsan - zehsan@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

This panel is part 2 of 2. While South Asia, a diverse and dynamic region, has witnessed various forms of governance throughout its history, in recent times, concerns have been raised about the rise of populism and/or authoritarianism. This panel seeks to explore multiple shades of authoritarianism in this region. Simultaneously, it focuses on contemporary resistance against the cultural hegemony of authoritarian power. Speaker 1 identifies the process of transforming Bangladesh into a single-party state and argues that it has been shaped by both internal dynamics and external influences, some overt and others insidious. Speaker 2 focuses on India’s regional hegemony and how it facilitates the authoritarian rise in the region. Through a textual analysis, the presenter explores India’s longstanding desire to be the “big brother” in the region and how this desire has snatched the basic right of political franchise of the people of Bangladesh, leading to a sustained authoritarianism in the country. Speaker 3 delves into the resistance against Hindutva hegemony through an ethnographic lens, focusing on Jharkhand, an eastern Indian state with a significant Adivasi population. Drawing upon ethnographic narratives and fieldwork observations, the presenter examines how Adivasis in Jharkhand navigate and challenge the dominant Hindutva narrative and destabilize Hindutva’s claim of autochthony by asserting their indigenous identities. Speaker 4 explores the systems of medical care in and beyond the biomedical landscape in one of the world's most militarized zones in Kashmir and scrutinizes the many faces of the Indian authoritarian regime, especially in the context of health and well-being in relation to the multifaceted impacts of the prolonged militarization that shapes the experiences of medical interactions in the valley.


Presenter 1
Maidul Islam - maidul.islam@pitt.edu ()
Bangladesh as a Prison State: A Chronopolitics of Fascist Desire for Time

Presenter 2
Abu Taib Ahmed - abu.ahmed@colostate.edu ()
India’s “Big Brother” Desire and Sustained Authoritarianism in Bangladesh

Presenter 3
Kunal Nath Shahdeo - kunalmentor10@gmail.com ()
Competing Indigeneities: Indigenous Resistance Against Hindutva in India

Presenter 4
Bidisha Mukherjee - bmukherjee@wisc.edu ()
Politics of Medical Care under Militarization in Kashmir


Reconfiguring Marginalized Childhoods in Modern India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Titas Bose - titasb@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)

Discussant / Chair
Titas Bose - titasb@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)

Children in modern India embody a wide range of experiences and marginalities. Normative biases within texts, policies and everyday practices have reduced the diverse experiences of children across spatial and cultural locations, visibilizing and promoting Hindu, upper-caste, able-bodied childhoods. Within colonial histories, childhood has often been studied as a battleground for contesting ideologies (Sen, 2005; Kanan, 2021), while sociological studies have noted the western derivations in the construction of normative childhoods in contemporary India (Balagopalan, 2011). In contrast, identity expressions from marginalized spaces, as well as children's own stories and experiences reveal their diverse culture and meaning-making practices in the world. In this panel, we locate alternate spaces and modes in which non-normative childhoods of India exist and flourish. Coming from different disciplinary backgrounds such as history, literature, sociology and anthropology, we discuss different approaches to first, critique the normative constructions of childhoods, and second, to understand childhoods that do not align with these idealistic constructions. In doing so, the panel reconfigures the existing perception of childhood in India by mapping different childhoods pushed to the periphery of society. All four papers in the panel are interested in the question of the marginalized child. Speaker 1 discusses the ways that classroom spaces in contemporary India rely on an idea of temporal normativity to marginalize dis/abled students. Speaker 2 looks at how childhood, and especially Adivasi childhood, is central to the discourses of national development in India. She contrasts these discursive formulations with ethnographic data about how young people navigate these framings of their childhoods. Reading a Muslim Bengali children’s periodical, Speaker 3 shows how the identity of Muslim childhoods in colonial Bengal is imagined in ways different from the predominant Hindu discourses of childhoods. Speaker 4 maps the absences and marginalizations of Dalit childhoods within contemporary children’s literature.


Presenter 1
TANUSHREE SARKAR - tsarkar@missouri.edu (University of Missouri)
Becoming out of time: Constructing dis/ability in Indian classrooms

Presenter 2
Rashmi Kumari - rashmi.k@rutgers.edu (Rutgers University)
Being Young and ‘Indigenous’: Politics and Adivasi Childhood in a Postcolonial “Developing” Nation

Presenter 3
Titas Bose - titasb@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)
Gifts for the Muslim Child: Making Muslim Childhoods in a Bengali Children’s Periodical

Presenter 4
Arpita Sarker - arpita-sarker@uiowa.edu (University of Iowa)
Finding Dalit childhoods in Contemporary India through children’s literature


Ordinary Places: Thinking about Space, Scale, and Region in South Indian Cities
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Siddharth Menon - ssmenon@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Stephen Young - sjyoung3@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Over the last few decades, scholars in the humanities and social sciences have increasingly attended to questions of scale. Urban geographers and sociologists have addressed it through concepts of global/world cities, ordinary cities, and planetary urbanization (Sassen 1991; Robinson 2002; Brenner 2019). In architectural history and South Asian history, scholars have used different scales of analysis to study artefacts and objects, from local, national, and international, to more recently deployed scales like “third world” (King 2004; Confino & Skaria 2002; Lu 2011). Indian Ocean historians have also called for alternate temporal and scalar attitudes to history writing (Hofmeyr 2012, Menon 2020). Staying with this trend, recent endeavors in postcolonial urban and architectural theory have taken up the task of building theory from sites that lie beyond the Global North. Yet, the dominant sites of theory generation still largely remain globalized metropolitan centers, like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Kolkata (Bunnell and Maringanthi 2012). This panel seeks to go one step further by examining processes of urban transformation in rapidly developing small towns and regions that are not part of mainstream urbanization discourses, thus lying “outside the metropolitan shadow” (Mukhopadhyay et al. 2020: 582). As scholars have noted, such spaces have played an important role in mediating rural-urban migrations, creating economic growth, and displaying provincial cosmopolitan cultures (Chattopadhyay 2012; Scrace et al. 2015). This panel highlights the experience of ordinary places, artefacts, and everyday practices through case studies of lesser studied and theorized regions/cities/peripheries in South India, like Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Kochi, and Malappuram. The panel invites participants to engage with scalar concepts, theories, and methods within their own disciplines of Geography, Anthropology, Urban Planning/Studies, and Architecture, while reflecting on its larger implications for South Asian Studies.


Presenter 1
Thomas Oommen - thomas_oommen@berkeley.edu ()
The Labor of Belonging: Gulf Dream Houses, Non-citizens and the Grey Spaces of the Post Colonial Nation-Form

Presenter 2
Indivar Jonnalagadda - jonnali@miamioh.edu ()
Fait Accompli Regulation: Bureaucratic epistemologies, property relations, and scales of everyday governance in Hyderabad

Presenter 3
Ooha Uppalapati - ooha_uppalapati@berkeley.edu ()
Title: Inquiring into the sovereignty of a multi-scalar urban

Presenter 4
Siddharth Menon - ssmenon@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin Madison)
Migrant Workers, Labor Managers, and the Cultural Politics of Infrastructural Labor in Kochi, India


Women in Law Courts: Archives, Performance and Legibility
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Melina Gravier - melina.gravier@unil.ch (University of Lausanne)

Discussant / Chair
Rohit De - rohit.de@yale.edu (Yale University)

This panel examines women's engagement with early modern and modern law courts. In projecting sovereign authority, the court is commonly understood as a male-dominated arena structure by fixed rules and masculinist norms. In contrast centering women’s relationship to courts reorients our very understanding of law and legal authority. By delving into undervalued archives, developing new methodological tools, and addressing the gendered approaches of history writing, this panel not only seeks to reassess women’s role in shaping the court, but also to reframe how we view law itself. The court – understood as e.g., ʿadālat or kacaharī - unfolded plural realities and imaginaries of power. Rather than an immutable power structure, the panel engages the court as a variegated and protean space that women reinvested at different scales to assert their claims. From this perspective, we ask how women imagined and navigated official and nonofficial legal venues, not necessarily centered on the courtroom, to appeal to justice. What strategies did they develop to negotiate with legal authorities? The court is an arena of performance as well as of contestation. At the same time, law is an active category of discourses and debates. We therefore analyze how “courts” spatialized dialectical and dynamic fields of law and justice. As such, the discussion will investigate the language, material engagements, and positionalities that women used to define their rights when appealing to justice. The papers will also explore visual archives and gendered biographies of prominent feminine figures to reflect on how women’s presence in court and legal records interfaced with other spheres of representation. Finally, panelists will comment on the obstacles and possibilities for overcoming the problem of women’s invisibility in the archives, and hence in historical narratives. This panel is part of the project “Women and the Court: Space, Time and Power” (https://wp.unil.ch/womenandthecourt/).


Presenter 1
Nandini Chatterjee - nanchat13@gmail.com (University of Oxford)
Where were the women? Efforts to imagine women in and around Mughal courtrooms

Presenter 2
Julia Stephens - julia.stephens@rutgers.edu ()
Suitcase Snapshots: Tracing Kala Bagai Chandra’s Portraits of Migration between the US and India, and across Law, Media, and Family Archives

Presenter 3
Melina Gravier - melina.gravier@unil.ch (University of Lausanne)
Law Courts and Economic Rights in North Indian Women's Magazines

Presenter 4
Apurva Ashok Prasad - apurvap@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
She goes to court! Constructing authorship, authorial rights and reading publics in Mannu Bhandari vs. Kala Vikas Pictures (1985-86)


Institutional, Intellectual, and Ethical Issues in the Study of Sri Lanka from the West
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
John Rogers - rogersjohnd@aol.com (American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies)

Chair
John Rogers - rogersjohnd@aol.com (American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies)

This roundtable will discuss intellectual and ethical issues raised by the prominence of the West in the production of humanities and social science scholarship on Sri Lanka, a phenomenon that is related to broader imbalances in resources between the Global North and the Global South. In doing so, it will pay attention to the “positionality” of institutions and individuals -- their funding, their location, and their intended audiences -- in shaping scholarship and teaching. The session is prompted by the belief that despite structural constraints, self-critical awareness of positionality can lead to policies and practices that can produce better quality scholarship and can do so in more ethical ways. Speaker One is a senior historian who works for an American research institute concerned with Sri Lanka. He will review ways in which this organization, which is mostly funded by US government grants intended to bolster American expertise, also attempts to pursue broader goals. Speaker Two heads up the Sri Lankan branch of same research institute. She will reflect on some of the issues raised by operating an “American” organization in Sri Lanka. Speaker 3, a senior scholar in literature who recently left Sri Lanka to take up a position at an American university, will consider how his move has reshaped his scholarship and teaching. Speaker 4, a graduate student in religious studies, also recently left Sri Lanka for an American university. She will reflect on the intellectual disjunctions involved in moving to a program where Sri Lanka is of little concern. Speaker 5, a historian of the Indian Ocean, is a dual US-Sri Lankan citizen who has recently returned the United States after eight years based in other countries. She will reflect on how her different subject positions in various locations have shaped her research and teaching agendas.


Presenter 1
John Rogers - rogersjohnd@aol.com (American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies)
Presenter 2
Ramla Wahab-Salman - ramlaw.ails@gmail.com (American Institute for Lankan Studies)
Presenter 3
Harshana Rambukwella - harshana.rambukwella@nyu.edu (NYU Abu Dhabi)
Presenter 4
Phusathi Liyanarachchi - phusathi_liyanarachchi@hds.harvard.edu (Harvard Divinity School)
Presenter 5
tamara fernando - tamara.fernando@stonybrook.edu (SUNY Stony Brook)

Memory and Mourning: Navigating Trauma and Grief in Postcolonial South Asian Literature
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Muhammad Farooq - farooqm2@shu.edu (Seton Hall University)

Discussant / Chair
sameera abbas - abbas_sameera@yahoo.com (University at Buffalo)

This panel brings together scholarship on the synergies of memory and mourning with the postcolonial experience as represented in literature of South Asia. The four speakers at different stages of their career (from graduate students to university faculty) work in diverse yet intersectional areas of memory and mourning in the context of postcolonial South Asian literature. Speaker 1 discusses Shamsie’s Broken Verses to explore Pakistan’s state-imposed nationalist homogeneity at the expense of (dis)embodiment of women and erasure of other marginalized communities thus showing an intersectional relationship between state power and gender construction. Speaker 2 discusses Epar Ganga Opar Ganga (1995) and Tomb of Sand (2022) to show the intersectionality of gender, body, memory, and nation and unpack how violence creates a rupture in memory especially during the partition era. Speaker 3 discusses Roy’s Castaway Mountain explores loss and displacement of waste-pickers through the lens of toxic embodiments in India and how this disposable population mourns and copes up with their loss. Speaker 4 discusses Gauhar’s No Space for Further Burial to show how Gauhar's novel negotiates and contests the conventional spatial and macabre framing of Afghanistan as a "graveyard of empire" and instead underscores an intertwining human relationship of mutual vulnerability and interdependency. Together these speakers examine memory or the working of remembrance and forgetting in relation with questions of identity, loss, suffering, grief, nationhood, erasure, displacement, or resistance to authoritarianism. In doing so, they explore literary representations of the (dis)continuity of history as a record of loss and suffering that continues to inscribe collective, national and communal memory of most of South Asia today.


Presenter 1
sameera abbas - abbas_sameera@yahoo.com (University at Buffalo)
Shamsie’s Broken Verses: The Interplay of Homogeneity and Erasure through (Dis)Embodiment

Presenter 2
RAGINI CHAKRABORTY - raginic2@illinois.edu (University of Illinois, Urbana Champaugn)
Gender, Memory, Trauma: Women’s Narratives of Partition Violence

Presenter 3
Sriyanka Basak - sb00133@mix.wvu.edu ()
Living Death: Exploring Displacement and Disposability in Saumya Roy’s Castaway Mountain

Presenter 4
Muhammad Farooq - farooqm2@shu.edu (Seton Hall University)
Spatial Memory and Grievability in Gauhar's No Space for Further Burial


Multispecies South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Sreyashi Ray - rayxx356@umn.edu (University of Minnesota)

Discussant / Chair
Thakshala Tissera - ttissera@umass.edu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

A wide range of other-than-human subjects—animals, plants, microbes, among others—animate contemporary South Asian lived experiences. Relationships formed across species boundaries— whether brief or long-lasting, utilitarian or altruistic— are imbricated in the intersectional operations of race, caste, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and indigeneity. From quotidian instances of touching, witnessing, and other forms of interacting with other-than-human subjects to exceptional, contextually specific use of them to bolster anthropocentric concerns, the ubiquity of multispecies coexistence is uncontested. How can we rethink the political and ethical repercussions of multispecies interdependence in the contexts of interwoven social and environmental transformations? This panel interrogates the relevance of entanglement, enmeshment, co-constitution, and related analytical concepts to interpret the interconnections of human and nonhuman concerns in modern South Asia. It draws on a wide range of emergent theoretical frameworks from environmental humanities to address inequities characterizing South Asian social, cultural, and economic circumstances and redefines the ethics of multispecies relationality. This panel focuses on papers that interrogate these and related questions through literary and cinematic explorations of multispecies worldmaking across languages and genres in contemporary South Asia.


Presenter 1
Namrata Verghese - namratav@stanford.edu (Stanford University)
“The Flowers Bear Witness”: Queer Plant-Human Relationality in My Father’s Garden

Presenter 2
Thakshala Tissera - ttissera@umass.edu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Rethinking Entanglement: Poacher

Presenter 3
Sreyashi Ray - rayxx356@umn.edu (University of Minnesota)
Multispecies Kinship and the Politics of Worldmaking in S. Hareesh’s Moustache

Presenter 4
Abhirami A L - alabhirami@gmail.com (Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay)
Tracing the Transspecies Relationalities and Biocentric Storytelling Practices in the Works of Ambai


Book Discussion Roundtable- Afsar Mohammad's 'Remaking History: 1948 Police Action and the Muslims of Hyderabad'
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Anindita Ghosh - aghosh39@uic.edu (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Discussant / Chair
Anindita Ghosh - aghosh39@uic.edu (University of Illinois at Chicago)

The integration of the princely state of Hyderabad into India in 1948 is preceded by ‘one of the shortest, happiest wars ever seen’ (Mohammad, 6). Afsar Mohammad’s latest monograph ‘Revisiting History: 1948 Police Action and the Muslims of Hyderabad’ asks careful questions about the logistics of the integration of Hyderabad by mapping what preceded and succeeded the war. To rewrite a history inorder to showcase the unseen history of violence of a community that is buried in the national history of making a contiguous India, the monograph is a sincere effort to write through the lenses of the local community. The panel will discuss various underlying themes- the incorporation histories of the princely states of South Asia, ideas of nation formation in India, experiences of Muslim belongingness and Hindu- Muslim solidarities, people’s sovereignty in post colonial India, and scholarships on newer archives and non- archives in South Asia. The panel is also an effort to evoke more scholarship on issues of diversifying the understanding of Islam, accessing the regional literary and cultural tradition that emerged to process the violent history of the region rooted in the history of the incorporation of the princely states and recognizing overlapping sites multi- religion interactions.


Presenter 1
Afsar Mohammad - afsartelugu@gmail.com (University of Pennsylvania)
Author's vision of the monograph

Presenter 2
Benjamin Cohen - benjamin.cohen@utah.edu (University of Utah)
Situating Hyderabad in Afsar Mohammad’s Remaking History.

Presenter 3
Sunil Purushotham - spurushotham@fairfield.edu (Fairfield University)
The Police Action as event, rupture, experience, and memory in Afsar Mohammad’s Remaking History.

Presenter 4
Megan Robb - robbme@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Religion and the incorporation of Hyderabad.


Dalit and Totality: Representing the Limits of (un)democratic Life
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Manuela Ciotti - manuela.ciotti@univie.ac.at (University of Vienna )

Discussant / Chair
-

Artists have been recognized for their ability to represent totality – as opposed to the limits of contemporary social sciences – through literal or metaphorical cartographies mapping capitalism (Toscano 2012). Inspired by this theoretical approach to artistic production and social theory, this panel is informed by the realization that any critical theory of caste has engaged with ‘systems’ that are indeed totalizing whereby no discrete understanding of this social category is ever possible. On the other hand, even such systemic view has often occluded the possibility of envisioning broader totalities, that is caste-scapes manifesting in, shaping and speaking of broader worlds – and certainly beyond the usual colonial/postcolonial dialectics that is no longer able to contain or even explain such scapes. To rekindle the inquiry, this panel shifts the quest for the representation of totality from the sole focus on capitalism to broader concerns on how to inhabit (un)democracy and caste supremacy and authoritarianism in social life. Our papers consist of forays into the visual arts and technoscience to generate novel and granular cartographies aiming to disrupt not only savarna power (and its embeddedness within global capitalism) but also to illuminate the linkages with and similarities of this power’s operations with other contemporary projects of subjugation through and beyond their racializing dimensions. In particular, the papers address the representation of totality through the ways artistic practice and the analytic/medium of dirt unravel the deeper connection between dalit bodies and political life; photography’s affordances uncovering yet unspoken dimensions of caste in city spaces; the use of emergent digital media portraiture as a tool of dalit liberation that transcend caste and race; and by experimenting with engineering as a navigation compass to gauge the limits of radical humanism.


Presenter 1
Akhil Kang - ak2565@cornell.edu (Cornell University)
This is not dalit enough: exploring dirt and charcoal in anti-caste art

Presenter 2
Manuela Ciotti - manuela.ciotti@univie.ac.at (University of Vienna )
Interrogating the dalit image: luminous arguments on an emergent digital self-portraiture genre

Presenter 3
Ayesha Matthan - arm377@cornell.edu (Cornell University)
“Speculations on a Shirt”*: the photographic ecology of the working classes in Bombay/Mumbai/Bambai, 1970s-1990s

Presenter 4
Palashi Vaghela - pvaghela@ucsd.edu ()
Best friends?: The art of dalit hope and inter-caste intimacy in meritocratic worlds of technoscience


Director’s Cut: Generational Perspectives on Contemporary Urban Staging in India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Aparna Dharwadker - adharwadker@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Aparna Dharwadker - adharwadker@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

This panel will bring together a scholar of modern and contemporary Indian theatre (Speaker 1) with two leading contemporary theatre directors (Speaker 2 and Speaker 3) for an in-depth discussion of the director’s role in post-independence theatre, and the extent to which a neoliberal national economy has altered the conditions of performance and reception in urban India since the 1990s. Speaker 1 will establish the historical-cultural contexts for the fundamental reconceptualization of theatre direction that happened after 1950, and created the conditions under which four generations of directors have now practiced their art. In their papers, Speakers 2 and 3 will reflect on the gendered processes by which they positioned themselves in relation to their respective locations, languages, forms, and audiences across two generations. They will also address the shared values of cosmopolitanism as well as creativity across multiple mediums and areas of activity (theatre, film, television, photography, archival conservation, and publishing, to name some), offering suggestively complementary and contrasting perspectives on what it means to be a director in the post-independence Indian metropolis.


Presenter 1
Aparna Dharwadker - adharwadker@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
“’An Equal Music’: Playwrights, Directors, and Theatrical Space-Clearing After 1950”

Presenter 2
Amal Allana - amalallana@yahoo.com (The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts)
“Transformative Landscapes: Negotiating the Indian Metropolis”

Presenter 3
Mohit Takalkar - mrtakalkar@gmail.com (Independent Theatre Director)
“The National Reach of ‘Regional’ Theatre: One Director’s Response to the Millennial Moment”


Mediating Technologies and State: Histories of Regulation, Reproduction, and Contestation
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mattie Armstrong-Price - aarmstrongprice@fordham.edu (Fordham University )

Discussant / Chair
Leo Coleman - lc1049@hunter.cuny.edu (Hunter College, City University of New York)

This panel offers a historical analysis of constitutive engagements between the colonial and postcolonial state and a range of socio-technical systems and technological projects in India. The speakers collectively engage with a deliberately wide range of systems and technologies – including art and architecture, forensic science, the print media, and transportation – to understand not only how these were individually shaped by state institutions and actors but also to tease out comparative frameworks of state influence and regulation. In this same vein, they explore how these technologies were vibrant sites of social, political, and legal contestations and understand how such negotiations have materially shaped the historical impact of these technologies. In developing their analysis across the boundary of colonial and postcolonial, the speakers suggest the usefulness of a continuity and comparison in understanding technology and state relations in India across 1947. Speaker 1 traces how state officials and techniques of governance influenced relationships between labor and management in the sphere of railway technology, especially critical to state projects in the volatile years surrounding WWI. Speaker 2 parses how colonial judges and magistrates intervened in the production and use of forensic information during police inquiries and medical examinations in colonial India. Speaker 3 focuses on how ideas about a postcolonial democracy influenced the internationally-circulating representations of the technopolitical projects of the 1950s and 1960s, both then and now. Speaker 4 examines official regulation of newspaper production in postcolonial India to explore the more prosaic ways in which press freedom can be curtailed in practice and highlight the tension between abstract ideas of freedom and affirmative commitments to equity in a postcolonial democracy.


Presenter 1
Mattie Armstrong-Price - aarmstrongprice@fordham.edu (Fordham University )
The State Mediation of Railway Labor Relations After 1906

Presenter 2
Uponita Mukherjee - um2135@columbia.edu ()
Making Medico-legal Evidence in British India

Presenter 3
Leo Coleman - lc1049@hunter.cuny.edu (Hunter College, City University of New York)
Modernist Techno-Moral Imaginaries, Democracy, and South Asia: A Retrospect

Presenter 4
Ritika Prasad - rprasad2@uncc.edu (University of North Carolina, Charlotte)
Press Regulation in Postcolonial India: Censorship or Affirmative Freedom?


What is the matter with Bengal?: The Possible Futures of a Historiographic Field
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mou Banerjee - mbanerjee4@wisc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON)

Chair
Neilesh Bose - nbose@uvic.ca (University of Victoria)

(Part 2/2) Bengal as a field of scholarly analysis has dominated the field of South Asian historiography in US academia over the last 40 years. The range of scholarly discourse on Bengal has spanned methodologies of social, cultural and economic history. From the early 2000s there have been signal contributions to the transnational and broader Indian Ocean dimensions of this historiography, as well as rich explorations on the themes of feminist and gender histories of Bengal. More recently, a new group of historians have broadened the scope of our understanding of Bengal by expanding their analysis to post-1947, postcolonial Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, there have been recent pushbacks about the continued relevance of Bengal. Critiques have ranged from the issues of over-exploration and exhaustion of archives, repetitiveness, and paucity of new ideas. An important aspect of these critiques has been questions regarding the hegemonic dominance of elite upper-caste histories and historians. These critiques point out that an over-extended focus on the study of Bengal perhaps does a signal disservice to the nuanced understanding of South Asia as a historiographic field. This roundtable hopes to provide a moment of critical reflection and discussion about the state of the field of Bengal studies in the face of such critiques. The question, at the center of these discussions, is this – is Bengal exhausted as a space for scholarly exploration? What are the future that we might hope to see in our research?


Presenter 1
Ahona Panda - ahona.panda@claremontmckenna.edu (Claremont McKenna College)
Presenter 2
Nilanjana Paul - nilanjana.paul@utrgv.edu (UTRGV)
Presenter 3
Titas De Sarkar - titasdesarkar@gmail.com (University of Chicago)

Building the Empire: Global Histories of Indian Labour in the 19th and 20th Centuries
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Zaib un Nisa Aziz - aziz130@usf.edu (University of South Florida, Tampa)

Discussant / Chair
Zaib un Nisa Aziz - aziz130@usf.edu (University of South Florida, Tampa)

Over the past two decades, scholars have insisted on the significance of studying history of South Asia using global and transnational methods. This panel responds to such scholarly provocations by bringing together advanced graduate students and early career scholars working on the various circulations of South Asia labour across the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The British imperial project necessitated and created the conditions for the movements of different types of labour across its empire and beyond. Indians toiled as indentured laborers in sugar colonies in the Caribbean and rubber plantations in Malaya, built trains in Uganda and Kenya, lumbered in the forests of Canada and worked on ships across oceans. Economic hardship and political instability drove communities to migration across the Indian Ocean. While varied in temporal and geographical focus, the papers are all concerned with the political aspects of labour migration. We are interested in how colonial and postcolonial governments categorized and managed migrant labour. At the same time, this panel will consider how labour communities organized resistance and the intersection of their struggles with questions of caste, gender and nationalism. The panel will shed light on the how diasporic labour communities variously influenced and informed debates on imperial subjecthood, national belonging and eventually on modern citizenship during this long period.


Presenter 1
Kelvin Ng - k.ng@yale.edu (Yale University)
Vernacular Equality: Tamil Migration and the Labor Question in Colonial Malaya, 1920–1940

Presenter 2
Jonathan Connolly - jsc1@uic.edu ()
Indenture as Free Labor: Indian Labor Migration and the History of Emancipation in the British Empire

Presenter 3
Mahishan Gnanaseharan - mahishan@stanford.edu (Stanford University)
Caste and Labor Migrations Between Madras and British Ceylon during the 19th and 20th Centuries

Presenter 4
Naina Manjrekar - manjrekar.naina@gmail.com ()
Lascars in unlikely places? Mobility, Encounter and Transformation, 1900-1950.


Does Early Nyāya Defend Non-conceptual Perception?
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Nils Seiler - seilern@unm.edu (University of New Mexico)

Theories of non-conceptual and conceptual perception play an integral role in the history of South Asian philosophy across traditions. Notably, the 10th century Nyāya philosopher Vācaspati Miśra interprets the definition of perception at Nyāyasūtra (NS) 1.1.4 as endorsing a two-level theory of perception in which non-conceptual and conceptual forms of perception play a role. Yet, as Pradyot Mondal (1982) makes clear, Vācaspati’s interpretation is not supported by the oldest extant commentator on the NS, namely Vātsyāyana (c. 5th century). Nevertheless, Mondal maintains that NS 1.1.4 is consistent with both non-conceptual and conceptual theories of perception. In this paper, I argue that there is no endorsement of non-conceptual perception in NS 1.1.4. or in Vātsyāyana. I use this absence as an opportunity to consider whether non-conceptual perception is even desirable in early Nyāya. To do this, I consider the Nyāya notion that perceptual experience must be undesignatable (avyapadeśya) and show that this is not a condition for perceptual knowledge. In other words, whether a given perceptual experience is designatable has no bearing on its being a perception. From here I argue that the possibility of perception without language establishes non-conceptual perceptual experience only if concept application requires language. But, as Mondal and others have pointed out, language is not required from conceptualization according to Nyāya. So, there is at least room for the possibility of conceptual, yet undesignated, perceptual experience. Combining this fact with the noted absence of the notion of non-conceptuality in the earliest literature, I argue that there is no reason to suppose that non-conceptual perception is defended in early Nyāya. In fact, I argue that Nyāya theories of perception are better accounted for if we deny the possibility of non-conceptual perception following Arindam Chakrabarti (2000).


Analyzing Eschatology, Theology, and Technology Through Religious Polemics in 20th Century India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Muhammad Souman Elah - soumanelah99@g.ucla.edu (UCLA)

This paper analyzes a polemical text written by Sanaullah Amritsari (1868-1948), a famous Ahl-i Hadith scholar, on the “wonders” of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). ʾAjāibāt-i Mirzā (Wonders of Mirza) was published in 1933 and hence is well situated in times of immense religious competition not only between different religious traditions such as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, or Buddhism but also in different rivalries within Islam. With improved communication networks under British colonial rule, these religious firms found a space to engage with each other through religious polemics that took place in the form of verbal public debates or textual criticism of each other’s traditions or strands within Islam. I argue that Amritsari’s polemical text, ʾAjāibāt-i Mirzā, connects Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claims regarding eschatology, theology, and technology in times of the fragmentation of Muslim religious authority and with the rise of improved communication services. The notion of the end of times (eschatology) is directly linked to the emergence of the messianic/mahdī/prophetic figure that acts as a savior (theology). For this eschatology and theology to spread its message to save the people in general, or Muslims in particular, they need technology and that is where the takmīl-i ishā’at (completion of spread) notion of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claims become pertinent. By connecting eschatology, theology, and technology, the text does not only presents itself as a short accessible Urdu text that dismisses Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claims as a messiah, mahdī, and prophet but it also has an educational purpose where it adds to one understanding of the Ahmadi movement itself. It addresses particularly Ahmadis, Christians, and Muslims who were influenced by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s claims.


Brahmanical Philosophy in the Shadow of Buddhism
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Nathan McGovern - nmcgovern@uww.edu (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)

This paper takes as a starting point a surprising set of facts: The Nyāyasūtra and Vaiśeṣikasūtra, which present novel systems of epistemology and ontology not based in Brahmanical scripture, date from the first and second centuries CE, Conversely, the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra and Sāṃkhyakārikā, which are based on a series of metaphors, speculations, and associated categories with roots in the Upaniṣads and explored more fully in the Mahābhārata, date from the fourth and fifth centuries BCE. I argue that this curious set of dates, which is seemingly backwards, is due to the dominance of Buddhism during what I call the “Śākya Age”—roughly the period from the time of Aśoka until the foundation of the Gupta empire. The foundational Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika texts reflect the weaker position Brahmanism found itself in during the Śākya Age: They sought to defend Brahmanical realism against Buddhist idealism using logical tools that could be accepted by both parties and without recourse to the Brahmanical scriptures that were not accepted as authoritative by the Buddhists. The situation then changed with the foundation of the Gupta empire: Brahman intellectuals were put into positions of power, and the general imaginary of the Mahābhārata was adopted by state actors through their inscriptions and temple establishments. This in turn prompted new systematic texts on Yoga and Sāṃkhya, inspired by but in important ways deviating from the epic thematization of these terms and associated categories. The Yogaśāstra and Sāṃkhyakārikā, through their return to Brahmanical scriptural categories, represent a newfound freedom from Buddhist intellectual hegemony; at the same time, through their innovations they represent a need to challenge, “internally,” as it were, the newfound hegemony of the Mahābhārata imaginary.


Women's Speech and Its Unspoken Implications: A Man's View of the Women's Quarters
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Rushnae Kabir - rukabir@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania )

The Lughat un-nisa is a dictionary of women’s speech (begumāti zubān), compiled by Syed Ahmad Dehlavi, a lexicographer and scholar of Urdu, in 1917. An employee of the University of Punjab, Dehlavi belonged to an emerging class of Muslim men who aspired to a ‘respectable’ (ashrāf) status through cultivating appropriate behavioral norms (adab). Begumāti zubān is a dialect of spoken Urdu specific to the women’s quarters (zenānā) in north Indian Muslim households. Considered idiomatic, unchaste and strongly influenced by Hindi, women’s speech by the late nineteenth century had become the subject of considerable concern for Muslim reformists. At the same time, reformist writings in this period were strongly influenced by an ethnographic impulse, which sort to document and preserve such remnants of a past that was looked at with profound nostalgia. Syed Ahmad Dehlavi’s project was similarly caught between these two impulses. For instance, his exposition of the scope of the work explicitly identifies women’s speech as emerging out of “feminine superstitious beliefs worthy of correction” (qābil-i islāh zenāneh tohmāt aur ‘aqīd). Simultaneously, he states that his dictionary is a “treasure” (khazāna) and that begumāti zubān is “historic” (tārikhi). Through a close reading of the dictionary, this paper will explore this tension between the ethnographic and reformist impulses. In doing so, it will call attention to how Muslim womanhood and the supposedly pristine space of the zenānā was conceptualized by reformist men. In particular, it will focus on customs and material conditions associated with this space and highlight the ways in which its distinctiveness from the world of men was emphasized. Lastly, it will utilize a history of emotions approach to interrogate the construction of women as peculiarly emotional, which is evidenced by the number of terms that refer to heightened states of emotion.


Scalability, Commodity Liveliness, and Difference: Recent Transformations in South Asian Economies, Environments, and Politics
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Anabelle Suitor - anabelle_suitor@brown.edu (Brown University)

Chair
Dolly Kikon - dkikon@ucsc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ)

What is lost or gained as commodities move from the scale of the artisanal to the industrial, the marginal to the national? This roundtable follows Anna Tsing’s (2012) attention to scalability and the later identification of a Plantationocene (Haraway 2015) as an era defined by the “remarkable speed and scale” of industrial agricultural and food production (Barua, Martin, Achtnich 2023). The discussants in this roundtable focus on commodity chains that are associated with minority difference and marginality, but are deeply significant to the workings of nation-making. We look at how the scaling-up of commodity production due to state policy, local politics, international development, and community resistance transforms agrarian and urban environments, land, sea, and river-scapes. We explore how changes to traditional and modern agrarian orders (also including their effects on farming, forestry, and fishing) eventually spill over into the realm of the political. We are particularly interested in commodities that are or were once living: animals, plants, and their byproducts. This liveliness is significant as we consider these commodities possessive of their own unexpected agencies, decisive with the demands of their consumers or the labors of their suppliers. We read the scaling-up of these economies alongside movements of majoritarianism, as a drive towards the death of difference, the destruction of multi-species lives and landscapes, and the attempt to make the natural mirror the industrial. This roundtable generates dialogue amongst different research contexts in jute, rubber, and silkworm plantations in northeast India, teak production in Malabar, grain and fisheries transformation and commercialization in northwestern Nepal and Chittagong, Bangladesh respectively.


Presenter 1
Radhika Moral - radhika_moral@brown.edu (Brown University )
Presenter 2
Aparajita Majumdar - am2885@cornell.edu
Presenter 3
Urna Mukherjee - umukher1@jhu.edu
Presenter 4
Logan Emlet - logan.emlet@yale.edu (Yale University)
Presenter 5
Ayan Sharma - kxj4rn@virginia.edu
Presenter 6
Anabelle Suitor - anabelle_suitor@brown.edu (Brown University)

Imperiled States and Risky Bodies, Part 2 of 2: Rethinking Value in South Asia and Beyond
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 6: Friday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Mythri Jegathesan - mjegathesan@scu.edu (Santa Clara University)

Discussant / Chair
Mythri Jegathesan - mjegathesan@scu.edu (Santa Clara University)

A question haunts South Asianists of various persuasions: How do we account for, explain, or theorize the sustained presence of divisive politics amidst rising inequality and multiple crises, including ecological ones? This double panel turns to the framework of ‘value’ to speak directly to the many dimensions of that question. Our conceptualizations of value seek to go beyond conceiving value either in terms of holism (Structuralist/Structural functionalist/Agambenian totalizations) or exclusively via a materialist ontology (Marxist surplus/ Need Economy). Rather, we foreground genealogies that intertwine power, agency, governance, and coloniality to produce and reproduce imperiled states, threatened environments, and risky bodies. We want to look at the complications, co-productions, interleaving, and encapsulations that bring the local, regional, and global together. The value optic we propose is contentious, relational, and differential. Its ambit expands laterally with desires, intimacies, aspirations, flights, and deterritorializations. Its optic also operates hierarchically in governance, policies, empires, disciplines, extractions, expropriations, and distinctions. More extensive processes or nuanced totalities and material dimensions of life often remain sublimated in the contentious, cooperative, and exploitative relations through which technologies, calculations, evaluations, and creditworthiness shape orientations and imaginations of the past, present, and future at diverse registers. To enable us to rethink and reimagine value through these various contingencies, we will focus on/hone down on the performative dimension of the multifarious evaluative practices undergirding the dispersed political responses to glaring inequalities and impending crises. The second part of the panel ‘Negotiating Worth and Imagining Possibilities' focuses on colonial and contemporary engagements with market, money, and technology and their implications for imagining and negotiating worth, valor, and possibilities at various junctures. The papers discuss the valorization of indigenous and martial identities, the making of the market, and playfulness of the subjugated to nurture hope at times of despair.


Presenter 1
Kath Weston - weston@virginia.edu (University of Virginia)
How to Make a Market: Colonial Attempts to Establish Exchange Relations with Adivasis in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Presenter 2
Meghna Chaudhuri - mchaudhuri@davidson.edu (Davidson College)
National Political Economy and Swadeshi in the Interwar Era

Presenter 3
Arif Hayat Nairang - hayatarif@gmail.com (NYU-Shanghai)
Laughing with the Screens: Surprising Surplus of Laughter in Rural South Kashmir

Presenter 4
Debarati Sen - debarati9@gmail.com (University of Houston)
Subnational Enterprise: Militarization, Community Mobilization and the Political of Value among Indian Gorkhas


The Seed is the Spinning Wheel of our Time”: The Role of Analogy in Vandana Shiva’s Ecological Gandhian Activism
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Courtney Averkamp - caa8em@virginia.edu (University of Virginia)

Internationally recognized anti-GMO and environmental activist Vandana Shiva has drawn from a variety of frameworks for communicating the worldview that underlies her work, including ecofeminism, her own philosophy of Earth Democracy, and Gandhianism. Shiva (2014) has said that “[m]y inspiration for saving seeds came from Gandhi’s spinning wheel, through which he fought the British Empire nonviolently. Another inspiration from Gandhi is the salt satyagraha, through which Gandhi refused to cooperate with salt laws that made salt a monopoly of the British.” This comparison of seed to spinning wheel and salt offers a glimpse into the logic that underlies Shiva’s particular brand of ecology-oriented Gandhianism. When she makes this connection, what she means goes far beyond a crude or one-off comparison. The seed as an analog of the spinning wheel opens the door to a total system of parallels, correspondences, and equivalencies that Shiva adamantly draws between India’s freedom struggle and her present-day fight against the genetic modification and patenting of organisms. Farah Godrej (2012) has observed that “[c]ontemporary environmental movements by and large over-emphasize the self-abnegating, self-denying and self-scrutinizing ascetic components of Gandhi’s thought, to the neglect of the confrontational and warrior-like ones,” which consequently has led to an overemphasis on ethical patterns of consumption (or anti-consumption) rather than political action. Shiva, however, stands as a counterexample to this observation. Her extensive borrowing and enactment of Gandhian symbols, terminology, and methods has tended to err on the side of the “warrior-like,” in general disregarding Gandhi’s more ascetic practices like fasting and celibacy. This presentation will explore the extent of Shiva’s Gandhian analogizing and argue that it is Shiva’s ecofeminism, combined with her general emphasis on food and abundance, that renders her overarching worldview less amenable to the ascetic aspects of Gandhian thought.


Gloria Steinem's Indian Odyssey: Shaping a Feminist Icon in the Cold War Era, 1957-1959.
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Rashida Shafiq - rshafiq@smu.edu (Southern Methodist University )

This paper argues that Gloria Steinem's transformative experiences in India from 1957 to 1959 played a pivotal role in shaping her identity as a feminist icon and global activist. Her feminist politics today owe much to her inaugural trip to India, where she actively participated in grassroots activism, notably joining the land donation or Bhoodan Movement at the Radical Humanist Camp. She learned that democracy hinges on individual self-reliance, and she formed enduring relationships with distinguished Indian feminists like Devaki Jain and Ela Bhatt, who broadened her understanding of transnational feminism. Despite the abundance of memoirs and biographies about her, this particular phase of Gloria Steinem's life has received limited attention in the historiography of feminist biographies. I address this gap by examining Steinem's life and activism in India from 1957 to 1959, which offers valuable insights into Steinem's lasting impact, the complexities of the Cold War era, and the nuances of grassroots activism. Understanding Gloria Steinem's transformative experiences in India from 1957 to 1959 is crucial because it reveals the origins of her feminist ideology and activism. Her time in India influenced her views on democracy, grassroots activism, and transnational feminism, and provides insight into Steinem's legacy as a global feminist icon. Steinem's Indian experiences shaped her later contributions to the Women's Rights Movement, and this research challenges the myth of American feminist exceptionalism. Steinem states, "...going from village to village with Vinoba Bhave's followers and learning about Gandhian activism, probably helped me to become what I am today... if you want to know how people live; if you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them. ...I learned that in India." This transformative experience in India shaped her perceptions of herself, women, politics, and social movements.


Between Right and History: Truth and the Limits of Solidarity in the South African Satyagraha, 1902-1914
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Kanha Prasad - kanhaprasad01@gmail.com (University of Minnesota - Twin Cities)

Following the Second Boer Wars (1899-1902), South Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century was a society riven by internal conflict amongst populations that either claimed belonging to the land—as white settlers and African natives—or traversed it as ‘Asiatic’ migrants and indentured laborers across the imperial space. For non-indentured Indians and other intermediary settler populations designated as ‘Asiatics’, claims to citizenship based on historical conquest or belonging were not available. Instead, these Indians often resorted to their status as ‘free’ and ‘equal’ subjects of the British empire—as ordained in documents such as Queen Victoria’s 1858 proclamation—to claim their rights to free press, movement, trade, and ownership (if not yet to vote). Discriminatory efforts by the Boer colonies to strip Indians of these rights, and the imperial government’s failure to protect them, eventually led Indians to launch a passive resistance movement to reclaim them. In this context, M.K. Gandhi made fidelity to the Truth (satyagraha) the movement’s guiding principle, alongside the disobedience of laws that could only claim the brute-force of the majority race as their authority. At the same time, Gandhi strictly enforced its deployment to the struggle for rights of the free (mostly Gujarati) male settlers, only gradually and reluctantly allowing Tamil and Telegu indentured laborers and Indian women to become its agents. Africans and other ‘Asiatic’ communities remained excluded from this vision of solidarity. In this article, I hope to trace Gandhi’s reluctance in this respect to his more general distrust of ‘racial’ and majoritarian principles of self-government in favor of a caste-based regime of dispersed truth.


Religious Revolutions and Literary Disruptions in Purāṇic Retellings
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Lawrence McCrea - ljm223@cornell.edu (Cornell University)

Discussant / Chair
Lawrence McCrea - ljm223@cornell.edu (Cornell University)

The rise of Śiva and Kṛṣṇa marks a religious revolution in Hinduism, displacing the older Vedic gods and embodying new ideals and ritual systems. This revolution, in which upstart divinities vie for status against older powers, manifests in various texts in multiple languages. This panel explores religious innovation through conscious literary experimentation in diverse genres. These retellings are not mere repetitions, but represent deliberate interventions advancing or restraining theological shifts through specific narrative and aesthetic techniques. Speaker 1's paper examines the retelling of Kṛṣṇa’s childhood adventures in Nandi Timmana’s Telugu Pārijātāpaharaṇamu, recasting well-known tales of God’s toddlerhood in high-end prosodical forms and striking citra-kāvya idiom with distinct religio-aesthetic effects. Speaker 2's paper addresses a Javanese retelling of the famous story of Śiva and Pārvatī’s love. In contrast to both Purāṇic and Kāvya versions, here not only is Kāma, the love god whom Śiva burns to ashes, the protagonist, he is also at the center of a Tantric cult that combines South Asian and local ideals with a new aesthetic at its center. Speaker 3 deals with the evolution of the story of Kṛṣṇa lifting Mount Govardhana as consciously thematizing a religious revolution from the Harivaṃśa, with its kāvya-like style, and the more prosaic Viṣṇupurāṇa, to the again highly poetic Bhāgavatapurāṇa, each text with its distinct context and theology. Finally, Speaker 4's paper deals with the same story in the Yādavābhyudaya, the poetic biography of Kṛṣṇa by Vedānta Deśika, the “lion among poets and philosophers.” Here Deśika once again turns things around deliberately, through imagery, artistic technique, narrative sequence, and new religious ideals (now those of the Śrīvaiṣṇava community). Taken together, the papers investigate the religious and aesthetic mechanism of diverse Purāṇic retellings, in Sanskrit, Telugu, and Old Javanese texts, in South and Southeast Asia.


Presenter 1
Harshita Mruthinti Kamath - harshita.kamath@emory.edu (Emory University)
Praising God in Wondrous Ways: Retelling Stories of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in Classical Telugu

Presenter 2
Danielle Chen Kleinman - danielle.chen@mail.huji.ac.il (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Śiva and Kāma Rewritten: Religious Innovation in the Kakawin Smaradahana

Presenter 3
Lawrence McCrea - ljm223@cornell.edu (Cornell University)
Indra of the Cows: The Govardhana Episode in Indian Religious History

Presenter 4
Yigal Bronner - yigal.bronner@mail.huji.ac.il (Hebrew University)
Turning Things Upside Down: The Govardhana Episode Recaptured in Vedānta Deśika’s Poetic Biography of Kṛṣṇa


A New Political Regime? Assessing the Significance of the 2024 General Election in India
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Gilles Verniers - gverniers@amherst.edu (Amherst College)

Chair
Tariq Thachil - thachil@sas.upenn.edu

In 2014, Narendra Modi became the 15th prime minister of India since independence. His political rise enabled the BJP to secure the first single-party parliamentary majority since 1984, inaugurating a new era in Indian politics. Its re-election in 2019 emboldened it to pursue its Hindu nationalist agenda with greater intensity. On the eve of the 2024 general election, the BJP is poised to return to power, cementing a decade in office. The establishment of a new party system has given birth to a political regime that may decisively transform India’s original constitutional order. What explains BJP’s dominance and the capacity of some opposition parties and social movements to resist over the last decade? How should we assess the record of the Modi government in various policy domains, from economic development and social welfare to foreign policy? What impact has the concentration of power under Modi had on civil society, institutions, the wider public sphere, and Centre-state and state-business relations? Why has Narendra Modi remained popular and been able to attract the support of marginalized groups despite jobless growth and growing communal violence? Finally, does the outcome of the 2024 general election deepen these preceding trends or signal changes in their trajectory? The five speakers in this roundtable have complementary areas of expertise, covering public policy, state capacity, Centre-state relations, electoral politics, party systems, the politics of welfare, state institutions, voter behavior, state-business relations, the political economy of industrialization, and international trade, and foreign policy. They will address these questions and assess their ramifications for democracy, welfare, and citizenship in India amid its search for great power status in the evolving international order. We anticipate that our views will generate areas of consensus and disagreement, setting the stage for broader deliberation with the audience.


Presenter 1
Yamini Aiyar - yaiyar@gmail.com
Presenter 2
Gilles Verniers - gverniers@amherst.edu (Amherst College)
Presenter 3
Sanjay Ruparelia - ruparelia@ryerson.ca (Ryerson University)
Presenter 4
Aseema Sinha - aseema.sinha@cmc.edu (Claremont McKenna College)
Presenter 5
Tariq Thachil - thachil@sas.upenn.edu

Democratizing Language and Culture Instruction
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Divya Chaudhry - divya.chaudhry@vanderbilt.edu (Vanderbilt University)

Discussant / Chair
Divya Chaudhry - divya.chaudhry@vanderbilt.edu (Vanderbilt University)

The current panel showcases the critical role of learner voices in democratizing language and culture instruction within North American post-secondary institutions. Through four presentations across various public and private university contexts in the United States and Canada, the panel offers practical strategies for fostering student engagement, advocating for the value of language skills in career development, and reimagining language curriculum to center student voices. Speaker 1 focuses on a specific pedagogical approach in South Asian studies non-language courses, highlighting the importance of student-generated discussion questions to foster critical thinking and active participation. It provides a foundational understanding of student-centered pedagogy, which serves as a precursor to the broader themes explored in the subsequent abstracts. Speaker 2 calls for a critical re-evaluation and redesign of curricular materials through the lens of social justice, with the overall goal of empowering learners as agents of social change. Speaker 3 delves into the practical implications of language advocacy in career development. It demonstrates how undergraduate students can articulate the value of their language skills, further emphasizing the importance of empowering students to advocate for themselves in various contexts. Speaker 4 offers a broader perspective on the challenges facing language programs in higher education and proposes innovative solutions through digital storytelling. Ultimately, the panel seeks to inspire educators to prioritize student voices in curriculum and instruction and offers several pathways to do so.


Presenter 1
Sunil Bhatt - sunil.bhatt@ubc.ca ()
Promoting Critical Thinking through Student-Generated Discussion Questions

Presenter 2
Divya Chaudhry - divya.chaudhry@vanderbilt.edu (Vanderbilt University)
Empowering Learners Through Social Justice-Informed Hindi-Urdu Instruction

Presenter 3
Lydia Odegard - lodegard@wisc.edu (UW Madison)
Leading with Languages Through An Undergraduate Career Development Course

Presenter 4
Sai Bhatawadekar - saib@hawaii.edu (University of Hawaii at Manoa)
Digital Storytelling: New Subjectivities in Diverse Language-Worlds


Heritage and Historic Cities in South Asia: Playground of “Democracy” and “Authority”
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Amita Sinha - amitasinha12@hotmail.com (Former Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)

Discussant / Chair
Amita Sinha - amitasinha12@hotmail.com (Former Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)

South Asian cities, particularly those representing a palimpsest of rich histories and cultural traditions have witnessed significant growth and transformations in recent decades. All kinds of places at all spatial scales – sacred landscapes, institutional campuses, historic capitals, temple-towns, and ancient archaeological sites have transformed in some or the other way due to political and social forces. On one hand, there is burgeoning tourism which is seen as a democratic force (where people are free to do what they want to) that is contributing quite dramatically to the alterations in cultural landscapes. On the other hand, authoritative forces in form of state-sponsored projects tend to simultaneously build new layers and erase older layers in the name infrastructural developments. In historic holy cities, such as Vrindavan, Banaras, Ujjain, and Puri, the informal economy of religious rituals intersects in many ways with the increasing formal economy of tourism enterprises and tourist services. One could say that the new Rama temple in Ayodhya, Kashi-Vishwanath Corridor redevelopment, Jallianwala Bagh redesign in Amritsar - are symptomatic of how state authority is being used to redefine what heritage is and what it will mean for the future generations. Although democratic in appearance, it is apparent that state is preserving selective heritage and, in the process, erasing other layers such as those in case of Amer. These concerns become even more acute in pilgrim-towns and designated holy-heritage cities that are repositories of exceptional natural, religious, and cultural heritage. The proposed panel aims to explore both the exercise of state authority and the democratic entrepreneurial efforts in preserving cultural heritage and heritage tourism in India.


Presenter 1
Divay Gupta - divaygupta@gmail.com ()
The 'Varanasi Template': Neo-Hinduism and perils of heritage conservation

Presenter 2
Amita Sinha - amitasinha12@hotmail.com (Former Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)
Crafts and Cultural Tourism at Shantiniketan, India

Presenter 3
Kiran Shinde - k.shinde@latrobe.edu.au (La Trobe University)
Power play in heritage management: A critical analysis of government schemes for historic cities in India

Presenter 4
Sanjeev Vidyarthi - svidy@uic.edu (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Learning from planned interventions around Amer in the 21st century: What happened and how?


Sex, Love aur Dhoka, Yaar: Theorizing the Politics of Desire in Contemporary India
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Radhika Govindrajan - rgovind@uw.edu (University of Washington)

Chair
Srimati Basu - srimati.basu@uky.edu (University of Kentucky)

This roundtable brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars across fields and career stages who each address broader questions of errant desire and subjectivity through ethnographic, textual, and visual sources. Our conversation will focus on how desire emerges through and intersects with dominant/feminist/queer narratives about State, sexuality, law, majoritarianism, caste, religion, and community. Each speaker will contribute to this conversation through a brief reflection on their own research. Speaker 1, an anthropologist and artist, highlights broken hearted dalit women and queers, people whose lives collapse not only because their (upper-caste) lovers are their world, but also because they are painfully aware of the cruelty of this world. Relatedly, through an engagement with the everyday lifeworlds of kotis who grapple with what it means to desire structures that threaten to negate their beings, Speaker 2, a scholar of gender and sexuality studies, asks whether it should be the minoritized subject’s burden to be an exemplar of resistance. Speaker 3, an anthropologist, situates Hindu supremacist conspiracy theories about “love jihad” within a longer history of anxieties about desire across religious boundaries in the state of Uttarakhand. Speaker 4, based in gender studies and anthropology, looks at desires that disrupt marriage by juxtaposing anti-feminist men’s rights groups call for a marriage strike, feminist groups’ mocking responses, and wives’ logic of the good life revealed in desires/claims in legal filings and media texts. Speaker 5, a legal scholar writing on popular culture, contemplates the queer possibility of asexual amity or the desire for non-desire, based on popular visual sites. Speaker 6, a visual anthropologist, uses the example of Punjabi masculinity, as a process laden with pervasive patriarchal and state violence, to show nonetheless that young men simultaneously develop a shared vocabulary of desire and eroticism through intimate homosocial relationships and fraternal love.


Presenter 1
Akhil Kang - ak2565@cornell.edu (Cornell University)
Presenter 2
Sayan Bhattacharya - sayanb@umd.edu (University of Maryland at College Park: University of Maryland)
Presenter 3
Radhika Govindrajan - rgovind@uw.edu (University of Washington)
Presenter 4
Swethaa Ballakrishnen - sballakrishnen@law.uci.edu (University of California Irvine)
Presenter 5
Harjant Gill - hgill@towson.edu (Towson University )
Presenter 6
Srimati Basu - srimati.basu@uky.edu (University of Kentucky)

The Ethics and Politics of Care in Contemporary Sri Lanka: Contradictions and Dilemmas
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Asha Abeyasekera - asha.abeyasekera@york.ac.uk (University of York)

Discussant / Chair
Julia Kowalski - julia.kowalski@nd.edu (University of Notre Dame)

Care is ubiquitous and multidimensional encompassing an array of practices, conditions, and sentiments. It constitutes emotional and material labour that sustains life, maintains community, and is indispensable to social reproduction. Care is a gendered practice, a relational process, an agentive feeling, and affect rooted in habits and ritual of the everyday. Care is an institutionalised practice and an infrastructure essential for maintaining the wellbeing of nation-states. Care is also an approach to research that is deeply engaged. Recently, anthropologists have called for the ‘troubling of care’ by going beyond the mapping of life-sustaining ecologies. They call for the careful investigation of how care produces bonds, but also reproduces social hierarchies and performs exclusions through repression and control. Feminist scholars are reimagining care as an antidote for the ‘culture of carelessness’ that grips contemporary societies, proposing care as a radical alternative for reorganising kinship, community, the state, and the world’s political economy. The aim of this panel is to examine the meanings, practices, and potentialities of care in the context of Sri Lanka. By focusing on four ethnographic, person-centred research studies in Southern and Central Sri Lanka, it foregrounds care as an analytic category to examine care across its dilemmas, contradictions, problematics, and potential as a social process, an institutional practice, and an ethical orientation in research. We ask: What are the materialities, ethics, and performative politics of care? How is care imagined in and contingent upon institutional contexts? How do everyday caring practices respond to global events and economic crises? How does adopting care as an approach to research trouble the current research climate focused on minimising risk? How can care as an ethical principle and political practice speak to the on-going political and socio-economic crisis in Sri Lanka?


Presenter 1
Bambi Chapin - bchapin@umbc.edu (UMBC)
Everyday Acts of Care as Relationship Work in Central Sri Lanka

Presenter 2
Michele Gamburd - gamburdm@pdx.edu (Portland State University)
Elder care and financial crisis in Sri Lanka: Intergenerational obligations and international migration

Presenter 3
Jeanne Marecek - jmarece1@swarthmore.edu (Swarthmore College)
Modes and Morals of Hospital Care for Suicidal Acts in Sri Lanka

Presenter 4
Asha Abeyasekera - asha.abeyasekera@york.ac.uk (University of York)
Ethics of Care in Ethnographic Fieldwork: Responding to Crises


The Question of Belonging: Contesting Authoritarianism through Contemporary Indian Literatures
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Tapaswinee Mitra - tmitra@umd.edu (University of Maryland-College Park)

Chair
Tapaswinee Mitra - tmitra@umd.edu (University of Maryland-College Park)

The speakers of this roundtable are animated by the pressing question of the role of literature in the face of rising authoritarianism in South Asia, especially India. We are thinking about the question of belonging in the wake of anti-democratic and authoritarian politics in India and the ongoing struggles against them: (1) the implementation of the religion-based Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the Muslim women-led protests that followed; (2) developmental projects such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the displacement crisis it ensued, and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement); (3) state intervention and the politics of reservation in the Gorkhaland movement, making the Indian Nepali community’s sense of belonging as Indian citizens increasingly precarious. In our roundtable, we are asking how our continued and overlapping struggles against caste, gender, ethnic, and religion-based discrimination are intimately tied to the question of who belongs to the nation-state. How can we leverage the subversive potential of literature to critically engage with the exclusionary politics of belonging? We will bring an array of literature to the table, ranging from Nausheen Khan’s award-winning 2023 documentary, Land of My Dreams (Speaker 1), Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (2006) (Speaker 2), Orijit Sen’s graphic novel River of Stories (2022) (Speaker 3), and graphic narratives such as Bhimayana (2011) (Speaker 4), to critically discuss how these works of literature and art address the question of belonging vis-à-vis gender, religion, ethnicity, and caste in South Asia, and the techniques they employ to grapple with some of these persistent catastrophes (Speaker 5).


Presenter 1
Soumi Ganguly - soumi.ganguly@gwmail.gwu.edu (George Washington University)
Presenter 2
Priyanka Sharma - priyanka.sharma@gwmail.gwu.edu (George Washington University, Washington D.C.)
Presenter 3
Anu Sugathan - asugatha@uoregon.edu (University of Oregon)
Presenter 4
Leenu Sugathan - leenusugathan@gwu.edu (George Washington University)
Presenter 5
Tapaswinee Mitra - tmitra@umd.edu (University of Maryland-College Park)

Examining Political Affect and its Mutations in Modern India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
MAGNA MOHAPATRA - mmohapatra@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
MAGNA MOHAPATRA - mmohapatra@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)

The territory of India has been marked by not just the history of colonialism but also its modern, “democratic” structure of governance. Much of the studies of political history claim the Enlightenment principles of reason, rationality, secularism and democracy as hallmarks of political foundations of colonial regimes, bourgeoise modern capitalist regimes and their “post-”s. As per Ann Stoler (1995), “Students of the colonial consistently have argued that the authority to designate what would count as reason and reasonable was colonialism’s most insidious and effective technology of rule – one that, in turn, would profoundly affect the style and strategies of anticolonial, nationalist politics”. In studying the authority and praxis postcolonial politics in India, one cannot ignore the influence of the ideologies of coloniality and modernity on the social-political affective dimensions of everyday living. As William Mazzarella (2019) emphasizes, any ideological formation has to be affective in order to be effective. Some of the questions to be dealt with in this panel are: What are some ways in which the political-economic ideology is manifested in the form of affective populism? How does the Sanskrit concept of Rasa help us to comprehend the neocolonial affectivity in contemporary time? How does affect enable authoritarianism to strengthen through its discursive, visual, aural and sensual entanglements specifically through the social media? How do structures of power ideologically and affectively manipulate, mass mediate and resonate beyond its own contextual time and space through architectural projects? The papers in this panel seek to study the ways in which the ideology of a majoritarian nation-state affectively (re)produce hegemony of neofeudal-neocolonial nationalism in modern India.


Presenter 1
Rohini Vasishtha - rohinivasishtha@gmail.com ()
Exploring the Role of Emotions in Populist Mobilisation

Presenter 2
Arunima Addy - arunima.besu@gmail.com (Penn State University)
Aesthetics Under Modi Regime

Presenter 3
Ajay Kumar - ajaykumar@christuniversity.in ()
Cinema and Religious Authoritarianism: Interrogating Films as Propaganda Tool in Contemporary India

Presenter 4
MAGNA MOHAPATRA - mmohapatra@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)
Rasa in contemporary time: Analyzing the Affective Manifestations of Neocoloniality


Beyond Authoritarianism vs. Democracy: Constructing Muslims as "Unfit National Subjects"
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Wajiha Mehdi - wajihafatimamehdi@gmail.com (University of British Columbia)

Discussant / Chair
Wajiha Mehdi - wajihafatimamehdi@gmail.com (University of British Columbia)

The global war on terror has forged transnational relations of violence in constructing Muslims as unfit national subjects justifying their displacement from the national landscape. These anti-Muslim interlinkages between western imperial and postcolonial nations can be traced to nineteenth-century Orientalism where Islam was cast “as a psychological deformation, not a ‘real’ culture or religion” (Said 1981). In this context, the “Muslim” question in colonial India and the transition to a postcolonial Indian nation simultaneously manifested as a “crisis of minority” (Mufti 2007) and a “national security threat” (Kolb 2021; Zamindar 2010). This panel addresses the crisis of Muslims as an unfit national subject in India and argues that the anti-Muslim apparatus and its violent interlinkages (intensified through the global war on terror) manifest beyond the authoritarianism/democracy dichotomy in postcolonial India’s nation-making. The papers in this panel address Indian Muslims’ dispossession across the political, legal and socio-economic landscapes. They address Muslim displacement through “questions of scale and temporality,” examine the Hindutva state’s anti-Muslim politics “as an exercise of territorial sovereignty,” explore Islamic theology and ethics of care as “epistemological frameworks of meaning-making for women” amidst rising majoritarianism, and, engage with how Muslim women activists “contest national displacement, assert citizenship and disrupt state violence.”


Presenter 1
Sophia Zehra Abbas - sophia.abbas@yale.edu (Yale University)
Property, Land, Citizenship : Rethinking Muslim displacement in Urbanizing India

Presenter 2
Shahana Munazir - munazir@wisc.edu (UW-Madison)
“Khidmat se kismat:” Temporalities and ethics of caregiving in the lives of Muslim women in India

Presenter 3
Mohamad Junaid - mohamad.junaid@mcla.edu (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts)
Muslims in the new Hindutva State

Presenter 4
Wajiha Mehdi - wajihafatimamehdi@gmail.com (University of British Columbia)
Law, Violence and Muslim Citizenship in India


Revisiting Caste Mobility
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Leela Khanna - lnk235@nyu.edu (New York University)

Discussant / Chair
Leela Khanna - lnk235@nyu.edu (New York University)

Since Louis Dumont’s (1966) infamous articulation of caste as a holistic Hindu hierarchical ranking system based on a scale of relative purity, a key preoccupation of postcolonial scholarship has been to re-conceptualize the caste system as a set of hierarchical relations that are perpetually indeterminate, inconsistent, subtle, and shifting. While some scholars have demonstrated this indeterminacy by highlighting the diversity of named jatis and their varied interrelations across contexts, others have focused on how caste transcends Hindu worldviews altogether, appearing across religions in South Asia and the diaspora. Importantly, scholars have highlighted the instability of caste hierarchies by conceptualizing how caste groups have historically challenged their rankings. Among the most influential are anthropologist M.N. Srinivas’ (1956) concept of Sanskritization, a form of upward social mobility that low- and middle-ranking caste groups pursue by emulating higher caste orders, and B.R. Ambedkar’s strategy of ethnicization, which occurs when previously named “untouchable” caste groups reject Hindu value systems altogether by re-articulating their identities as Dalits and converting to Buddhism. These strategies, although demonstrated across regional contexts, remain on two ends of a spectrum– either mimicking upper-caste sensibilities, or outright rejecting the hierarchy. Taking as its starting point the existence of caste mobility, this panel asks: what other strategies do individuals and caste groups deploy to destabilize or question caste hierarchies? What histories, narratives, and everyday actions do people evoke to challenge and obscure their caste rankings and what can these strategies tell us about how caste is understood and how it functions in contemporary South Asia and the diaspora? Through highlighting more subtle and perhaps less explored techniques of challenging caste rankings, the papers in this panel offer a moment to reassess how caste continues to be an enduring identity.


Presenter 1
Brittany Puller - pullerb@umich.edu (University of Michigan)
Conceiving Caste in the Early Sikh Community

Presenter 2
Leela Khanna - lnk235@nyu.edu (New York University)
Setting New Definitions of ‘Casteism’ and ‘Anti-Casteism’: ABVP in Pune University

Presenter 3
David Silverberg - d.silverberg@columbia.edu (Columbia University)
“They Call us Adivasis:” Caste and Tribal Narratives of Loss in Southern Rajasthan

Presenter 4
Gaurika Mehta - gm2680@columbia.edu (Columbia University)
Creolization as Strategy: Caste in the Indo-Caribbean Diaspora


Scripting Public Culture: New Economies of Screenwriting in Bombay’s Media Industries
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Tupur Chatterjee - tupurc@gmail.com (University College Dublin)

Discussant / Chair
Tupur Chatterjee - tupurc@gmail.com (University College Dublin)

Seeking to expand upon the intersections of language and representation in Bombay’s screen industries, this panel looks at the cultural politics and political economies of screenwriting. It also offers insights into India’s momentous digital turn and the multiplicity of new production cultures, censorship discourses, and media practices that it has engendered. Drawing on original interviews, ethnographic research, and discourse analysis, the papers in this panel focus on new values associated with regional dialects in Bombay’s film industry, the media work of creating the granular details of space and place on OTT platforms, new practices of screenwriting for streaming-video-on-demand, and the entwined lives of progressive representation and media censorship. Speaker 1's paper charts the shifting registers of value associated with Hindi proficiency in the contemporary Bombay film industry. Speaker 2's paper turns to the work of creating the small town for crime dramas on OTT platforms, specifically analyzing the “hyperlocal” as a new cultural index. Tracking new practices of screenwriting across three of India’s most successful streaming shows, Speaker 3 looks at how these shows break with the existing norms of storytelling in Indian film and television. Speaker 4's paper looks at digital censorship and argues for an emergent homonationalism on streaming platforms that must be read alongside the erasure of critical political narratives. Together, the papers in this panel track the shifting scales and sites at which media industries and its political economies now operate and shape public cultures in the Global South.


Presenter 1
Tejaswini Ganti - tg39@nyu.edu (New York University)
“The Value of Hindi Has Increased”: Dialect, Authenticity and Value in the Bombay Film Industry

Presenter 2
Rahul Mukherjee - mrahul@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Scripting Small Town Crime Dramas for OTTs in India

Presenter 3
Ishita Tiwary - ishita.tiwary@concordia.ca (Concordia University)
OTT is not just Television: Structural Adjustments and Shifts in Indian Scriptwriting

Presenter 4
Tupur Chatterjee - tupurc@gmail.com (University College Dublin)
“Queerness is Everywhere on Streaming!”: Media Censorship and Emergent Homonationalisms on OTT Platforms


Autocratization in Bangladesh: A Comparative Perspective
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Sultan Mohammed Zakaria Mazumder - zakariamazum@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Chair
Sultan Mohammed Zakaria Mazumder - zakariamazum@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

In the recent aftermath of the January 2024 elections, Bangladesh's democratic trajectory since 2009 has come under intense global scrutiny. Ali Riaz's latest book, "Pathways of Autocratization: The Tumultuous Journey of Bangladeshi Politics" (Routledge, 2024), offers a comprehensive framework to analyze the country's shift from democracy to autocracy, focusing on political developments post-2009. The upcoming roundtable "Autocratization in Bangladesh: A Comparative Perspective" aims to critically examine this democratic regression. It contextualizes Bangladesh's experience alongside other nations like Bolivia, Cambodia, and Hungary, illuminating broader patterns in institutional transformations, media and ideological roles, and the involvement of international actors in the autocratization process. Furthermore, the discussion will explore potential future trajectories for Bangladesh's political and governance landscape.


Presenter 1
Neil DeVotta - devottn@wfu.edu (Wake Forest University)
Presenter 2
Md Mizanur Rahman - Mrahman9@ucsc.edu (University of California at Santa Cruz )
Presenter 3
Md Harun Or Rashid - mrashid@kent.edu (Kent State University)
Presenter 4
Zunaid Almamun - zunaidalmamun@wayne.edu (Wayne State University)
Presenter 5
Ali Riaz - ariaz@ilstu.edu (Illinois State University)

The Historian’s Craft: Panel in Memory of Sunil Kumar
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Jyoti Balachandran - jyotigul@gmail.com (The Pennsylvania State University )
Co-Organizer
Nita Kumar - nita.kumar@claremontmckenna.edu (Claremont McKenna College)

Discussant / Chair
Ali Anooshahr - aanooshahr@ucdavis.edu (UC Davis: University of California Davis)

This panel celebrates the contributions of the late historian Sunil Kumar to the historians' craft and to our understanding of medieval Indian history. Eschewing any grand narratives, Kumar's work on the Delhi Sultanate emphasized a critical unpacking of labels and categories, from 'Muslim', 'Hindu' to 'slave' and 'service'. He posed new questions to Persian historical materials and read court chronicles and Sufi texts together to uncover a textured and changing constitution of power in north India in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. His active engagement with the extant architectural remains and reading them in relation to literary materials further informed his commitment to understanding the material foundations of power in its myriad political, economic, social, and cultural forms. Each presenter in this panel highlights how Sunil's work and methodology have shaped and inspired their own historical research. Presenter 1 studies the seventeenth century Mewar recension of the Pṛthvīrāja Rāso to examine how the conceptualization of the mevāsa (the hilly and forested ‘inner frontiers’) under the Sisodia dynasty was underpinned by brahmanical sensibilities, reordering how such territories were understood in sultanate chronicles. Staying with the mawās of the sultanate chronicles, Presenter 2 puts medieval history and medieval archaeology into conversation to investigate Sultanate forms of life focused on the Khanzada lineage of Mewat. Presenter 3 examines the work of a seventeenth century Hindu munshi (scribe) to demonstrate how the munshis borrowed their conceptual vocabulary from a shared Islamic discourse irrespective of their religious affiliations, further challenging pre-modern Hindu-Muslim identities as homogenous and mutually exclusive. Presenter 4 urges us to dwell upon the question of the nature of jurisprudence, legal praxis, and moral economy in the ‘Sultanate Empire’ through a close reading of Persian tazkiras and Sanskrit epistolary manuals of the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries.


Presenter 1
Arjun Bhattacharya - arjunb@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)
Recalibrating Muslim spaces into a Brahmanical order: Sultanate social and ecological biases in the Mewar recension of the Pṛthvīrāja Rāso

Presenter 2
Mudit Trivedi - mudit.trivedi@gmail.com ()
Archaeologies of Afsos: Exemplarity, Ethics and The feeling of history

Presenter 3
Pooja Hazra - phazra@ucdavis.edu ()
The Ghaza Conundrum: Case Study of a Hindu Munshi

Presenter 4
Dipanjan Mazumder - dipanjan.mazunder@vanderbilt.edu (Vanderbilt University )
Law in the Sultanate Empire: Exploring a new field


Interpreting Devotional Poetics: Sanskrit, Bangla, and Colonial Receptions of the Gītagovinda
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Catherine Nelli - catherine.nelli13@gmail.com (University of Chicago)

Jayadeva’s twelfth-century Gītagovinda, a versified Sanskrit song in twelve sections that depicts the love story of the cow-herder god Kṛṣṇa and the cow-herdess Rādhā, is part of a poetic economy that extends far beyond Sanskrit. Composed in Eastern India, it was widely received across South Asia throughout the centuries following its composition in dozens of Sanskrit commentaries, varied artistic traditions, and extensive vernacular adaptations, translations, and regional recensions. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European scholars developed a burgeoning interest in translating Sanskrit texts—an undertaking linked to the project and context of colonial rule—and the Gītagovinda received ample attention. In particular, French and British colonial encounters with Sanskrit texts were first shaped in Bengal through regional recensions and Gītagovinda-inspired theological and vernacular poetic traditions in which local pandits were steeped. These traditions also informed how nineteenth-century Bengali scholars responded to European reception of the Gītagovinda. Contemporary scholarship often presents Orientalist work as a departure from emic textual practices, which is often the case and did prevail. However, this dominant paradigm overlooks the interactions between Orientalist scholarship and emic Sanskrit and vernacular reception. By examining multiple streams of reception alongside each other, this paper will think through key questions under-investigated in current scholarship: How do colonial European distortions of Sanskrit texts stand against the rich history of interpretation in centuries of Sanskrit commentaries? How do vernacular engagements with these texts interact with Orientalist literary reception? And what are the legacies and ramifications of colonial Indology in modern scholarship? Using archival work completed in Kolkata, India and textual philological analysis, this paper will examine how Sanskrit commentaries, such as Caitanyadāsa’s Bālabodhini (16th century), and vernacular Bengali receptions interpret the Gītagovinda’s explorations of devotion and passionate love, and how colonial European encounters engage with the Gītagovinda and its Sanskrit and Bengali receptions.


Translating Liminality in the Novels of Senthuran Varatharajah
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Ankita Harbola - ah1252@scarletmail.rutgers.edu (Rutgers University)

The concept of “cultural translation” has initiated much discussion in recent times. For Homi Bhabha, who was the first to use the term in 1994, the connotations of the term remain rather vague, and he proposes a metaphorical meaning that understands migration and hybridity in terms of translation processes. In recent years, the so-called “translational turn” has introduced new perspectives for both literary and cultural studies. Doris Bachmann-Medick shows in Cultural Turns: New Orientations in Cultural Studies how the significance of the category of translation sheds new light on the objects of cultural property: “on their non-holistic structure, hybridity and complexity” (Bachmann-Medick 2016, 181). With the help of this category, it is possible to distance oneself theoretically from dichotomous models and fixed identities. Different cultures are no longer understood as fixed conditions but rather as entities that are constituted through translations and multiple overlaps. The third or “liminal space” that emerges through cultural translation is a space where relationships, situations, identities, and interactions are reoriented and refashioned. Tamil-German author Senthuran Varatharajah’s novels Vor der Zunahme der Zeichen (2016) and Rot (Hunger) (2022) trace the nuanced dynamics of cultural identity (belonging), liminality, and hybridity, and the interplay of power structures from a post-colonial perspective. Varatharajah, I argue, challenges our established understanding of cultural translation: His texts do not openly juxtapose two languages or cultures with each other. Instead, the liminal space from which Varatharajah’s protagonists and linguistic tropes emerge is no longer memorable, traceable, or accessible. Since an original language has been lost in the process of migration, each act of translation appears as a radically ungrounded new beginning without a referent. This paper asks how language and translation act as a medium for shaping and mirroring cultural identities while also questioning the usual modes of thinking about them.


The Philology of Rhythm in Sri Lanka: Mahagama Sekera's Analysis of Rhythm in Sinhala Poetry, Prose, and Speech (1981)
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Garrett Field - fieldg@ohio.edu (Ohio University)

The Sri Lankan poet and lyricist Mahagama Sekera passed away in 1976. In 1981, he was posthumously awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura for his dissertation. Its Sinhala title can be translated into English as, “The Influence of Rhythm on Sinhala Prose and Poetry.” The title suggests that the dissertation focused on rhythm in prose and poetry. But in the dissertation Sekera used the word “rhythm” (Sinhala: ridmaya) in an extremely broad way to bring into dialogue phenomena that scholars within different academic fields tend to analyze in isolation: biological rhythms; prosodic rhythms of speech; prosodic rhythms of poetry; rhythms of folk song; rhythms of prose; and rhythms of visual art. In this paper, I investigate Sekera’s analysis of rhythm in Sinhala poetry, prose, and speech. I argue that his analyses provide important analytical tools with which to analyze his own poems and song lyrics.


Knowing Local: Approaches and Perspectives to the Study of South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Manasvin Rajagopalan - mrajagopalan@ucdavis.edu (University of California, Davis)

Discussant / Chair
Lynna Dhanani - lrdhanani@ucdavis.edu (University of California Davis)

Contemporary scholarship on South Asia often emphasizes its relation to other regional or supra-regional formations. Yet, these broader categories of relationality— from global history to world literature and other transnationalisms— ignore granular, particular, and local dimensions of knowledge production and discourse.Stating that “knowledge of a place is not the same as knowledge from a place”, this panel engages the local and the granular as significant to the study of South Asia, both as theme, and as method. Rehbein, Kamal, and Ahmad, call for "the re-discovery of local sources in local languages, the inclusion of local perspectives and perceptions, the development of new theories based on local empirical work, [and] a universalisation of local theories. . ." (66) How does centering or working from the granular, local and particular, shape both the theoretical and practical dimensions of studying South Asia? Who defines the local, and how? And how do local, granular, and particular epistemic frames affect knowledge production, circulation, and meaning-making in South Asia? Speaker 1 contends that the local descriptions in the Tamil kuravanci demonstrate a geographic imagination that centers the local and the granular. Speaker 2 argues that Hasan Shauqi’s location of his narrative casts a critical eye toward existing expanded geographies of the masnavi, which privileged male desire and action, and demonstrates the interior lives of lovers, especially female sexual desire. Speaker 3 focuses on the history of the College of Fort St. George (Ceṉṉi Kalvi Caṅkam), highlighting the collaborative framework between European and Tamil scholars in the early nineteenth century, in shaping and adopting colonial philology. Speaker 4 looks at select short stories from the Somokaler Jiyonkathi to argue that local ecological shifts in the Sundarbans as a tidal archipelago allow for the emergence of “local” characters, and the archipelago as a localized place.


Presenter 1
Manasvin Rajagopalan - mrajagopalan@ucdavis.edu (University of California, Davis)
From Trikutam to The World: Local Description and the Geographic Imagination in the Kutrala Kuravanci

Presenter 2
Namrata Kanchan - namrata.kanchan@utexas.edu (University of Texas, Austin)
Sex and the City: The disruption of the Expanded Geographies of the Masnavi in Hasan Shauqi’s Zehr-e Ishq

Presenter 3
Shibi Laxman Kumaraperumal - shibi.kumaraperumal@mail.utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Ceṉṉi Kalvi Caṅkam and Language Pedagogy: Colonial Philology Revisited

Presenter 4
Sritama Chatterjee - src88@pitt.edu ()
Archipelagic South Asia is Local


Theorising Democracy from India: A Roundtable Discussion of Lisa Mitchell's 'Hailing the State'
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 7: Friday, 1:45 pm - 3:30 pm
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Lisa Bjorkman - lbjorkman6@gmail.com (University of Louisville)

Chair
Lisa Bjorkman - lbjorkman6@gmail.com (University of Louisville)

This panel convenes a conversation among five established historians and political anthropologists South Asia, with expertise in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, to discuss Lisa Mitchell’s important new book, Hailing the State: Indian Democracy Between Elections (Duke University Press, 2023). Beginning not with eighteenth-century Europe but rather at a much-earlier moment and in the Indian subcontinent, Mitchell’s alternative genealogy of democracy pushes past contemporary diagnostics of mass politics as ‘populist’ by rendering untenable the broad-stoke reduction of contemporary political churnings to the abiding contradictions of liberalism. Mitchell’s book instead gestures towards rather different questions (both normative and empirical) of the global contemporary. Through a longue-durée account of popular assembly in the Indian subcontinent from precolonial times to the present, Hailing the State expands a liberal notion of the public sphere to include mass politics, exploring how crowd gatherings work as highly coordinated communicative acts—strategically employed by marginalized citizens to “broadcast” concerns and claims into a public sphere. The book argues that embodied mass politics (crowd gatherings) are not a challenge to state authority, but works as a material technology of political communication, and one that has a democratizing impetus—employed strategically and instrumentally not as a challenge to the state, but rather (and on the contrary) to get its the attention – making grievances heard by state officials, who are thereby held accountable to their constituents. Mitchell’s book offers up new concepts and categories for analyzing democracy more generally. The aspiration of the panel is to use Mitchell’s book as a springboard for thinking about how thinking and theorizing from the subcontinent might offer up a new political-conceptual vocabulary and research agenda for theorizing the promises and perils of democracy.


Presenter 1
Nusrat Chowdhury - nchowdhury@amherst.edu (Amherst College)
Presenter 2
Laura Kunreuther - kunreuth@bard.edu (Bard College)
Presenter 3
Rohit De - rohit.de@yale.edu (Yale University)
Presenter 4
Lawrence Cohen - cohen@berkeley.edu (University of California, Berkeley)
Presenter 5
Tarini Bedi - tbedi@uic.edu (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Recovery, Analysis, and South Asian Archaeology
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Alan Lee - aflee@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin - Madison)

Discussant / Chair
William Belcher - wbelcher2@unl.edu (University of Nebraska-Lincoln )

Archaeological research in South Asia has always been at the forefront of new approaches to recover aspects of the past that have been occluded by time. Using innovative methods of survey, excavation, experimentation, and material analysis, scholars have been working diligently to recover past lifeways, technologies, networks, and even individuals. This panel will address such advancements made in South Asian archaeology through forensics, archaeometry, and analytical science. Geographical analysis, chemical analysis, material analysis, and experimentation have provided unique and groundbreaking avenues to reconstruct the South Asian past, particularly for small, localized, scattered, or disturbed archaeological assemblages. These instances require that even the most minute aspect of the material record be thoroughly examined to extract meaningful interpretations. The four papers presented here exemplify how new questions have been asked and new techniques have enhanced our ability to recover the past of South Asia. Building on the early research on faience at the sites of Mohenjodaro and Harappa in the 1930s, the first paper will discuss the recovery and discovery of an ancient technology, specific types of glazed faience or proto-glass at regional sites in Gujarat, India dating to 2600-1900 BCE. The second paper presents the iron ore provenance and a recovered iron production network in Early Historic South Asia that was accessed with energy dispersive spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy. The third paper will present the recovery of domestic and ritual context of the Indus Valley through inscriptions on Harrapan vessels and their chemical residue analysis. The final paper will present the efforts to recover lost individuals, American service members of WWII, who died in South Asia flying across the Himalayas.


Presenter 1
Sneha Chavali - schavali2@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Faience Beads from Harappan sites of Gujarat: Comparative Compositional Analysis and Experimental Replication

Presenter 2
Alan Lee - aflee@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin - Madison)
The Provenance of Iron Objects from Bhamala Stupa and an Iron Production Network of the Kushan Empire (circa. 150 CE)

Presenter 3
Cole Eckhardt - ceckhardt@wisc.edu ()
Inscribed Ceramics from Harappa, Pakistan (3700-1900 BCE): New Approaches to Domestic and Ritual Function

Presenter 4
William Belcher - wbelcher2@unl.edu (University of Nebraska-Lincoln )
Flying the Hump in Northeastern India: Forensic Archaeological Excavations to Recover Missing U.S. Personnel from World War II


Religious Ruptures: Caste, Christianity, Cinema and Scriptural Practices in India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Sonja Thomas - smthomas@colby.edu (Colby College)

Discussant / Chair
Sonja Thomas - smthomas@colby.edu (Colby College)

This interdisciplinary panel examines caste, gender, spatiality and Christianity to discuss the resistance and survival of minorities in hegemonic, caste-ridden, Hindu nationalist governed India. Caste is a crucial category in analyzing Christian cultural life as well as the persecution of Dalit Bahujan minorities in India. Panelists discuss the politics of scriptures in contemporary politics, caste in Catholic missionary work, Dalit Bahujan Christian women’s silence in cinema vis-a-vis their leading role in protests for spatial justice, and the role of Christian missionaries in the emancipation of Dalits. The questions raised are enriched by the disciplinary expertise of each speaker- they range from gender studies, history, cultural studies to philosophy. Speaking to the conference theme “democracy and authoritarianism,” this panel foregrounds the deep roots of caste within Christianity, and the religion’s complicated exchanges with Hindu majoritarianism. Recent events have shown that even well-structured democracies can be subverted to promote authoritarianism through the use of identity politics to create a separation between a compliant majority and ostracized minorities. The crackdown on foreign missionaries, implementation of the CAA, and jailing of activists calls for an examination of caste/religious power, and religious minorities’ resistance and survival. Speaker 1 examines Catholic missionary work and Dalit Bahujan protests against how the Catholic hierarchy has replicated the caste hierarchy. Speaker 2 is interested in showcasing how the rise of Hindu Scriptures in Narendra Modi-led India is a visible sign of them being used as a potent political force to facilitate BJP's socio-religious and political aims. Speaker 3 takes up the connected questions of caste, gender, space and Christianity by analyzing cinema and protests of lower-caste Latin Catholic women from the islands in Kochi. Speaker 4 examines how missionary Christianity in Kerala fueled Dalits with aspirations for emancipation from upper caste hegemony, through education and medicine.


Presenter 1
Sonja Thomas - smthomas@colby.edu (Colby College)
“We are an all Indian Church” ?: Caste Hierarchies and Syro-Malabar Catholic Missionaries in India

Presenter 2
Sam Antony Kocheri Clement - sam.kocheri@ctr.lu.se (Lund University )
The Liminality of Sacred Scriptures in Decolonial India

Presenter 3
Carmel Christy Kattithara Joseph - carmel.christi@gmail.com (University of Connecticut)
Muted on screen, leaders in life: Caste, Christianity and Gender in Malayalam Cinema

Presenter 4
Liz Joys - lizmariajoys@gmail.com ()
Missionary Education and Medicine in Kerala: A Means to Overcome Dalit Subalternity


Attempting Democracy during Monarchy (1951-2006)
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Anne Mocko - amocko@cord.edu (Concordia College)

Discussant / Chair
Anne Mocko - amocko@cord.edu (Concordia College)

This panel is Part 1 of a double panel that brings historians and anthropologists together to examine what it has meant to do democracy in Nepal and how ideas and performances of democracy have changed in the seventy three years since the establishment of Nepal’s first democratic parliamentary government in 1951. During this time period, Nepal has experienced profound shifts in its systems of government ranging from parliamentary democracy, guided democracy (Panchayat), constitutional democracy, and federal democracy. These shifts have meant government restructurings, but they have also meant significant shifts in ideologies of democracy, performative changes in what it means to live in a democratic society, and complex variable experiments at instantiating democracy in social institutions and daily life. By investigating the doing of democracy in historical perspective, this pair of panels sets out to explain what democracy has (and has not) meant for Nepal and Nepalis. In this panel, we will look at different moments and political configurations from the ouster of the hereditary Rana regime in 1951, through the six decades when powerful actors tugged back and forth, tipping the balance of influence alternately between Narayanhiti Palace and the parliament at Singha Durbar.We will examine how the fractious 1950s gave way to the royal-dominated panchayat period, how the panchayat led to the first People’s Movement (1990) and chaotic new party-politics, how the 1996+ Maoist insurgency challenged the control of central government. Through these papers we will ask: Who got to claim democratic authority across the decades, and on what grounds? How did party-based political actors negotiate with or resist the palace, and what enabled various disruptions and reconfigurations in power? How did the processes of elections and governance change, and how did they remain the same?


Presenter 1
Anne Mocko - amocko@cord.edu (Concordia College)
‘Hamro Raja, Hamro Desh’: Democracy and the invention of Nepal’s modernist monarchy

Presenter 2
Gaurab KC - gauravdoti@gmail.com ()
How A Royal Romance Resulted in Democracy: King Tribhuvan, Erika Leuchtag, and backdoor Nepali politics

Presenter 3
Jacob Rinck - jrinck@nus.edu.sg ()
Red Ray on the Eastern Horizon: Communist pedagogy in rural Dhanusha in the 1970s-80s

Presenter 4
Mukta Tamang - mukta12@gmail.com ()
Reclaiming Autonomy: Tamang experience and engagement with the state (1990-2006)


Ethnographic Reflections on Language and Education Policy in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Christina Davis - c-davis@wiu.edu (Western Illinois University)

Discussant / Chair
Christina Davis - c-davis@wiu.edu (Western Illinois University)

The 2020 National Education Policy (NEP) revisited earlier policy iterations to propose a revision to the Indian education system. Although the notion of mother tongue has been a part of Indian education policy since before independence, the 2020 NEP called for an unqualified use of students’ mother tongue in education and had little to say about English. The 2020 NEP has been widely criticized for exacerbating inequalities in education (Annamalai 2019; Chandras 2023). For example, it assumes that one’s first language corresponds to their mother tongue when only a small number of Indian language and linguistic varieties have historically received institutional support in education (LaDousa and Davis 2022; Mohanty 2019). This panel combines examination of policy with ethnographic approaches to analyze inequalities in access to and the reproduction of education in India and Sri Lanka. Although the work of Lall and Anand (2022) and others have critiqued the NEP for its neoliberal underpinnings, the social life of language under the shadow of neoliberal development in education has not received sufficient ethnographic attention. This panel addresses questions about the ways in which language provides a fulcrum for examining dimensions of inequality such as caste, class, gender, religion, region, and generation amidst rapidly changing political and economic circumstances and post-conflict situations. We contribute to interdisciplinary approaches in education in South Asia by attending to how ethnographic research can enrich the study of policy.


Presenter 1
Chaise LaDousa - cladousa@hamilton.edu (Hamilton College)
Representing the Nation with the Mother Tongue

Presenter 2
Christina Davis - c-davis@wiu.edu (Western Illinois University)
Can English be a Mother Tongue? Indian Students’ Reflections on Education Policy and Everyday Practices

Presenter 3
Jessica Chandras - j.chandras@unf.edu (University of North Florida)
Mediating Inequalities in Multilingual Classrooms: Banjara Student Identity and Social Stigma in Rural India

Presenter 4
Prashanth Kuganathan - p.kuganathan@usask.ca (University of Saskatchewan)
Learning English During Wartime


Land Rights and the Future of Property in India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
svati shah - svatipshah@umass.edu (UMass-Amherst)

Discussant / Chair
Nikhil Rao - nrao@wellesley.edu (Wellesley College)

This panel extends debates on land rights in India. Defining ‘land rights’ expansively to include access to land ownership and claims to land based on official categories of legal recognition, we discuss the historical production of the category of ‘private property’ in India and the contingency of access to land in the present. Discussing both rural and urban conflicts over land use and rights, these papers collectively contend that the status of private land ownership and property titling in India is emergent, incomplete, and contingent, problematizing the relation between substantive citizenship and property. These papers include case studies from Hyderabad, Mumbai and Jaipur, rural Odisha, and the forests of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. We historicize contemporary questions of access to land and property rights within a scopic overview, from premodern rules of property, to colonization and land settlements, to decolonization and the notion of an ostensibly liberal property regime breaking down illiberal forms of land tenure. This trajectory culminates in the acute crisis of post-liberalization and the ‘post-national’ inroads made by private capital. Through this historical perspective and attendant case studies, we read across a differential regime of recognition. We aim to, think with how claims to land are re/made through claims to indigeneity and citizenship, and the role of caste, family structure and normative kinship in accessing land rights and secure housing in an era of increasingly delimited citizenship rights.


Presenter 1
Eric Beverley - eric.beverley@stonybrook.edu (State University of New York, Stony Brook)
Making and Unmaking Private Property in South Asia

Presenter 2
Anand Vaidya - avaidya@reed.edu (Reed College)
The problem of property in the forest

Presenter 3
Pinky Hota - phota@smith.edu (Smith College)
Castes of Land

Presenter 4
svati shah - svatipshah@umass.edu (UMass-Amherst)
A Place of One’s Own? Debates on Titling, Land Formalization and Aadhaar


Feminism(s) of Dissent: In/and South Asia
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Anjali Arondekar - aarondek@ucsc.edu (UCSC)

Chair
Anjali Arondekar - aarondek@ucsc.edu (UCSC)

Feminism(s) today mandate new histories of the South Asia. Even as racial capitalism and the attendant erosion of social provision escalates global ecological doom, the meteoric rise of authoritarianism in South Asia as explicit statecraft shapes universalized conditions of catastrophe. The march of authoritarianism alongside worldwide struggles for racial, territorial and economic justice calls for a re-dressing of settled modes of thinking and practice. This roundtable will serve as a gathering for feminist hope, to forge new vernaculars of South Asia, to assemble spatial imaginaries that refuse rather than relent to the insistent march of communalism, hate and empire. The moment is particularly ripe for developing feminist initiatives on dissent, gender and geopolitics, given our renewed commitment to area studies initiatives, global justice projects and a larger focus on democratic futures. Each of our panelist will draw on scholarly and activist efforts to speak to the relevance and urgency of speaking within and through feminist epistemologies of solidarity, labor and conflict in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Our roundtable will use the rubric of feminism(s) across the global south to forge vibrant, nuanced and regionally specific collaborations on dissent as they engage challenges around food security, human rights, environmental ecologies, gender justice and more. At the heart of our engagement is the possibility of dialogue, deliberation and a renewed sense of possibility for a world in peril. The ambition here is not to “survey” efforts across South Asia; rather each speaker will address specific strengths and lacunae of feminist interventions, and gesture to potential pathways towards dissent.


Presenter 1
Sharika Thiranagama - sharikat@stanford.edu (Stanford University)
Presenter 2
Elora Shehabuddin - eshehabuddin@berkeley.edu (University of California, Berkeley)
Presenter 3
Nida Kirmani - nida.kirmani@lums.edu.pk (Lahore University of Management Sciences)
Presenter 4
Dolly Kikon - dkikon@ucsc.edu (UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ)

Schools as Sites of Othering/Producing the Other: A Critical Analysis of Grade 6 History Books in Two Indian States.
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Priyanka Prasad - shashipriyanka@gmail.com (Florida state university)

In this research, I use content analysis to critically examine the Indian government’s “syllabus rationalization” efforts to reduce the load on the students and offer students a complete history of India. Hence, this paper explores what role government intervention in primary school curriculum plays in shaping historical narratives and forming students' national identities. I look at two grade 6 history books, each from the states of Gujarat and Bihar, to not only underscore the nature of this effort across different Indian states but also compare and contrast erasures and memorialization. This is being institutionalized to shed light on how instead of “end of history” as predicted Fukuyama (1989). My rationale for selecting these states is based on my familiarity with working with them and my proficiency in the local languages spoken there. I found seemingly disconnected attempts to weaponize history to reconstruct a national memory that would be conducive to imagining the new, improved, virile Hindu-nation state. Rather than being sites of promoting democratic ideals, equality, and progress, schools are increasingly being transformed into sites of producing and institutionalizing the other and normalizing social hierarchies and inequalities. These alterations in historical narratives by the current government contribute to the formation of unquestioning mindsets among students, depriving them of a comprehensive understanding of history and its consequences in the present (Chishti 2023).


Learning to Lead: Reinscribing Citizenship in Education for Social Impact
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Swati Puri - swati_puri@g.harvard.edu (Harvard University)

Research on social service practices in expensive private schools in India illustrates how elite commitments to equality may serve to justify inequality, raising questions about how we might enable privileged youth to interrogate the power relations that reproduce inequality. I explore these questions by unpacking the moral dilemmas, contradictions of power, and opportunities for critical conversation in three out-of-school service-oriented programs for students from expensive private schools in urban India. I draw on 90 hours of observation, interviews with 19 participants, and analysis of the programs’ media outreach to examine the notions of ‘leadership’ and ‘social impact’ that are circulating among India’s technical professional and business managerial elites. I utilize the tools of critical discourse analysis to assess how this discourse shapes prospects for furthering equality. I also note aspects of program design and participants’ own sense-making that potentially undercut the class- and caste-based demarcation of those who may lead and their ‘others’. My findings echo concerns about the apparent impossibility of ‘absolute altruism’ by elites (Kenway and Fahey 2015). The social impact programs and participants in this study construct disadvantaged communities as sites of investigation, intervention, and correction by a select few ‘leaders’ and ‘changemakers’ who adopt technocratic and managerial approaches to social change. However, I also highlight openings in program design and participants’ own questions, doubts, and ambivalences that represent opportunities for more critical conversations in social impact education for privileged youth. This study contributes to the broader and relatively under-explored agenda of mapping the assemblage of ideologies, institutions, cultural practices, and actors that enables class- and caste-privileged Indian youth to gain distinction through participation in social service. It also provides tentative insights for the design of social justice-oriented education that challenges deficit framings of disadvantaged communities and narratives of elite youth as default ‘leaders’.


Disability Between Nation and Empire: Historiographies of the Calcutta Deaf and Dumb School
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Thomas Parkinson - tdp37@cam.ac.uk (University of Cambridge)

Disability history is a growing area of historical scholarship. Historians of disability are beginning to diversify their perspectives and widen their geographical parameters to include in their analyses disabled people in places such as South Asia during the colonial period. This paper serves as a comment on the current status of disability history by focussing on the much-neglected history of deaf education in India. The Calcutta Deaf and Dumb School (CDDS) was founded in 1893 and is remembered in Bengal as an indigenous institution, led and initially funded by Bengalis. Disability and deaf histories of South Asia, however, have stressed how deaf educational institutions were a missionary imposition, in which the ablest epistemologies of the west were grafted onto a resistant and colonised group of deaf actors. Documents in the West Bengal State Archive reveal, to the contrary, that a particular, higher class, and upper caste group of reformists in Bengal considered the development of deaf education in India to be a corrective to the miserliness of the colonial state, that had refused to fund specialist, disability schools. Reflections upon and histories of the CDDS by its former pupils and educators also paint a rather different picture than the one that emerged in colonial and official discourse. The education of deaf people, I show in this paper, was historicised in such a way that moulding deaf children was portrayed as a nationalist endeavour, and part of an ‘Indian’ and ‘Bengali’ bio-politics, of which scholars have made little mention. This presentation directs attention to the little-known origins of the first deaf school in Bengal, and suggests that the historiographies that emerged around it reveal to us crucial aspects of the complicated relationship between Indian nationalism, empire, and disability reform.


Translational Engagements: Strengthening the Collective in Nepalbhasa Literary Translation
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Kritish Rajbhandari - krajbhan@reed.edu (Reed College)

Chair
Christoph Emmrich - christoph.emmrich@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)

Nepalbhasa, the language of the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, has faced systematic repression through much of Nepal’s modern history. During the 20th century, the state brutally suppressed the language by imprisoning writers and restricting publishing and broadcasting. Despite the repression, this period saw an emergence of modern Nepalbhasa literature. While past efforts have concentrated on the translation of Buddhist texts, only a fraction of the literary production from the last century is available in English. A minor literature from a small country that itself straddles the area-studies divide between Himalayan Studies and South Asian Studies, Nepalbhasa literature has remained fairly unknown in the Western academy. As a contribution towards changing this situation, this roundtable will facilitate a discussion of an ongoing project in translating and preserving Nepalbhasa and its literature. The roundtable speakers are translators and scholars engaging in their research with the Newars and their language. They are all founding members of an ongoing collaborative translation project, with the goal of publishing an anthology of modern Nepalbhasa literature in English. The collective is inspired by recent coordinated translation efforts, such as the 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha project, that favor the collaborative translation over both the solitary translator and the division of labor between the native speaker’s interlinearity and the author’s poiesis. The speakers bring with them different disciplinary expertise, including cultural anthropology, comparative literature, South Asian religions, and language revitalization, as well as a range of translation experiences and language backgrounds. They will present arguments in favor of producing translations that emerge out of a dialectical and intersubjective translational engagement as much with the source as with the synchronously proposed alternative renderings by the group’s members with the aim of jointly facilitating a multi-vocal, integrated, and consensual iteration of the text.


Presenter 1
Kritish Rajbhandari - krajbhan@reed.edu (Reed College)
Presenter 2
Christoph Emmrich - christoph.emmrich@utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Presenter 3
Ian Turner - ian.turner@mail.utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)
Presenter 4
Bal Gopal Shrestha - shrestha12@gmail.com
Presenter 5
Marilena Frisone - marilena.frisone@gmail.com

South Asia in an Inter-Asian Perspective: Early Modern and Modern Mutual Perceptions and Engagements with East Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Shatrunjay Mall - mall2@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Discussant / Chair
Samee Siddiqui - ssiddiqui@drury.edu

Transnational histories are transforming South Asian studies. This panel challenges methodological nationalism and analyzes engagements and mutual perceptions of East Asia and South Asia across the early modern and modern periods. More specifically, this panel tells us how Indians positioned themselves in the world through transnational interactions and connections with distant countries and regions, and also how Indian cultural products and commodities had an impact globally. The papers in this panel draw on vernacular South Asian texts and media as well as Japanese and Chinese sources. Speaker 1’s paper analyzes the imaginaries of Japan and East Asia in the writings of Gadadhar Singh, a pioneering early twentieth century Hindi travel writer. Although Singh never visited Japan, the country intrigued him, and his writings demonstrate the immense affinity that he felt to this distant Asian country. Speaker 2’s paper studies the fascinations with China in post-Indian independence Hindustani texts and evaluates the sources of this interest. China and Sino-Indian friendship were highly significant for these Gandhians in their quest for peace in Asia. Speaker 3’s paper explores the life histories of Indian cotton textiles in early modern Japan, within a larger oceanic and transnational frame. This paper is simultaneously a commodity history and a cultural history. Speaker 4’s paper studies Cold War-era Hindi films and pulp fiction and analyzes the role of the Chinese adversary in these media productions. The paper looks at a Cold War imaginary unique to the Global South. Through covering a wide range of sources from different time periods, the papers in this panel provide new modes of doing inter-Asian historical and cultural analysis. By crossing borders and placing India and South Asia within wider regional and continental frameworks, this panel opens up new avenues for approaching South Asian studies.


Presenter 1
Shatrunjay Mall - mall2@wisc.edu (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
An Itinerant Intellectual on a Global Stage: Gadadhar Singh’s Imaginaries of Japan and Asia

Presenter 2
Yasser Ali Nasser - ynasser@utk.edu ()
“‘For Peace in Asia!’: Indian Visions of a Gandhian China in the 1950s

Presenter 3
Vidhita Raina - vraina@ku.edu ()
Mobile Materials: The Lives of Indian Textiles in Japan

Presenter 4
Navnidhi Sharma - ns4022@nyu.edu ()
Super-Spies and Chinese Space Villains: Reading Perils through South Asian Pulp Film


Religious authority and the state in Muslim South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mashal Saif - mashalsaif@gmail.com (Clemson)

Discussant / Chair
Mashal Saif - mashalsaif@gmail.com (Clemson)

This panel brings together fresh empirical research, drawing on unused and new sources, to investigate the question of Muslim religious authority in South Asia. How did it get established? Based on which sources? In which historical settings does established religious authority get challenged and how are such conflicts related to concrete and envisioned Islamic states? In concrete terms, Speaker 1’s presentation analyzes a neglected 16th century Mughal treatise written after the arrival of a controversial footprint relic of the Prophet Muhammad to the court at Fatehpur Sikri. The presentation reveals how the Mughal court rhetorically deferred to Sunni juridical authority, while reading it only partially, and which role the religious authority of the emperor played in such disputes. Speaker 2 investigates intense internal rifts within Pakistan's Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party in the 1980s over whether to adopt Ayatollah Khomeini's revolutionary model or, rather, to stick with the vision of Maududi, the JI founder, of gradual Islamization, underscoring tensions over defining an "Islamic revolution." The remaining two papers foreground contemporary Pakistan. Speaker 3’s ethnographic work examines how Pakistani Shi'a female clerics ('aalimat) employ their religious expertise to both reinforce and reshape gender norms and modes of religious authority within their minority sect. Speaker 4’s presentation focuses on heated contestations surrounding the Bibi Pak Daman shrine in Lahore, where divergent historical narratives and sectarian claims have sparked broader conflicts over defining Pakistan's Islamic identity, state management of religious sites and local traditions. Taken together, the panel productively brings into conversation more text-centered studies and anthropological accounts while also displaying a strong interest in majority-minority dynamics, gender, and the impact of public religiosity and private religious conversations.


Presenter 1
Usman Hamid - usman.hamid@gmail.com ()
Debating Islam at the Court of the Great Mughal

Presenter 2
Simon Wolfgang Fuchs - simonw.fuchs@mail.huji.ac.il (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Owning the Future Islamic Revolution: The Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, and the challenge of Iran

Presenter 3
Mashal Saif - mashalsaif@gmail.com (Clemson)
Shi‘a ‘Aalimat in Contemporary Pakistan: Reinforcing and Reconfiguring Gender Roles and Remaking a Historically Male Clerical Tradition

Presenter 4
Noor Zehra Zaidi - nzaidi@umbc.edu (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
Contesting Bodies: (Re)Making Bibi Pak Daman


Kashmiri Futures
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mohamad Junaid - mohamad.junaid@mcla.edu (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts)

Chair
MONA bhan - mobhan@syr.edu (Syracuse University)

This roundtable will focus on a recent special issue on the theme of “Kashmiri Futures”. The special issue inaugurates a scholarly and creative conversation that seeks to detach the future of Kashmir from the narrative, aesthetic, and political frames of powerful nation-states that have sought to keep Kashmiris confined to a long and seemingly enduring colonial present. Through a collection of academic articles and creative works it seeks to inspire radical imaginations of possible futures in danger of foreclosure by occupying states, and asks us to think about occupation as a temporal as well as spatial regime. We take inspiration from and join ongoing conversations around Black futures, Indigenous futures, Palestinian futures, environmental futures, and feminist, queer and trans futures, offering this issue as merely a beginning in a longer conversation about liberatory futures for Kashmir, and in the hope of unfolding vibrant conversations across these fields. Speaker 1 will discuss the titular theme of the special issue and the precarious conditions within which Kashmiri scholarship is produced. Speaker 2 will discuss a fictional contribution to the issue and the use of dystopian form to propel the imagination of an alternative future. Speaker 3 will discuss the work of the 20th century Kashmiri poet Ghulam Ahmed Mahjur and his use of the Islamic Persianate ghazal tradition as a critical conceptual resource for imagining futures. Speaker 4 will address the shifting performances of Kashmiri transgender wedding singers to assert their own agency. Speaker 5 will discuss the future of research in Critical Kashmir Studies through a close consideration of questions of power, ethics and positionality.


Presenter 1
deepti misri - Deepti.Misri@colorado.edu
Presenter 2
ather zia - ather.zia@unco.edu (UNCO Greeley)
Presenter 3
Abdul Manan Bhat - bhatab@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Presenter 4
Shazia Malik - drshazia@uok.edu.in
Presenter 5
Hafsa Kanjwal - kanjwalh@lafayette.edu (Lafayette College)

Activism as Pedagogy: Spatio-temporal Dimensions of Social Movement Learning in Pakistan
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Mariam Sheikh - mpsheikh@umass.edu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

In what ways is the activist space a site of knowledge production and learning? What are the translocal and transnational dimensions of these pedagogical processes? This paper addresses these questions through the study of the Progressive Students Collective (PSC), a student-led collective based in Lahore, Pakistan, advocating for the restoration of student unions, campus-based issues as well as broader democratic transformation of society. Since 2015, PSC activists have grown to become a country-wide network with an overwhelming presence in public universities as well as private universities. Their novel forms of resistance rooted in intersectionality, popular education and grassroots mobilization, while maintaining independence from mainstream political parties, is rich with pedagogical and political implications for the political culture of the country. This paper offers a spatio-temporal understanding of learning at PSC through ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2021 and 2023 in Lahore, Pakistan. It studies how activists acquire and disseminate knowledge across time and space. Using the social movement learning framework pioneered by Aziz Choudry (2015; 2013; 2010), it is argued that spatialities and temporalities of learning intersect as student activists engage in knowledge-building across various spaces. Collective learning occurs through day-to-day mobilization activities in both physical and cyberspace, extending beyond classrooms and university campuses. Grounded in lived experiences, these pedagogical processes are shaped by place-based struggles in hometowns, urban environments for higher education, and cultural legacies of ethno-linguistic backgrounds. Temporalities of learning are shaped by critical engagement with history to draw connections between past, present, and future, including intergenerational knowledge transmission, uplifting of peoples’ histories and the contextualization of political events within local and global contexts. It is evident that these pedagogical processes not only catalyze individual transformation but also exert a profound influence on the broader movement dynamics, shaping the historical, material, discursive and embodied learning for student activists.


“Dancing in Chains”: Anti-Authoritarian Songs in Pakistani Films of the 1960s
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
John Caldwell - asiaweb@email.unc.edu (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

From 1958 until 1971, Pakistan was ruled by the authoritarian military “presidents” Ayub Khan and Yahiya Khan successively. Throughout this period, progressive Urdu poets espoused an explicitly anti-authoriatarian stance in their writings. Foremost among these were Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Habib Jalib. These two outspoken radical-left poets explored in their works the widespread feelings of betrayal and frustration experienced after the dream of a free Pakistan was crushed by military leaders. Such critiques of the government from the progressive intelligentsia were echoed in the entertainment industry, where filmmakers like Riaz Shahid and established film singers like Noor Jahan and Mehdi Hassan adapted or incorporated the poems of Faiz and Habib Jalib into commercial films that contained thinly veiled messages of resistance. These narratives were often set “elsewhere,” i.e. in the context of contemporary struggles like Palestine and Kashmir where Pakistani film audiences had already claimed a sympathetic stake. Drawing upon methodological approaches developed in recent work by Iftikhar Dadi, Ada Petiwala, Ali Nobil Ahmad, and Esha Niyogi De, I present a case study of four film songs from the 1960s—two by Faiz and two by Habib Jalib—that epitomize this musical mode of resistance. At first glance the instrumentalization of a popular/populist media genre like film song to rouse the people against authoritarianism might appear misdirected. I argue, however, that the creative synergies between poets, performers, and directors resulted in powerful songs that resonate far beyond their cinematic contexts. Despite pervasive government censorship, these anti-authoritarian film songs brought the incisive words of radical poets to the widest possible audiences and cast critical light on the darkness of dictatorship.


Anti Caste Theater in the Age of Authoritarianism: Social Change and Self Transformation With Reference to ‘Whistle Blower Theater Group’ in Gujarat
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Maulikraj Shrimali - maulikrajshrimali2027@u.northwestern.edu (Northwestern University)

This research paper explores the transformative potential of anti-caste theater in Gujarat, the authoritarian western Indian state by focusing on the "Whistle Blower Theater Group" (WBTG). Despite seven decades of constitutional rights, the entrenched caste-based values continue to oppress Dalits by the upper castes. The Gujarati (Indian) theater landscape is dominated by upper castes, perpetuating casteist ideologies. In response, the WBTG, inspired by the philosophies of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Paulo Friere, Agusto Boal, and Jyotiba Phule, and Dalit theater movement serves as a countercultural force challenging Brahmanical supremacy. As the founder and director of WBTG, I will present a decade of experiences, works, and observations on how theater becomes a transformative pedagogy. The Theater of the Caste Oppressed process draws inspiration from Dalit-Bahujan-Adiwasi leaders, incorporating workshops, rehearsals, and post-show discussions both online-offline. This presentation discusses the historiographical aspects of anti-caste theater, highlighting how marginalized performers navigate spaces dominated by the Savarnas (upper castes) and Brahmanical gaze in authoritarian state Gujarat. The research delves into the impact of this theater on participants, audiences, and society at large. Case studies and experiences illustrate how WBTG contributes to the formation of changemakers across various fields. The study employs co-performative witnessing, autoethnography, interviews, and historiographical archival analysis to explore the profound societal transformation facilitated by the theater of the caste oppressed. Through occupying spaces in mainstream journalism, educational institutions, and scholarship, the WBTG challenges the oppressive caste system, fostering a new generation of advocates for social change and democracy.


Videographic Approaches to South Asian Cinema
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: University A/B
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Corey Creekmur - corey-creekmur@uiowa.edu (University of Iowa)

Discussant / Chair
Corey Creekmur - corey-creekmur@uiowa.edu (University of Iowa)

This panel seeks to open up methodological discussions about the value of using the audiovisual material of films themselves, rather than words alone, to comment on cinema. Over the past decade, videographic criticism has emerged as a vibrant new mode of scholarship in film and media studies, though it has been unevenly adopted in the study of non-Western cinema. Three of the panelists here have been trained at the NEH-funded Middlebury summer workshop on videographic criticism, and one at the LodZ Film School’s Essay Film Studio, and all four have worked on video essays pertaining to South Asian cinema. Videographic approaches are very diverse in method, ranging from more recognizable forms of scholarly argumentation via voiceover or text on screen to more affective or even experimentally “deformative” modes of engaging with screen media to generate new insights. As videographic scholars have noted, putting a film into an editing timeline such as on Adobe Premiere and taking it apart, offers a very different, even embodied, way of engaging with, and responding to, screen media. Such insights also have impacts on our pedagogical practices, even in courses not primarily concerning video essays. Questions the panel will engage with include: How might the video essay simultaneously stage, and comment on, various kinds of cinematic embodiment? What can practice-based approaches, like the video essay, offer in the field of feminist media history in South Asia? What insights on cinematic sound do we gain from the non-rational, affective forms of knowledge offered by videographic practices? How might previous, written work on Indian cinema be reconceived and extended in the form of a video essay?


Presenter 1
Ritika Kaushik - ritika.kaushik0404@gmail.com (Goethe University, Frankfurt)
Videographic Meddling as Feminist Media History: Excavating a Counter Archive within the Official Documentary Film Archive in India

Presenter 2
Pavitra Sundar - psundar@hamilton.edu (Hamilton College)
Listening to Aunty: The Acousmêtre and other Videographic Lessons from The Lunchbox

Presenter 3
Neepa Majumdar - neepamajumdar@gmail.com (University of Pittsburgh)
Audio Montage Vehicles in Mrinal Sen’s Films: A Videographic Approach

Presenter 4
Corey Creekmur - corey-creekmur@uiowa.edu (University of Iowa)
Essays Beget Video Essays: A Comparative Analysis of Critical Approaches to Popular Hindi Film


Bangladeshi Politics under the Awami League (2009-2024)
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Ishrat Hossain - ishrat.hossain@politics.ox.ac.uk (University of Oxford)

Discussant / Chair
Ishrat Hossain - ishrat.hossain@politics.ox.ac.uk (University of Oxford)

After another contentious general election in January 2024, the Awami League (AL) -- led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina -- is ruling Bangladesh for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term since 2009. Despite achieving impressive economic growth and developmental milestones, under Hasina’s leadership, Bangladesh has seen steep democratic backsliding most notably through cracking down on political opposition, limiting civic liberties and administering controversial elections. However, Bangladesh’s gradual transformation from a violent yet intensely competitive multi-party democracy to a competitive authoritarian state in the last 15 years has been largely neglected by researchers in South Asian studies. With this panel, we aim to present some of the latest research focusing on Bangladesh’s politics and societal developments under the long uninterrupted power stint of the ruling AL. As the AL begins its fourth consecutive term, this panel brings together scholars working on different aspects of electoral and everyday politics in Bangladesh. In doing so the panel explores the political processes and complexities of the ‘Awami regime’, delving into diverse subjects ranging from the linkages between crime syndicates and party politics to the production of electoral competition to the impact of loyalty incentives and elite narrative building on the consolidation of power. The research contributions included in the panel cover multiple social sciences disciplines including development studies, criminology, political science, and sociolinguistics and use both in-depth ethnographic research and comparative discourse analysis.


Presenter 1
David Jackman - david.jackman@qeh.ox.ac.uk ()
Syndicates and Societies: Criminal Politics in Dhaka (book presentation)

Presenter 2
Ishrat Hossain - ishrat.hossain@politics.ox.ac.uk (University of Oxford)
The Production of Electoral Competition in Hybrid Regimes: Evidence from Bangladesh

Presenter 3
Saimum Parvez - saimumparvez@gmail.com ()
Patronage networks, loyalty incentives, and strong (wo)man politics: The recipe of winning elections and consolidating authoritarian rule

Presenter 4
m h - sh.sharmee@gmail.com ()
From Democracy to Development: A Comparative Analysis of Sheikh Hasina’s Post-election speeches (2008-2024)


Non-elites in Premodern South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Charlotte Gorant - c.gorant@columbia.edu (Columbia University)

Discussant / Chair
Mekhola Gomes - mgomes@amherst.edu

Scholarship on premodern South Asia across disciplines, ancient and medieval, has over the last three decades moved toward examining cultural history and de-emphasized dynastic framings and socio-economic analyses. Instead, scholars have emphasized processes of language, literature, landscape, religion, representational practice, and aesthetic expression. What has fallen out of view as part of this cultural turn are social and economic histories of non-elites in premodern South Asia. Papers in this inter-disciplinary panel bring together art-history and historical scholarship on ancient and medieval South Asia to shed light on and problematize the notion of non-elites in premodern South Asia. Speakers discuss historical transformation framed by social and economic history methods to reinsert questions of hierarchy, social power, and economic processes in premodern South Asia.


Presenter 1
Mekhola Gomes - mgomes@amherst.edu ()
Kinship ties as integral to property claims in the early medieval period

Presenter 2
Charlotte Gorant - c.gorant@columbia.edu (Columbia University)
Power of monastic institutions and expansion of currency in the early historic period

Presenter 3
Kanad Sinha - kanadsinha@gmail.com ()
Women, sports, and problemtizing 'elite' status in ancient households

Presenter 4
Diana Zhang - zshuheng@sas.upenn.edu ()
Engravers and the reproduction of power in early medieval society


Am I Your Sister or Your Worker?: Theorizing Back the Labor Market for Domestic Work in Nepal
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Grace Mueller - gem44@cam.ac.uk (University of Cambridge)

This research is an ethnographic study of the labour market for domestic work in Hetauda, Nepal. It aims to nuance quantitative understandings of how labour markets ‘work’ in the care economy, through a relational, feminist understanding of women’s experiences entering, exiting, and remaining in paid care work in an urban city of South Asia. Based on 6 months of data collection with 20 domestic workers, I theorize domestic work as a product of family, market and charity values, mediated relationally through female labour agency and employer governmentality. Employers create (or obscure) employment boundaries through manipulations of space, time, rules and financial incentives (with monetary and non-monetary benefits). Workers ‘act’ through their multiple roles and identities, influenced by their own age, subjectivity and generational aspirations. This characterization of domestic work sits within a wider analysis of labor demand and supply within domestic work and other forms of ‘un’skilled work, where I examine the friction points which distort labour supply and demand’s matching in practice (including performative myths around unskilled work, education and job hierarchies). I ultimately argue for more diverse, place-based theorizations of work, employment and labour market processes to better illuminate the ‘real’ or ‘lived’ labour market, with methodological implications for the study of work and labour in South Asia and beyond.


Creative Production as Resistance Against Ethnonationalist Exclusion Among Miya Women in Assam
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Prerana Das - prerana.das@queensu.ca (Queen's University)

Since their colonial migration into Assam’s riverine char islands along the Brahmaputra River basin, Muslim peasants from Bangladesh – known as Miyas – have faced unique combination of vulnerabilities due to ecological degradation compounded by human interventions, along with state-sanctioned discrimination and censorship which has heightened amidst the growth Assamese and Hindu nationalism in recent years. For example, the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act granted citizenship to all persecuted religious minorities who settled in India before 2014 except for Muslims; eviction drives throughout 2022 displaced thousands of char dwellers to make room for state infrastructural development projects; and in October 2022, the state government shut down a recently inaugurated Miya Museum displaying Bengali Muslim art and agricultural practices. This paper investigates how such experiences of ecological precarity, ethnonational discrimination, and cultural censorship inspire a unique form of grassroots resistance among Miya women: kantha or quilt stitching. I draw from a theoretical framework of ethnonational precarity amidst the contentious politics of citizenship in Assam, feminist political ecology of the vulnerable char landscape, and the material culture of resistance. This research is based on a case study analysis of Amrapari, a grassroots quilting collective founded by Miya activist Manjuwara Mullah which provides women on the chars with opportunities for economic mobility and community-building while preserving Miya heritage through embroidered artifacts. Based on an analysis of secondary literature and semi-structured oral history interviews with Mullah and three women from the collective, this paper investigates how the act of embroidery becomes a form of resistance through which Miya women reclaim, reimagine, and reassert cultural identity.


Exploring the Role of Women in the Traditional Institutions of Meghalaya: A Study on Democracy and Authoritarianism Dynamics
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Ruth Ibameri Kharbamon - ibameriportia@gmail.com (Assam Don Bosco University)

Traditional institutions serve as the bedrock of governance, social organization and cultural preservation in many societies worldwide. These institutions, deeply rooted in history and heritage, play pivotal roles in shaping community dynamics, resolving disputes and upholding cultural traditions. They function on customary practices and shared values passed down through generations. Traditional institutions often coexist alongside modern systems of governance, offering unique insights into community values, norms and belief systems. The traditional institutions of Meghalaya- Ki Raid, Hima, Doloi, Nokma, encompass a diverse range of structures and customs, each intricately woven into the fabric of its indigenous societies. Rooted in local customs, oral traditions and communal values, these institutions stand as foundational pillars of authority and governance within their respective communities. They serve as the custodians of the customary laws and cultural practices, entrusted with upholding the social order and preserving the collective heritage of their communities. Meghalaya is distinct for its distinctive matrilineal system, in which lineage and inheritance are traditionally traced through the female line. However, despite this matrilineal tradition, male dominance continues to prevail across various facets of society, including governance, decision-making and socio-economic structures. In spite of operating within a democratic framework, traditional institutions persist in marginalizing women, excluding them from meaningful participation and decision-making processes. This absence of women's roles underscores a significant gap in the democratic principles of equality. Despite the democratic ethos advocating for inclusive governance, the continued exclusion of women from traditional institutions highlights persistent challenges in achieving gender equity and representation. The paper seeks to delve into the intricate role of women within the traditional institutions of the Khasis, an indigenous community situated in the Northeastern state of Meghalaya, India.


How does the State See Women? Examining Women’s Participation in Paid Work in the NSSO Time Use Survey by State
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Anupama Kumar - kumar255@wisc.edu (UW Madison)

Studies have found that Indian women’s participation in the workforce forms a U-shaped curve – as household income increases, women’s participation first declines before increasing again.(Mehrotra and Parida 2017) The most common explanation is that women do most of the unpaid labour within the household, a finding confirmed by the National Sample Survey Organization’s (NSSO) official report on the Time Use Survey.(Government of India 2020) But could women’s participation as economic citizens depend on state policies, such as a higher minimum wage, or support to start small businesses? Political scientists have suggested that states in India form distinct clusters, with some states being more conducive to social protection policies than others.(Tillin 2022) Another body of literature points to the effectiveness of state-run community-based organisations, such as Kudumbashree (Kerala) or Jeevika (Bihar) in providing opportunities for women’s employment (Devika 2016; Sanyal, Rao, and Majumdar 2015). In this paper, I study women’s participation in the labour force by state and draw links between state-level policies and their impact on women using the NSSO-TUS 2019. Preliminary findings from a logit regression model show a positive correlation between the presence of a community-based organisation and the probability that women in the sample are self-employed, but a negative correlation with the probability of women’s participation in all paid work. My study unpacks this finding by studying the distribution of paid and unpaid work between men and women within the same household, as well as between households across states in India. I link these findings to existing literature on state policies on social protections for women and families in India to answer the question of how states shape women’s participation in paid and unpaid work.


Constituting the Hindu Family in Pakistan
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Ghazal Asif Farrukhi - ghazal.asif@lums.edu.pk (LUMS University)

What responsibility does a Muslim state have to the Hindu family? Hindu men would pose this question as a challenge to the court’s authority during legal proceedings for wife-initiated divorce. Each time, the question sparked protracted deliberations, showing the effort required to produce the Hindu family as a legible subject of governance in Pakistan. This paper argues that in Pakistan, the conditions for minority citizenship are enabled by the law’s intensification of its secular power to govern the Hindu family. For decades, minority rights activists have been petitioning for Hindu marriages to be legally registered the same way that Muslim marriages have been since 1964. The 2017 Hindu Marriage and Family Act finally addressed this demand and controversially also codified divorce for Hindus. It expanded family court jurisdiction to include Hindu families by citing a constitutional obligation to “protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child.” Yet many family courts in Sindh have been quietly granting divorces to petitioning Hindu wives for years, using an ad hoc combination of colonial precedence and Islamic procedures of khul’ (wife-initiated divorce). Magistrates describe their activities as extending “relief” to women trapped in bad marriages. Hindu husbands and community leaders challenged this by arguing in court that the Hindu family in Pakistan lies beyond the state’s jurisdiction. In this paper I draw on legal archives, courtroom ethnography, and oral histories to show how Pakistani law’s shifting notions of responsibility to protect the family as a foundation of national society help constitute a feminized Hindu subject in need of protection from unpredictable webs of kinship.


The Trajectory of Gujarat’s Agrarian Question: Land Dispossession, Labor Migration, and Agribusiness Dominance
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Aman Bardia - aman@newschool.edu (The New School for Social Research)

The Indian state of Gujarat has seen a rapid rise in capital-intensive agriculture and caste-based land conflicts over the past three decades, coinciding with the ascension of the ethno-nationalist BJP. This paper will investigate the phenomenon of accelerated primitive accumulation in Gujarat, exploring the growing dominance of large corporations in collaboration with far-right political forces in shaping India's relations of production. Notably, these corporations, together with foreign agribusiness entities, have extended their reach into the agricultural sector with the direct support of the BJP-led political alliance. This paper will unpack the history of rural land dispossession, caste-based labor migration, and the influx of agribusinesses in Gujarat. Against the backdrop of significant land and agrarian reform laws in the state, this analysis will shed important light on the formal and real subsumption of labor by capital in agricultural relations. Such insights will be crucial in understanding the prospects for effective land and agrarian reforms in the rapidly industrializing rural landscape of Gujarat. Considering the deep ties between the urban and rural both for labor (migrant labor in the cities from the countryside) and capital (investing corporations based in cities in India and in the Global North), this analysis will contribute to the material history of the agrarian question in Gujarat. In this paper, I examine the convergence of ethno-nationalist politics with capital forces, and its impact on transforming rural economies and societal relationships, effectively stifling democratic engagement. I aim to demonstrate that the consolidation of ethno-nationalist politics with capitalist growth in the Indian countryside is essential for this development, drawing out the intricate relationship between political power and economic dominance.


Landscapes of Impermanence: Exploring Infrastructure and Sediment Routes
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Farzana Hossain - fh249@cornell.edu (Harvard University )

The Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world protecting the coasts of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, has recently been under threat due to climate change, with erosion triumphing over sedimentation. Through field work, this presentation will examine the impact of British colonial infrastructure on our perception of environmental shifts and responses to climate crises in the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest in present day Bangladesh and India. To do this, the research will position the Anthropocene as a geopolitically biased age and environmental disasters as architecturally caused conflicts. The research analyzes climate change from the microscale of a community to the macroscale of a subcontinent following built infrastructure along the Ganges River shared by both India and Bangladesh. The study argues that infrastructure plays a central role in triggering environmental disasters by impeding natural processes such as water flow and sediment deposition, thereby altering landscapes. Through case studies, the presentation will raise crucial questions that are under-explored in current scholarship: How did colonial exploitation of the Sundarbans lead to its present day vulnerabilities? On a broader scale, how have colonial notions of modernity, such as the construction of dams along the Ganges, affected sediment deposition into the Sundarbans? On a more localized level, how do insufficient sediments increase the precarity of communities living in disaster-prone zones? By building on research by Anuradha Mathur, Dilip Da Cunha, Debjani Bhattacharya, and Amitav Ghosh, the presentation attempts to start conversations about practices of maintenance, stewardship, and care in a deltaic context to help rethink design practice and policy-making in regions directly affected by climate change. By looking at river systems and the landscapes they support, the project builds on current research on deltaic plains to drive the discourse around urbanism in the understudied ecological context of the Sundarbans mangrove forest.


Muddy Lines and Murky Waters: The Making of a Colonial Delta
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Sabujkoli Mukherjee - smmukherjee@ucdavis.edu (University of California Davis)

My paper studies the environmental transformation of the Sunderbans during the colonial period with particular focus on the East India Company's regime in the first half of the 19th century. My research focuses on the ambiguities of colonial rule as it expanded across this waterborne terrain. I argue that it is important to engage with the contradictions between the administrative imperatives of the colonizing state and the resistance it was met with in this difficult geography. This allows us to understand the ways in which different groups of indigenous people like landlords, middling tenants, agricultural laborers, boaters, salt makers, fishermen, and honey-collectors, both shaped and at times thwarted, colonial policies. We get a sense of how the volatility of this landscape frustrated the plans of colonial officials. This can help us situate the historical antecedents of the current precarity of the region in the face of the climate crisis within this longer history of environmental change. This paper contributes to the literature in South Asian environmental history and the colonial history of the Sunderbans. I probe the tensions and frustrations evident in colonial revenue documents and reports to tease out an archival base for writing an environmental history of the region. This methodological approach allows us to carefully piece together a rich and variegated picture of the social and environmental milieu of colonial Sunderbans. My purpose is to question and disturb the extant historiography of linear progression of colonial rule in the Sunderbans which often tends to replicate the claims of colonial officials. Instead, I show that the resistance of indigenous people and the intractability of this geography fundamentally reshaped the dispositions and ambitions of colonial officials and their local intermediaries.


Political Islam and Democracy in Pakistan-Conjectural Perceptions and Practices of Religio-Political Parties
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer

Although the Islamist parties of Pakistan did not have impressive electoral record, but they do have immense and tangible influence on the Pakistani state and society. Among them, Jam‘īyyat-i-‘Ulamā’-i-Pākistān (JUP), Jam‘īyyat-i-‘Ulamā’-i-Islām (JUI) and Jamā‘at-i-Islāmī (JI) are the most important parties to mention, believing in Islamic Democracy in disguise of Western-style democracy. However, the main dilemma of these parties is that they are not clear even in their concepts of Islamic democracy and political system. So, they have to play their political role under the banner of Western-style democracy. As strong advocates of democracy, they have to follow the hypocritical style as they are not willing to give equal rights to the non-Muslims and women. They do not reconcile the basic concepts of Western-style of democracy as they believe in the divine sovereignty i.e. rule of Allāh by the Qur’ān, Sunnah and Fiqh (Ḥanafī). Although we do not have any official statistics about the religious communities living in Pakistan, but it is assumed that Barelwis are in majority and they have their own religio-political parties, the JUP being the most important and oldest one. The JUI represents the Deobandis whereas; JI represents all schools of thought. Shī‘ahs and Ahl-i-Ḥadīth also have their own religio-political parties. In this paper, an overview of the religio-political importance of the religio-political parties and their role in the national politics of Pakistan will be made. The research questions will be why the Islamists are failed in their electoral politics in Pakistan in spite of the fact that they have appropriate human and financial resources? Do these parties develop and follow the democratic norms within their own realm? Besides, as a specific case study, their views about democracy, human rights, rule of law and gender equality as perceived by their ideologues will also be examined.


Original Sin: The Constitution and the Long Arc of 'Democratic Authoritarianism' in India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Tripurdaman Singh - tripurdaman.singh@graduateinstitute.ch (Institut de Haute Etudes Internationales et du Develloppement)

‘Democratic backsliding’ has been a persistent accompaniment to both scholarly and journalistic commentary on India in recent times, especially since 2014 when Narendra Modi became prime minister and doubly so as India heads into a general election. It is argued that India’s constitutional structure – with its democracy and its freedoms – is being steadily eroded, slipping into the realm of ‘electoral autocracy’ and in danger of further degeneration. Much of this commentary, I contend, fails to situate itself in the broader historical trajectory and constitutional context of India’s democratic journey. By design, India’s founding figures created a constitution that provided for an executive-heavy system of government – animated by the idea of constituting and facilitating executive power. Dubbed an ‘Eastminster’ by the constitutional historian Harshan Kumarasingham, it was structurally and normatively different from the democracies in the west. At the first sign of the constitutional tension between civil liberties and executive power, the Constitution was amended to curtail civil liberties and legitimise ‘democratic authoritarianism’ via the First Amendment – exemplifying the intense struggle over constitutional norms that has characterised Indian democracy and instituting a specific (and ostensibly democratic) pattern of constitutional subversion. This paper seeks to look at today’s democratic crisis against the backdrop of India’s foundation and the first amendment – and argue that actually it is constitutionally enshrined super-concentration of power that I term ‘democratic authoritarianism’, as well as the normative framework it has engendered, that allows anti-democratic tendencies to operate through constitutional means. It provides the subsoil for the present moment of democratic crisis and the test for whether or not there is a plan to rescue it.


Unamendable Constitution, Eroding Democracy: The Impact of Basic Structure Theory on Bangladesh's Democratic Backsliding
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Washik Muhammod Istiaq Ezaz - washik@iub.edu.bd (Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB))

The evolution of constitutional jurisprudence in South Asia, particularly the introduction of the basic structure doctrine by the Indian Supreme Court in the landmark kesavananda bharati v. state of kerala case, has fundamentally impacted the trajectory of constitutionalism and democratic governance. This paper explores the case of Bangladesh, where the adoption of the basic structure doctrine by the Supreme Court in the Anwar Hussain Chowdhury v. Bangladesh case initially seemed to safeguard democratic principles against arbitrary constitutional amendments. However, the subsequent incorporation of Article 7B, an wide eternity clause, in the fifteenth constitutional amendment altered the landscape, raising concerns about democratic backsliding and potential authoritarianism. What sets this research apart is its novel exploration of the impact of the basic structure doctrine and the eternity clause on democracy, an aspect largely overlooked in previous studies. Through a meticulous analysis of legal developments and intricate political dynamics this paper unravels how the fusion of the basic structure doctrine and the eternity clause has created a paradoxical scenario wherein ostensibly unamendable constitutional provisions may ironically undermine the very democratic values they allegedly seek to protect. Furthermore, it investigates the ways in which political actors exploit these legal mechanisms to consolidate power and suppress dissidents, consequently contributing to democratic backsliding and the crystallisation of authoritarian rule. By critically examining the intricate interplay between constitutional theory, legal practice, and the realpolitik on the ground, this research offers a nuanced understanding of the complex dynamics shaping constitutionalism and democracy in Bangladesh.


Islamic Populism Under Neoliberal Economy: How An Ethic of Self-Reliance Shapes Working-Class Support for Pakistan's Anti-Blasphemy Politics
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 9: Saturday, 8:30 am - 10:15 am
Room: Parlour Room 638
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Umair Rasheed - urashee2@illinois.edu (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

This paper studies how a new far-right political party combines populist rhetoric and Islamic piety to mobilize segments of the nouveau riche and the disenfranchised working classes in Pakistan. Formed in 2016 in the wake of an anti-blasphemy mass movement, the Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), or the Movement for Submission to the Prophet’s Will, has altered urban Punjab’s political landscape by emerging as the third highest voting bloc in general elections of 2018 and 2023. Unlike traditional mass parties in Pakistan who work through patron-client networks, the TLP has promoted an ethics of self-reliance which takes the form of vigilantism and mob action in political affairs and entrepreneurialism in economic affairs. Its activists run small businesses and skills training centers, organize work associations, distribute charity, and create mutual-aid networks to become self-reliant and honorable subjects who exercise control over their lives. In the context of neoliberal de-industrialization and de-agrarianization which has created un- and underemployment and informalization of the economy, TLP combines the ethics of selfless devotion to the prophet and self-reliance in economic affairs to organize working-class men as pious and honorable subjects. This paper argues that the TLP has emerged as a right-wing populist response to a crisis of hegemony shaped by Pakistan’s changing position in global political and economic structures. By showing the mutual imbrication of Islamic piety and class relations of the neoliberal economy, the paper contributes to Marxist and post-colonial theories of populism.


Mapping of Historical and Religious Sites in Pakistan - Review of the Survey and Documentation Project of the Department of Archaeology & Museums, Government of Pakistan
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Muhammad Ashraf Khan - ashrafarchaeologist@hotmail.com (Quaid-i-Azam University)
Co-Author
Muhammad Khan Khattak - mhkhankhattak@gmail.com (Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage)

With a vision to develop and transform historical and religious sites into potential tourist destinations, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan had issued directive in 2020 for mapping of historical and religious sites throughout Pakistan. The Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums got approved a PC-II for the purpose. However, the study did not remain restricted to the mapping of historic and religious sites, but was virtually expanded to the mapping of all kinds of cultural relics from the Stone Age to the Colonial Era. More than 9,000 archaeological sites and historic monuments were initially recorded throughout Pakistan. Similarly, the physical visits to a large number of sites including those protected under the national statutes were completely vanished. Further, some of the monuments recorded during the survey were personal houses of some political elites, which were renovated regularly and they did not fulfill the criteria of a heritage site. Of these 6201sites and monuments 2186 were recorded in Punjab, 1475 in Sindh, 1554 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 475 in Balochistan, 91 in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, 374 in Gilgit-Baltistan, and 46 in Federal Capital Territory (Islamabad). Out of a large number of sites and monuments which were physically studied, 500 selected were validated. The validated sites and monuments included 145 in Punjab, 122 in Sindh, 112 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 46 in Balochistan, 31 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 27 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 17 in Federal Capital Territory. Through this review, an effort has been made to highlight the present state of preservation of the heritage sites throughout Pakistan, the practical difficulties off and on the field, recommendations for the custodians of the heritage sites and above all the possible fruition of this exercise vis-à-vis the vision of the political leadership.


Archaeological Researches and Control on Illicit Trade of Cultural Heritage in Pakistan
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Arshad Ullah - arshadu254@gmail.com (Department of Archaeology and Museums Islamabad Government of Pakistan)

The archaeological researches activities carried out before and after independence on the soil of Pakistan have contributed a lot to understand about the rich and diverse cultural profile of this region. Despite of the fact that considerable legislation both at national and international level is provided by the concerned agencies and departments including UNESCO and UNODC, illegal trade of cultural heritage is one of the main hindrances for safeguarding and proper protection of rich cultural heritage of our country. However, joint collaborative efforts between the different departments, organizations, agencies are essentially required to combat against the illicit trade of cultural heritage. In order to control on illegal activities regarding both movable & immovable antiquities, special branches called as “Antiquities Trade Control” were established during 1986 by the Department of Archaeology at its different offices at Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Hyderabad. Due to the courageous efforts thousands of antiquities were seized by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan at the sea and air ports of Pakistan and were deposited mainly in Exploration Branch, Karachi and other offices of the Department of Archaeology and Museums before devolution of the Department in 2011. The Customs and Police authorities confiscated movable cultural material from time to time not only after independence but even before independence of Pakistan. For instance, during the period from 1973-93, the number of antiquities which were confiscated and deposited in to S.R.O Peshawar Collection comes to 983. Smuggling out of antiquities from Pakistan is a very old problem in which big mafias are involved and remain hidden from the clutches of Government authorities. Professional Archaeologists are not involved in such sort of criminalities as they are bulwark towards such activities.


Ceramic Traditions of Indus Valley Civilization in the Salt Range and Pothohar Region
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Arslan Butt - arslanbuttqau.tiac@gmail.com (University of Chakwal)

The Salt Range and Pothohar Region lie in the north-western borderland regions of the Indus Valley Civilization’s realm. This makes up a huge area and is well recognized in the cultural development of the Indus Tradition, lacks serious attention by the current scholars. Especially ceramic traditions here depict versatile types and classes belonging to the Regionalization (5500-2600 BCE) and Integration Era (2600-1900 BCE) of Indus Tradition. The current research paper aims to highlight the Indus Archaeology of this region through the portrayal of ceramic traditions of the Regionalization and Integration Era of the Indus Valley Civilization. The material for the current research is based on published research reports and new data mainly from Salt Range, Pothohar, and interlinked regions i.e. Kaachi Valley, Tochi Valley, and Gomal Valley. This research will highlight the Indus Ceramic Traditions in the borderland regions and will also shed light on cultural development in the region during the Indus Tradition.


Preserving Heritage: A Comprehensive Analysis and Conservation Strategy for Pharwala Fort
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Rashiq Ahmer - rashiqahmer@hotmail.com (National Heritage & Culture Division Islamabad Government of Pakistan)

Pharwala Fort, strategically nestled between the Himalayan range and the Soan River, boasts a rich history dating back to approximately 1008 A.D. It is situated 35 km from Islamabad on the left bank of the Soan River, near the village Aliote on Kahuta Road. Originally constructed by Sultan Kaigohar, an associate of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, the fort spans an area of 21 square miles, with a formidable perimeter wall extending 1-1/2 miles. The fort's defensive strength lies in its location, with the Himalayas shielding one side and the Soan River guarding the other. Featuring a 9 feet 3 inches wide fortification wall adorned with heavy merlons and reinforced by 13 semicircular bastions, Pharwala Fort also hosts six gates—Hathi Gate, Laskari Gate, Begum Gate, Ziarat Gate, Bagh Gate, and Fort Gate. Despite its historical significance, the fort is currently in a deteriorated state, with the fortification wall collapsed in parts, and only two out of six gates surviving. Factors contributing to this decline include the static condition of the structure, varying climates, and the damaging impact of local flora, particularly deciduous and evergreen trees. Managed by the Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums in Islamabad under the Antiquity Act of 1975, the fort is under protection. The department is tasked with conserving, restoring, and upkeeping the site. To address these challenges, a comprehensive plan is needed for the conservation, restoration, preservation, presentation, and development of Pharwala Fort. This initiative aims not only to safeguard the historical landmark but also to promote tourism, serving as an educational resource for history, art, architecture, and engineering students and scholars alike.


Use of Photogrammetry for 3D Modeling of Cultural Heritage Sites: A Focus on Buddhist Site in Gandhara, Pakistan
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Assembly Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Muhammad Umar Azeem - muhammadumarazeem0371@gmail.com (NUST College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering)

The preservation and documentation of cultural heritage sites are paramount for safeguarding the legacy of civilizations and promoting historical understanding. In recent years, photogrammetry has emerged as a powerful tool for capturing and reconstructing three-dimensional (3D) models of such sites with remarkable accuracy and detail. This article explores the application of photogrammetry in the context of the Buddhist Heritage Sites in Gandhara, Pakistan. The Gandhara region, nestled within the crossroads of ancient trade routes, boasts a rich Buddhist heritage consisting of the monasteries, stupas and settlement sites, spanning from the 3rdcentury BCE to the 5th century CE. These sites serve as a testament to the region’s cultural and religious significance. Photogrammetry, a technique that involves capturing multiple overlapping photographs of an object or site and processing them to generate accurate 3D models, has revolutionized the documentation and preservation of cultural heritage. By employing photogrammetric methods, we have created detailed plans and 3D models of the Buddhist heritage sites in Taxila and Gandhara withaccuracy. This articledeals with the various stages involved in utilizing photogrammetry for 3D modeling of cultural heritage sites, including image acquisition, processing, and model reconstruction. Special emphasis is placed on the challenges and considerations specific to the Gandhara region, such as environmental factors, site accessibility, and cultural sensitivities. Furthermore, the article highlights the benefits of photogrammetry in facilitating virtual tours, educational initiatives, and conservation efforts aimed at raising awareness and fostering appreciation for Gandhara's Buddhist heritage. By digitally preserving these sites, photogrammetry not only aids in their conservation but also enables broader access and engagement, transcending geographical and temporal boundaries. In conclusion, this article underscores the transformative impact of photogrammetry on the documentation and preservation of cultural heritage, with a focus on its application to the Buddhist Heritage Sites in Gandhara, Pakistan.


Book Roundtable on A Cultural History of Hinduism: Cultural History and the Study of Religious Change
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Caucus Room
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Karen Pechilis - kpechili@drew.edu (Drew University)

Chair
Karen Pechilis - kpechili@drew.edu (Drew University)

This Roundtable reflects on the publication, A Cultural History of Hinduism, a six-volume study engaging 55 scholars from South Asian studies published this year by Bloomsbury Academic. The Roundtable brings together a group of volume editors and contributors from the publication to discuss with each other and the audience strategies and challenges in writing today about Hinduism and its histories in multireligious contexts past and present. The aim is to open new directions for considering the diversity of Hinduism and South Asian religious traditions and the complexity of religion as a category in relation to them, by examining Hinduism’s long history of producing, engaging and shaping a diversity of cultures and histories through both patterns of power and the creativity of those outside the mainstream. Roundtable participants, who are historians of religions focusing on Hinduism, draw on their research to illuminate the multivocality emphasized in the cultural history approach: In the post-classical/medieval era via the increased visibility of diverse cultural participants (Chair) and the predominance of smaller-scale political authority (Speaker 1); in the early modern era via empire’s facilitation of cultural interaction (Speaker 2), the authority of canons by genre, proponent, and audience (Speaker 3), and the role of interpretation in reconstituting religious ideology (Speaker 4); and in the modern era via practices that shape the global dissemination and consumption of Hinduism (Speakers 5 and 6). The Roundtable will engage these themes to solicit critical discussion with the audience on the project’s premise that cultural history has a distinctive suitability for exploring and investigating the histories of Hinduism in context, and that it makes a helpful intervention in the past and present contestation around the study of Hinduism. Due to some Roundtable members’ participation in a Symposium (arriving Tues 10/29), if allowed we request to present on Thursday or Friday.


Presenter 1
Leslie Orr - orr.leslie@gmail.com (Concordia University)
Presenter 2
Valerie Stoker - valerie.stoker@wright.edu (Wright State University)
Presenter 3
Srilata Raman - s.raman@utoronto.ca (University Of Toronto)
Presenter 4
Neelima Shukla-Bhatt - nshuklab@wellesley.edu
Presenter 5
Amanda Lucia - amanda.lucia@ucr.edu (University of California-Riverside)
Presenter 6
Brian Hatcher - brian.hatcher@tufts.edu (Tufts University)

Performing the Democratic Federal Republic of Nepal (2006-present)
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Senate Room A
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Amy Johnson - amy.johnson@gcsu.edu (Georgia College & State University)

Discussant / Chair
Amy Johnson - amy.johnson@gcsu.edu (Georgia College & State University)

This panel is part 2 of a double panel bringing historians and anthropologists together to examine what it has meant to do democracy in Nepal and how ideas and performances of democracy have changed in the seventy three years since the establishment of Nepal’s first democratic parliamentary government in 1951. During this time period, Nepal has experienced profound shifts in democratic systems of government ranging from parliamentary democracy, guided democracy (Panchayat), constitutional democracy, and federal democracy. These shifts have meant government restructurings, but they have also meant significant shifts in ideologies of democracy, performative changes in what it means to live in a democratic society, and complex variable experiments at instantiating democracy in social institutions and daily life. By investigating the doing of democracy in historical perspective, this pair of panels sets out to explain what democracy has (and has not) meant for Nepal and Nepalis. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord between the Communist Party Nepal-Maoist and the Nepal Government in 2006 heralded the start of a “progressive restructuring” of the Nepal state based on principles of social inclusion and ethnic and regional autonomy. Over the course of the Interim period (2006-2008) and two elected Constituent Assemblies (2008 and 2015), the structure of the Nepal state changed considerably. Democracy has remained a pillar of the New Nepal, but it has been reshaped in conversation with communist-socialist ideologies, Indigenous forms of political organization, Madhesi and Indigenous demands for territorial recognition, and royalist and Hindu interests. Given the pronounced changes ushered in by the constitution, what does the landscape of democratic practice look like in Nepal today? How is the new democratic federal republic of Nepal performed and perpetuated in the lives of Nepali people? Panelists explore these questions from the vantage of southern Nepal’s Madhesh and Tarai regions.


Presenter 1
Amy Johnson - amy.johnson@gcsu.edu (Georgia College & State University)
Sympatric Politics: Shared Grounds, Disputed Claims, and Federal Futures in Kailali

Presenter 2
Visnu Kumari Tandon - vishnutandan@gmail.com ()
Deliberative Democracy in Federal Nepal

Presenter 3
Kristen Zipperer - zipperer@g.harvard.edu (Harvard University )
"Dirty Politics": Practices and Perceptions of Federal Democracy in Madhesh Pradesh

Presenter 4
Indu Tharu - indutharu1@gmail.com ()
Tharu Women Experiences of Democracy in Nepal


Nurturing Democracy in Education: Perspectives from Pakistan
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Senate Room B
Floor: Floor 1

Organizer
Aleena Khan - iamaleenakhan@gmail.com (Information Technology University, Lahore)

Discussant / Chair
Bilal Aslam - bilalfsd@gmail.com (University of the Punjab, Lahore)

A multidimensional approach encompassing early childhood education, inclusive practices, student activism, and civic education has been adopted by the panelists to study the impact on social inclusion, and fostering democratic values within Pakistani society. Speaker 1 examines the foundational role of early childhood education in nurturing democratic citizenship and fostering social cohesion. Speaker 2 delves into the imperative of inclusive education in advancing disability rights and fostering democratic participation within educational institutions. Speaker 3 explores the dynamic relationship between student activism, political change, and democratic transitions within Pakistani society while Speaker 4 critically evaluates the contributions of civic education to democratization efforts in Pakistan, with a focus on the role of colleges and universities as agents of change. The panel offers a comprehensive exploration of the nexus between education and democracy in Pakistan, highlighting the importance of inclusive practices, youth empowerment, and civic engagement in advancing democratic principles, social justice, and human rights. By fostering dialogue, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing, this panel aims to inform policy debates, inspire educational reforms, and catalyze positive social change within Pakistani educational institutions and beyond.


Presenter 1
Rabia Aslam - raslam@i-saps.org (Institute of Social and Policy Sciences, Islamabad.)
Democratizing Early Childhood Education in Pakistan: Exploring Pedagogical Approaches and Practices

Presenter 2
Aleena Khan - iamaleenakhan@gmail.com (Information Technology University, Lahore)
Inclusive Education and Democratic Citizenship: Promoting Disability Rights in Pakistan's Educational Institutions

Presenter 3
Bilal Munir - bilalmnr@gmail.com (Punjab Group of Colleges)
Youth Mobilization and Political Change: The Role of Student Politics in Advancing Democratic Reforms in Pakistan

Presenter 4
Bilal Aslam - bilalfsd@gmail.com (University of the Punjab, Lahore)
The Role of Civic Education on Fostering Democracy in Pakistan


Aesthetic Politics of Nostalgia in Contemporary India
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 1
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Kathryn Hardy - kathryn.hardy@ashoka.edu.in (Ashoka University)

Discussant / Chair
Andy Rotman - arotman@smith.edu (Smith College)

This panel explores elite and middle-class projects to re-invent tradition in India. From interior design motifs to maternal advice, farming (Frazier 2024) to scientifically locating ancient rivers and livestock breeds (Bhan and Govindrajan 2023) – Indians are today recuperating idealized pre-colonial and rural cultures, practices, and objects and adapting them for cosmopolitan consumers. These varying projects exhibit what Ajay Gandhi, discussing middle class consumption more generally, calls a “fashionable eagerness towards an imagined patrimony” (2015, 4). But what patrimony is here being imagined and to what political ends? What kinds of historical and future-oriented claims of belonging or exclusion can be made mounted through these aesthetic practices? What kinds of legitimacy do they imagine, and what is left out? The papers in this panel examine the political stakes of a range of such practices, using the lens of “nostalgia” to unpack the aesthetics of revival today. We approach nostalgia not as an emotion, per se, but as a “frame of meaning” (Stewart 1988, 227) and value-making that works through recontextualization (Berdahl 1999). The papers in this panel investigate these value practices and place them in the context of contemporary capitalism, Hindutva, urbanism, caste and gender politics. In examining commercial and aesthetic practices, the panel expands the purview of the political. In connecting different realms of activity across a wide variety of objects and sites (foodgrains, home decor, textiles, and museums), the panel seeks to understand wider currents of elite behavior and popular politics alike.


Presenter 1
Llerena Searle - llerena.searle@rochester.edu (University of Rochester)
The Nostalgia Work of Design? The Design of Nostalgia?

Presenter 2
Jane Lynch - jane.lynch@yale.edu (Yale University)
Nostalgia, Protection & the Value of Artisanal Cloth

Presenter 3
Pritha Mukherjee - pm769@scarletmail.rutgers.edu (Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
New Muse on the Block: The Bihar Museum and Curation of a Regional Aesthetic

Presenter 4
Kathryn Hardy - kathryn.hardy@ashoka.edu.in (Ashoka University)
Honourable Grains: India’s Political Millet and its Frames of Meaning


Sex, Geopolitics, and the Historical: Thinking with Anjali Arondekar’s Abundance
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 2
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Lucinda Ramberg - ler35@cornell.edu (Cornell )

Chair
Lucinda Ramberg - ler35@cornell.edu (Cornell )

This roundtable takes the recent publication of Anjali Arondekar’s Abundance: Sexuality’s History as the occasion for a conversation about the narration the history of sex in South Asia. Arondekar sets aside well-worn tropes of loss and recovery in the historiography of sex. Instead, in this treatment of the overflowing archives of the Gomantak Maratha Samaj, she centers abundance as an ordinary feature of subaltern histories and asks, how might we think with plentitude? The keepers of the archives of this caste oppressed devadasi collective don’t worry about the attrition or preservation of material and they disavow the veracity genres typically taken as reliable evidence of the past such as biographies and memoirs. In order to address the contributions of Abundance, this roundtable gathers five historians and anthropologists of South Asia. We will explore the correspondences and dissonances between our work and hers. We will engage the lines of generative trouble Arondekar opens up for historiographies of sexuality and South Asia Studies. For instance, “What would histories of sexuality look like if interrogated as histories of region and/or “areas”? How do transregional collectives and ‘itinerate sexualities, such as those of the Gomantak Maratha Samaj, prompt us to reimagine regional boundaries and boundedness? What does caste belonging mobilized at once as fiction and solidarity teach us about the lineaments of emancipation from caste and sex? In what ways does dwelling with subaltern efflorescence, rather than loss and erasure, open different possible relationships to the past or future? Arondekar’s provocations range across the objects and methods of South Asian Studies from caste, sex, region and nation to retrieval, reconstruction, and witness with implications for epistemologies of sexuality, geopolitics, and the historical.


Presenter 1
Mrinalini Sinha - sinha@umich.edu (University of Michigan)
Presenter 2
Kareem Khubchandani - kareem.khubchandani@tufts.edu (Tufts University)
Presenter 3
Indrani Chatterjee - tta6uk@virginia.edu (University of Virginia)
Presenter 4
Sayan Bhattacharya - sayanb@umd.edu (University of Maryland at College Park: University of Maryland)
Presenter 5
Lucinda Ramberg - ler35@cornell.edu (Cornell )

Haunted Architectures and Resistance: 1857 Revolt and Urdu Literature
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Nimra Farooq - nimra.farooq@ahss.habib.edu.pk (Habib University)

This paper explores an obscure archive of Urdu texts written in the early 20th c. that uses architectural retelling to revisit 1857 and protest British rule. The 1857 revolt is arguably the most significant armed resistance waged against the British in India, resulting in the crown takeover of 1858. Historiography on the event has historically relied on majority British sources, with scant local sources available in the backdrop of indiscriminate killings, forms of collective punishment, and censorship. In this landscape, an 1863 anthology of poetry Fughan e Dehli remained the only major Urdu text to come out of the revolt for decades. This paper explores a collection of less-known Urdu texts written in the early 20th c. that form a ‘counter-memory’ to imperial British narratives of the event. My paper argues that these texts, written by Mirza Farhatullah Baig, Rashid ul Khairi and Khwaja Hasan Nizami, pose a literary resistance to the British Mutiny pilgrimage by revisiting Mughal architecture and monuments destroyed in the aftermath of 1857. The texts resurrect the old Dehli and revisit British atrocities at the time when new Delhi was being constructed by the British as the capital. I hope to show that this invocation of Mughal presence in 20th c. India is not coincidental, but by using shahr ashob (the genre of urban lament), and invoking a haunted architecture- buildings that no longer exist but were tied to the idea of Mughal rule- this literature advances the idea of an appropriating authority and an unjust colonial rule in India. Drawing attention to this archive is an exploration of the creative ways Urdu writers employed to escape authoritarian censorship, and an intervention to expand our notion of resistance in the context of 1857, the historiography of which can be enriched by paying attention to literary sources.


To See the Land of Malir: Roots and Routes in Sindhi Narratives of Return
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Abhilasha Sawlani - abhilasha.sawlani_phd19@ashoka.edu.in (Ashoka University)

The travelogue recording Sundri Uttamchandani’s visit to Sindh was published in the Sindhi journal Nayee Duniya in 1964. Ever since, the phenomenon of return has gained traction, giving rise to a substantial archive of travelogues by Sindhi literati and laypersons alike. Visiting homes and communities left behind at the time of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, these writers produce nostalgia-ridden images of the past. At the same time, however, they shape the contours of an emergent Sindhiness, and by forming empathetic bonds with Sindhi Muslims and non-ethnic Sindhis across the border, locate it in a transnational and transethnic framework. In doing so, these narratives undercut the dominant conceptions about the idea of return in scholarly discourses. While return and homecoming are often associated with territorial nationalism, the ideas of travel and diaspora remain linked with cosmopolitanism, openness to difference and unbordered identities. In this paper, I attempt to unsettle this binary by reading Sindhi narratives of return, particularly those by writers Sundri Uttamchandani and Moti Prakash. Locating these texts in the broader context of travel writing in the subcontinent, this paper would attempt to explore the postcolonial constructions of the ideas of home and belonging through the diffusive perspective of travel. I would argue that far from leading to exclusionary identities, these narratives of return foreground a Sindhiness that is both rooted and mobile, attached to a home and simultaneously, on the move. Return, in this context, does not simply describe a completed, straightforward movement back to origins but instead, entails critical re-turns or reappraisals of origin and identity


Extending the Self, Extending the Nation: Reimagining the National Bildungsroman in Janika Oza’s A History of Burning
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Anwesha Kundu - anweshakundu123@gmail.com (Centre College)

This paper examines how responses to authoritarianism imagine alternative forms of personhood and nationhood in Janika Oza’s novel, A History of Burning (2023). Oza conceptually revises the genre of the national bildungsroman, building a new vision of life under oppression. The text tells the story of a multigenerational family of Ugandan Asians who are expelled from the country under Idi Amin’s regime. This expulsion and its aftermath is told through the growing up of three sisters. Oza reveals how the fantasy of the democratic nation and the fantasy of traditional adulthood are entwined. The markers of individual growth and stability that index both Western-style democracy and the bildungsroman are undone. However, instead of focusing on arrested development as a sign of unstable, violent government (Jed Esty, Unseasonable Youth), Oza creates a different model of productive growth where personhood and nationhood exceed the bounds of the individual and the country respectively. Instead of becoming individualized adults, the three sisters grow as one, filling in each other’s lacks (both practically and psychologically) to create a singular unit that works together for shared survival. Collective personhood is the outcome of her bildungsroman. At the national level, this mirrors an alternative nationhood unrestricted by national borders, offering a more expansive idea of South Asianness. In Oza’s novel, Ugandan Asians rebuilld their identity after expulsion on a shared experience of survival under authoritarianism. The traumatic absence of a country becomes a basis for community. A distinct “nation” of South Asians is formed who are officially citizens of different countries but are held together through their shared attempt to keep their memories alive despite global dispersal (Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia). For Oza, resilience in the face of authoritarianism is a reimagining of new and unexpected types of being in the world.


The Ethics of Erotics: Vernacular Renderings of Persianate Adab in Colonial India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 3
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Hasan Hameed - hhameed@princeton.edu (Princeton)

Historians see the nineteenth century as a period where Persianate norms of comportment, adab, were displaced in Indian society by Victorian cultural norms, just as Persian itself was replaced with English as a language of administration. Indian Muslim intellectuals, in particular, are held to have rejected Persian literature for its sexual frankness and homoeroticism. My paper argues that this assessment holds for only certain segments of the Muslim elite for other Muslim scholars continued a vernacular engagement with an early modern Persianate tradition. Writing mostly in Urdu, these publishers, teachers, and authors cultivated distinct Muslim sensibilities around homoeroticism and sexual frankness in line with an earlier precolonial Persian tradition by emphasizing the etiquettes and ethic sensibilities attached to particular forms of homoeroticism. By bringing attention to their writings, this paper draws attention to influential Urdu texts circulating in the late nineteenth-century that provide glimpses onto different norms around gender and sexuality than have hitherto been studied.


Imprisoned Imaginaries: Censorship, Sedition and Multilingualism in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 4
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Swarnim Khare - swarnimk@umich.edu (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

Discussant / Chair
Madhumita Lahiri - mlahiri@umich.edu (University of Michigan)

The poetics of protest finds voice in creative and urgent forms of articulation in South Asia. Within the vibrant tradition of dissent, South Asian writers have done the work of showing us how their worlds are composed of dynamic and heterogeneous networks, both implicitly and explicitly. This panel will consider a series of texts that interrogate the idea of protest, both violent and nonviolent, as literary forms. Ranging from texts written in Urdu, Telugu, Hindi and English, the panel will speak to questions of multilinguality, complex histories of censorship and legal disciplining, sites of imprisonment, and negotiations with the idea of the emergent nation-state as they began to cohere in late colonial South Asia. In considering these texts, the panel aims to generate a conversation around the legacies of colonial regimes of disciplining, as they are observed both in the archive and published work. In tracing the lives of these texts which speak to the turbulent period that is late colonial South Asia, the papers in this panel propose new forms of not only reading canonical writing outside of the usual habits of literary criticism but also of moving towards interdisciplinary modes of re-interrogating South Asian literary and historical pasts.


Presenter 1
Abhipsa Chakraborty - abhipsac@buffalo.edu (SUNY Buffalo)
“Inquilab Zindabad!” (Long Live the Revolution!): Orality, Nationalism, and the Making of the Modern Novel in Raja Rao’s Kanthapura (1938)

Presenter 2
Swarnim Khare - swarnimk@umich.edu (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Re-writing armed revolution - Genres of Recollection (Saṃsmaraṇa) in the Hindi writings of Prakashwati Pal and Yashpal

Presenter 3
Balakrishnan Raghavan - braghava@ucsc.edu (University of California Santa Cruz)
What She Said; What He Said; What the Court Said: The Misadventures of an 18th-Century Amatory Poem Authored By a Woman

Presenter 4
Srimati Ghosal - sghosal@umich.edu (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: University of Michigan)
"Obscenity”: The politics of changing aesthetics in Progressive South Asian Literature through Sadat Hassan Manto’s Trials


The Local as a Site of Early Modernity in South Asia
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Conference Room 5
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Zoë High - zwhigh@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)

Discussant / Chair
Dipti Khera - dipti.khera@nyu.edu (New York University)

What does South Asian early modernity look like from the perspective of the regional or local? Against the backdrop of continuing interest in questions of periodization and the applicability of the idea of the “early modern” in South Asian history (O’Hanlon 2023), this panel rethinks the spatial scales that have become foundational analytical frameworks for understanding the early modern period. Historically, the focus on the Mughal empire has emphasized connectedness—be it commercial, military, cultural, intellectual or ideological—that was characteristically global. While some recent studies have shifted to examining non-imperial sites of early modernity (Flatt 2019; Balachandran 2020), an older Mughal centrism persists in the continued focus on imperial centers and networks between them. In contrast, the papers in this panel shift focus to an early modern South Asia that was constituted by individuals, objects, and networks that were connected globally, but whose horizons were distinctly local. Considering sources in Persian, Brajabuli, Dakkani, and Sanskrit, we consider how large-scale connectivity was experienced locally; how scholars and poets drew on regional models or adapted knowledge for local contexts; how regional courts negotiated a space within a political fabric that was increasingly populated by multilingual and mobile intellectual currents; and how regional networks of artistic, religious, mercantile, social, and literary circulation participated in and shaped global connectedness. To address these questions, our papers center on the roles of circulating artists and lyrics in Brajabuli’s formation as a courtly language (Speaker 1); how the local was ‘audibilized’ in a 16th century rāgamālā text (Speaker 2); the entangled lives of poems and objects in the Deccan Sultanates (Speaker 3); and micro-cosmopolitan orchestrations of kingship in Maratha Thanjavur (Speaker 4). Together, we seek to think comparatively about local networks, people, texts, and ideas within and beyond court centers between the 15th and 18th centuries.


Presenter 1
Thibaut D'Hubert - dhubert@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)
Fragments of a Beginning: Brajabuli Sung Poems from the Courts of Eastern India

Presenter 2
Ayesha Sheth - ayeshas@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Local Soundscapes as Canonised Knowledge: The Making of ‘Place’ in the Rāgamālā

Presenter 3
Zoë High - zwhigh@uchicago.edu (University of Chicago)
Making a New Taste: Poems, Objects, and Emotions in the Early Modern Deccan

Presenter 4
Talia Ariav - talia.ariav@gmail.com ()
The King is in the Details: Micro-Cosmopolitan Orchestrations of Kingship from Maratha Thanjavur


Happiness through an Iron Fist: Islamic Law, Robbery, and Prison Breaks in Early Colonial Delhi
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Adam Matvya - amatvya@nd.edu (University of Notre Dame )

In early nineteenth-century India, the British colonial state’s governing ideology was defined by a liberal utilitarian philosophy that aimed to produce happiness through disciplinization. Concurrently, the colonial regime maintained an ostensible adherence to Islamic law, a holdover from a pre-liberal colonial jurisprudential system based on Mughal constitutionalism. Colonial governmentality in Delhi prior to the 1820s was therefore characterized by a hybrid commitment to indigenous custom and nascent Benthamite liberalism. No colonial administrator better reflected this hybridity than Charles Metcalfe, the Resident at Delhi from 1811 to 1819. Metcalfe enjoyed close relations with Muslim theologians while also harboring a reputation as a liberal authoritarian who believed Delhi was beset by lawless anarchy. Metcalfe’s personal writings reveal pervasive fears about crime—specifically nighttime robberies—that compelled him to supplement an Islamic system of punishment with extra-Islamic legal practices. This supra-sharīʿa approach was the product of a dual regime of disciplinization and emotionalization: the fear of endemic nighttime robbery and a liberal desire to cultivate happiness and security. This paper explores Metcalfe’s residency as a case study in emotions and colonial governance. It foregrounds Metcalfe’s approach to theft and prison breaks as revealed in court cases and Board of Commissioner complaints to argue that despite a nominal continuation of Islamic legal practice, the impossibility of knowing the true feelings of Muslims compelled the colonial state to enact a regime of fear. This strategy represented a dual liberal prerogative to secure its rule while producing particular emotions in colonial subjects. Moreover, I take a metropole-colony approach to argue that Metcalfe’s fears about nighttime robbery reflect a particular apprehension in the British empire about the romanticization of highway robbery around the imperial peripheries. Metcalfe’s draconian legal measures should be understood within a field of analysis that attends to emotional technologies of rule and metropole-colony relations.


Influential or Insignificant? Exploring the efficacy of a Controversial, 19th-Century Biography of Muhammad
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Adil Mawani - adil.mawani@mail.utoronto.ca (Southern Methodist University)

This paper explores Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Ḳhān’s (d. 1898) conception of sīra genre (biography of Muḥammad), how it influenced his Urdu language sīra composition al-Khutbāt al-Aḥmadīyah (1870), and the impact that this text had on three important publications issued over roughly a hundred years after the 1870 work. Although the publication was successful at garnering the attention of European and Indian readers, it was also condemned by the author’s co-religionists for allegedly violating core Islamic tenets. Sir Sayyid refers to sīra as both “biography” (savānih ʿumrī) and “history” (tārīḳh) but advises for it to be thought of as the latter. This is by no means a natural approach to this category of text and may, in fact, be the first work of its kind where the author names historicity as the desired focus of writing. Muslim biographers give great emphasis to a number of qualities of the sīra. As works of sacred biography, these include the ability to express devotion, present Muhammad as a figure worthy of emulation, and inclusivity towards prophetic materials inherited from past scholars even where inconsistencies and contradictions must be accommodated. Thinking of the sīra strictly as a work of history, which in Sir Sayyid’s sense is facticity that achieves objectivity by severing it from the perspective of individuals or communities, presents challenges. In this paper, I examine Sir Sayyid’s sense of the writing that is appropriate for a sīra and ask a) how did South Asian scholars read his text and respond to his conceptions and b) what impact did this conception of sacred biography have on three subsequent compositions in the early twentieth-century? The three texts are Sīratul Nabī (1914) Raḥmatullil ‘Ālamīn (1911) and Bashariyati Anbiyā’ (1959).


Mazheruddin Siddiqi (1915-1991): The (Not So) Strange Career of a Modernist Islamist Orientalist
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Brannon Ingram - brannon.ingram@northwestern.edu (Northwestern University)

This paper interrogates disciplinary and thematic boundaries in Islamic Studies by way of the career of Mazheruddin Siddiqi (1915-1991), a Pakistani scholar whose prolific reform-minded work exemplifies the entanglements of the academic study of Islam and Muslim activism at the middle of the twentieth century. A student of Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s at McGill and associate of pioneering modernist scholar Fazlur Rahman, Siddiqi published some 21 articles in Rahman’s journal, Islamic Studies, in addition to some 25 books in Urdu and English on a vast array of topics. He was deeply critical of Orientalism and colonialism, associated as freely with Mawdudi’s circles as with Rahman’s, and campaigned to Islamicize all aspects of Pakistani life. Despite his prodigious scholarly output, astonishingly, there is no published secondary scholarship on Siddiqi. For this paper, I am especially interested in the way in which Siddiqi’s work and career jumble our expectations about the boundaries between the academic study of Islam and Muslim movements for reform as well as the boundaries between what we now call ‘Islamic modernism’ and ‘Islamism’. First, Siddiqi was trained as an Orientalist, but he also entered McGill at a pivotal moment when Orientalism began to give way to Islamic Studies as we know it today. Smith played a major role in that transition, and this paper will contextualize Siddiqi’s career within that transition with reference to Smith’s own work. Second, Siddiqi’s career disrupts disciplinary boundaries between ‘Islamic modernism’ and ‘Islamism’. If we take the sine qua non of Islamism, as many scholars do, to be the application of Islam to politics and public life, Siddiqi was an ‘Islamist’ by any measure. He was affiliated with the Jama‘at-i Islami, the political party founded by the icon of Pakistani Islamism, Abul A‘la Mawdudi, and published several works through the Jama‘at’s publishing house.


Tibetan Muslims in Kashmir: Contesting Memory, History, and Traumatized Identities
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Rohit Singh - rohitsingh5@gmail.com (Denison University)

In Srinagar resides a colony of diaspora Tibetan Muslims, descendants of the Lhasa Khache, a Muslim enclave that resided in central Tibet. In 1959, following the fall of the Dalai Lama’s government and the rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the majority of the Khache undertook a mass migration from Lhasa to India, where most settled in Srinagar. The Khache migrated to Kashmir on legal grounds as repatriated Indians of Kashmiri origin. Residents in the colony now simultaneously identify and contest their identities as Tibetans and Kashmiris. Analyzing transcripts of oral history I conducted with members of this community, my paper asks two central questions: First, how do Tibetan Muslims use collective memories to deal with historical and contemporary traumas? Second, how do members of the community resolve internal conflicts over contested visions of their past? Tibetan Muslims remember their past in terms of the traumatic loss of their homeland in Tibet. They also share social and economic concerns relating to traumas they experience as minorities in Kashmir. Turning to their past, they debate who they are in the present. Some identify as historical Tibetans and political subjects of the Dalai Lama, aspiring to one day return to their homeland in Lhasa. Others maintain that their origins are ultimately from Kashmir, their forefathers migrated on the grounds of being Indian, and therefore colony residents should privilege their identities as Kashmiris and distance themselves from being labeled Tibetans. While debates over being Kashmiri or Tibetan divide the community, they share a common memory as Muslims who embarked on sacred migration (hijra) from Lhasa to Srinagar to save their religion. Analyzing these narratives, my paper raises broader issues for the intersections of collective memory, trauma, and identity formation.


Re-evaluating Religious Parties' Electoral Performance in Pakistan: New Data, New Conclusions
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Capitol Ballroom A
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Johann Chacko - johann.chacko@gmail.com (SOAS, University of London )

This paper re-evaluates widely repeated claims of Pakistani political Islam's poor electoral performance by compiling comprehensive new datasets of 'religious' party results in provincial assembly, Senate, and National Assembly elections, and analysing shares of 'general' seats in these bodies from the first general elections of 1970 up until 2021. Given that each province’s party system has been distinct since the 1930s, and that religious parties are built around strong denominational identities, election performance has been disaggregated along these two vectors. The results confirm that 'whole-nation bias' masks major variations in religious party performance between provinces, as well as changes in these variations over time. This is unfortunate as the differences provide useful explanations for political Islam's trajectory. Religious parties in 1970 made a strong showing in all provinces of West Pakistan, setting the stage for the Islamic ascendance in public life for the next decade and a half. The apparent paradox of political Islam in Pakistan from the mid-1980s onwards, i.e. high mobilisation potential combined with low electoral performance, cannot be generalised beyond Punjab, as religious parties continue to thrive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Finally, a distinction must be made between the success of political Islam, and the success of religious parties in Punjab and Sindh. There, shrine-based (as opposed to clerically-based) denominational networks (often mistakenly labelled ‘Barelvi’), are more likely to find advantage operating within the dominant mainstream ‘Muslim Democrat’ parties than religious parties. Taken together, the results indicate that there are multiple models of political Islam operating in Pakistan. This strongly suggests that the ‘secular mainstream’ vs. ‘religious’ and Deobandi vs. ‘Barelvi’ heuristics can be as analytically unproductive as the discredited moderate vs. militant and traditionalist vs. modernist binaries relied on in earlier eras of scholarship.


Indians on Indian Lands (Author Meets Critics)
Round Table

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Wisconsin Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Nishant Upadhyay - nishant.upadhyay@colorado.edu (University of Colorado Boulder)

Chair
Nishant Upadhyay - nishant.upadhyay@colorado.edu (University of Colorado Boulder)

Indians on Indian Lands: Intersections of Race, Caste, and Indigeneity studies dominant caste Indian diasporic formation within the Canadian settler state. The book explores relationalities, intimacies, complicities, and solidarities of dominant caste Indian diasporic communities in intertwined processes of settler colonialism, racial colonial capitalism, brahminism, hindu nationalism, anti-Blackness, and heteropatriarchy. While the book is broadly situated within South Asian diaspora studies, it builds upon anti-caste scholarship from India. By foregrounding anti-caste critiques within South Asian studies, the book argues for the centrality of caste in understanding Indian diaspora, including their labor, their politics, and scholarship. Further, the book brings questions of race, indigeneity, Hindu nationalism and settler colonialism within the Indian context in conversation with these thematics within the North American context. Thus, the book bridges South Asian studies with South Asian diaspora studies in unique and urgent ways. The “author meets the critics”roundtable brings together scholars within South Asia, South Asian diaspora, and ethnic studies to respond to these the varying intersections explored within the book. Speaker 1, a scholar of caste within India, will expand on the anti-caste analytics provided in the book. Speaker 2, a scholar of Kashmir and settler colonialism, will focus on the transnational settler colonial formations explored in the book. Speaker 3, a scholar of Hindu nationalism in India and the Indian diaspora, will respond to the discussion on transnational Hindu nationalist politics and organizing. Speaker 4, scholar of race and ethnicity in the US, will offer commentary on logics of race, caste, and indigeneity in the making of Indian diaspora. Finally, Speaker 5, a scholar of Indigenous studies, will engage on questions of solidarities and relationalities between Indigenous and racialized immigrants in North America.


Presenter 1
Shefali Chandra - sc23@wustl.edu (Washington University in St Louis)
Presenter 2
MONA bhan - mobhan@syr.edu (Syracuse University)
Presenter 3
Sailaja Krishnamurti - sailaja.krishnamurti@queensu.ca
Presenter 4
p.s. kehal - kehal@wisc.edu
Presenter 5
Nadia Chana - nchana@wisc.edu

Neoliberal Settler City of Delhi: Bulldozers, Acquisitions, and Lost Livelihood of Informal Workers
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Sophy K J - sophy@nludelhi.ac.in (National Law University Delhi)

Kathputli Colony, a slum cluster near the railway line Sarai Rohilla Railway Station and New Delhi Railway Station, has undergone eviction of informal workers, around 15,000, comprising 3000 households. This paper studies the Kathputli eviction by bulldozing houses, for real estate ambitions of the state. The paper questions the substantive and procedural legal violations without any consultation and proper rehabilitation with the dispossessed communities. The paper analyses judgments on urban displacement to understand the complicated judicial positions in cases of eviction of informal workers in Delhi. The judgments show the judiciary’s over-reliance on the state procedure as fair and pragmatic, which negates the enforcement of the principal-agent relationship between the people and government. The concept of a settler city indicates "either the metropolitan heartland of imperial expansion or important nodal points in the establishment of colonies" (Anderson and Jacobs 1997, 18) for their benefits and control of space and amenities for their use (Spodek 2013). The settler city designs powerless communities without inherent rights, title and sovereignty. In this context, this paper argues that though there was a change in political tradition from colonialism to constitutional democracy, the new state still followed the policy of segregation and dispossession of the communities. The paper will entail a critical spatial lens to understand ‘urban otherization’ followed by policies against informal workers. This approach would help to understand how dominant structures have altered, reinforced, contested, and reclaimed processes of the colonial state by territorializing, dispossessing, marginalizing, and devaluing the communities, as in Kathputli.


Liminal Faith: Practices of Identity Suspension Among Stateless Rohingya Muslims in the National Capital Region of India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Ankita Chandranath - ankita.chandranath@rutgers.edu (Rutgers University )

This paper ethnographically investigates Rohingya 'statelessness' by examining the Tablighi Jamaat’s revivalist spiritualism among Rohingya refugees in the National Capital Region of India. Using the conceptual lens of “emptying” to understand the transient de-subjectification of the stateless Rohingya Muslims, I attempt to show how one of the most persecuted people in the world today seeks dignity in exile. Rohingya refugeehood, rooted in the Tablighi revivalist paradigm, focuses on interiorizing their struggles to shed worldly attachments while reconstituting pious selfhood modeled on the Prophet. Such wilful 'self-emptying' through ritual enactments of proselytized worship powerfully inverts an engulfing alienation amidst the brutal loss of all familiar identity coordinates in their country of asylum. While Tablighi devotion channels their stateless uncertainties towards a renewed and sacred purpose, it provides relief from an agonized identity through a vivid rupture in their present suffering. Yet tensions remain as Rohingya belonging also signifies avoidance of assimilation with host cultures. This paper examines such complex entanglements between religious de-subjectification and persisting liminal and geopolitical dislocation. While Rohingya Muslims achieve temporary dignity in belonging to the 80 million-strong international revivalist movement, defined by enduring faith linkages beyond lands or ethnicities, the scope of refuge may ultimately be ephemeral without ceding refugee isolation. By investigating conceptual interplays between ritualized self-emptying, identity negotiation, and quests for rootedness amongst deterritorialized peoples, this paper aims to expand anthropological understandings of what shared piety provides persecuted people living between lands, identities, and hegemonic socio-political formations. This paper examines how stateless Rohingya refugees practice and interpret religion for temporary relief and dignity while struggling to assimilate into today's Hindu nationalist polity. I investigate how Islamic piety channels their struggles to invert individual alienation through a prescriptive reconstitution of the self.


The Storied Gulf: Migration, Baithaks, and Masculinities in Punjab
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Salman Hussain - salmanh@umich.edu (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

My paper examines the gendered motivations for migrations from Pakistan to the Arabian Gulf. This ethnography is based on my regular participation for over a year in informal gatherings— baithaks or addas as they are called in South Asia—in Sahiwal, a provincial city in Punjab, Pakistan. Held in outer visiting rooms in homes, front-lawns, rooftops, and teashops, baithaks centered around a Gulf returnee big-man are sought after sites of recruitment into a migration network. Paying attention to interactions between returnees, aspiring emigrants, and locals in baithaks, I push against the argument that migrants paint a rosy image of Gulf life in their home cities, and that these misrepresentations pull others into exploitative labor situations abroad. That migrant-life in the Gulf is oppressive is hardly news in cities like Sahiwal. Decades of circulation of labor between Gulf and Sahiwal has produced Gulf-work as a “rite of passage” (Van Gennep 1960) to masculine respectability and full male adulthood for working-class men. My paper posits that picking up this Gulf gauntlet is the ideology of labor migrations from Pakistan. Returnees routinely tell “hardship stories” (Gomberg-Muñoz 2016) about migrant life in the Gulf. I attend to the circulatory contexts of migrants’ Gulf stories at home and the gendered repertoire of characterological figures through which savvy listeners evaluate them. I show that migrants’ storytelling is structured by the local discourse of the Gulf gauntlet with the following idea about manly grit at its core: since Gulf-work is harsh, only hard men are suited for it. The Gulf gauntlet subsumes stories of hardship within its own lore. The harder the rite, the higher mettled the passenger. I contend that centering prospective emigrant as discerning listeners helps us understand both the nuanced motivations for migration and why returnees tell the kinds of stories they do.


Imagining Authoritarian Climate Regimes: The Framing of Anthropocene Sovereignty in South Asian Dystopian Narratives
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Madison Ballroom
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Raihan Rahman - samraihanurr@umass.edu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

The Anthropocene, besides indicating the epochal planetary transitions, also signals a reconfiguration in the forms of power and politics. The existing political structures and institutions are in the process of transformation with the ecological upheavals of the planet. Climate change is being regarded as a ‘threat multiplier’ that destabilizes the existing (dis)order of things as the changing ecological conditions are adding new avenues of social, economic, and political stresses locally and globally. A new wave of surplus population is on the move because of climate displacement and migration. An emerging discourse of fear, conflicts, and geopolitical instability surrounding the movement of the displaced population is instigating a ‘resource war’ in the ‘New Climatic Regime’. The new scramble for resources is precipitating the rise of authoritarian climate regimes that invest heavily in the biopolitical and necropolitical management of the surplus bodies. In this paper, I will read two dystopian novels, Prayaag Akbar’s Leila and Saad Z. Hossain’s Kundo Wakes Up to explore how contemporary South Asian fiction helps us imagine and conceptualize authoritarianism in the Anthropocene. Both novels address the question of scarcity, waste, resource wars, scavenging for resources, and toxic ecology in a transformed planet and depict how the climate catastrophe triggers the erosion of democracy and the rise of totalitarian power although in contrasting ways. Pivoting on the interlinked question of democracy and authoritarianism, I will explore how the Anthropocene shapes postcolonial sovereignty. I will map how sovereignty is being reconfigured in the overlapping context of environmental slow violence, climate coloniality, and the Anthropocene futurity and examine what implications the reconfigurations of sovereignty have on political subjectivity and politics for justice.


Against Passivity: Responses from Below During the Famine of 1943-4
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Srishti Dutta Chowdhury - sduttach@purdue.edu (Purdue University)

The Great Bengal Famine of 1943-44 still evokes powerful emotions. The emaciated, famine-stricken figure has crystallized into a symbol of late-stage British colonial rule and its rapacious assault on the “static” Bengali peasant. But who were these starving, colonized masses beyond destitute images? Did they engage in political and social expression besides their passive construction as famine victims? Is it possible to recover the mobilized and immobilized “subaltern” through 1943-44 from the archives? Archival records expose how people persistently attacked and looted guarded boats carrying rice and grains for stockpiling- contesting governmental "food drive" and wartime "denial policy" aimed at seizure of supplies. Hoarders, private as well as governmental, were also targeted in places. The mass migration of starving people to cities constituted a political act against the famine, against passive acceptance of their circumstances. These “vagrants” resisted government efforts to confine them in poor houses, perceiving this as state-controlled starvation. Peasant women collectively demanded fair food prices, asserting their rights to receive entitlements from the state as producers - not "mere beggars." Shifting from elite political contestations and wartime government responses, I aim to narrate the cataclysmic famine as experienced by migrant peasants and urban workers- who endured its most devastating brunt. The historical actors importantly responded to the overarching computations of late colonial (including anti-colonial) Bengal politics and its wartime efforts against advancing Japanese forces, but on their own terms. In so doing, they enacted “everyday resistance,” beyond constant subservience to the grander narratives of history-making at play.


The Making of the Sarvajanin: The Durga Puja of East Bengal Since 1949
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Alif Shahed - alif.shahed@mail.utoronto.ca (University of Toronto)

Scholars have long argued that the Durga Puja festival of West Bengal, the largest festival of the Bengali Hindu community is a site that complicates the Hindu-Muslim binary. In recent scholarship, the festival has been positioned as a “secular” cultural festival that has been highly politicized by the ruling party of West Bengal. This paper is concerned with the history of the lesser known Durga Puja of East Bengal, where the Hindu community is a demographic minority, from the Pakistan era to contemporary Bangladesh. Beginning in 1949 with the restriction and prohibition of the festival, this paper will explore the contemporary “Sarvajanin Durga Utsav” of Bangladesh as a site where secular and communal ideologies are debated, complicated, and defined. I examine the ‘Sarvajanin’ as a productive avenue to look at the changing relationships between the religious, the secular, and the cultural in Bangladesh. How does the religious festival of a minority community come to form the secular basis of a majority Muslim country amidst communal tensions? Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Bangladesh after the 2021 communal riots, this paper will explore the ways in which a deeply religious festival that centres around icon worship provides citizens and scholars a productive avenue to think through the contesting and imagining of a secular public.


The Impact of Alpana in Bengali Nationalism: A Cultural and Historical Analysis
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: University C/D
Floor: Floor 2

Organizer
Sanjoy Chakraborty - artsanjoy@du.ac.bd (University of Dhaka)

Alpana is a very popular folk art element from Bengal. Since ancient times, in the rural society of Bengal, Alpana has been painted on various occasions including puja, weddings, and festivals. However, it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that it gained popularity in modern Bangladeshi society. In my research, I will focus on examining how the popularity of Alpana emerged and its relationship with nationalistic sentiment. Bengali nationalism played an important role in this popularity. It is worth mentioning that Rabindranath Tagore consciously introduced Alpana in the works on visual elements by contemporary intellectuals and artists. This occurred during the anti-British movement of undivided India. Thus, Alpana began to play a significant role in India's cultural movement at the beginning of the 20th century. But in the context of Bangladesh, Alpana gained momentum during the East Pakistan period when Bengali intellectuals critically engaged to reinforce sentiments of Bengali identity and solidarity in reaction to the imposed Pakistani nationalism. Especially after the language movement of 1952, which advocated for the recognition of Bangla as an official language, Alpana gradually gained popularity in Bangladesh. Initially, Alpana was painted on the roads and walls from Azimpur graveyard to Shaheed Minar (a National Monument) to pay homage to the martyrs. Later, Alpana started being used in various Bangladeshi cultural activities, such as Pahela Boishakh.


Kingship in South Asia in the Second Millennium
Panel Group

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 627
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Neha Tiwari - ntiwari@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)

Discussant / Chair
Daud Ali - daudali@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)

Kingship has been a central institution in precolonial South Asian history, but so far surprisingly little work has been done on the history of kingship—as an institution and an idea—both real and imagined. Most scholarship has assumed, following colonial precedents, that there were stable traditions of kingship defined by religious affiliation. This panel examines diverse perspectives on kingship in South Asia in the second millennium, shedding light on the reimagining of royal authority and kingly values during a period when new vocabularies were introduced with the emergence of the Delhi Sultanate in the thirteenth century. Instead of aiming for an essential or unified account of Indic kingship, individual papers highlight the plurality of its articulations that went far beyond royal courts into diverse narrative and ritual realms. The first paper delves into the evolving notions of kingship through the lens of Bhoja, suggesting that his varied portrayals reflect shifting political realities and the emergence of new attitudes towards monarchy. Through a study of Vikramāditya's legends, the second paper demonstrates how his depiction in these accounts challenges conventional heroic tropes, prompting reflection on the nature of kingship. The third paper in the panel examines Jain prabandhas to explore how various narrative strategies were deployed by Jain monks to portray their interactions with the Sultanate kings, thus articulating their views on Jain kingship. Finally, the fourth paper investigates Adivasi notions of kingship in Odisha, especially the idea of a joint sacrificial polity of the king and his subjects, through ethnographic research of a festival with medieval roots. Together, these papers demonstrate that far from being a fixed or essential category, kingship in South Asia was a site of textually or ritually mediated negotiations that continued to perform vast amounts of ever more diverse types of cultural "work.


Presenter 1
Daud Ali - daudali@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
A Mirror for Kings: Bhoja and Hindu Kingship in the Second Millennium

Presenter 2
Neha Tiwari - ntiwari@sas.upenn.edu (University of Pennsylvania)
Inverting Tropes and Surprising Audiences: Vikramāditya's Legends in the Second Millennium

Presenter 3
Steven Vose - steven.vose@ucdenver.edu ()
What Kind of Jain King Does a Sultan Make? The Sultans of Delhi and the Genre of the Jain Prabandhas

Presenter 4
Peter Berger - p.berger@rug.nl ()
Navigating Life: Indigenous Conceptualizations of Kingship in Highland Odisha


The Untouchable/Touchable Dalit Prostitute
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Divyashree Ashok Kumar Malhari - da3121@columbia.edu (Columbia University)

The Dalit prostitutes of the 1930s Kamathipura experienced democracy and authoritarianism in ways that the Dalit community did not. In 1936, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar addresses them and terms them the “shame” of the community, denouncing their choice of profession, threatening to have them uprooted if they refuse to change their ways. The Dalit prostitute posed a unique challenge to the leader’s life-long struggle for the dignity and equality of the Dalit community. Meanwhile, G. R. Pradhan in his book “Untouchable Workers of Bombay City”, interacts with these women at Kamathipura in the early 1930s and sees them as victims of circumstances, whose ideas of freedom possibly challenged the patriarchal and caste ordered society. His remarks about the complicity of Dalit men in the making of Dalit prostitutes are particularly kind, compared to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s 1936 address. The leader misses something that Pradhan catches on, the sexualization of the Dalit prostitute by Dalit men, and the reason for their disillusionment in the identity of a larger Dalit community. The Dalit prostitute is a unique subject of touchability and untouchability, where she is hypersexualized and rendered touchable to men of all castes, but still carries the identity of the untouchable Dalit community. In this paper, I will examine how the touchable prostitute of the untouchable community was expected to be rendered untouchable, desexualized, so that Dalit men could overcome their untouchability. The literature present around the politics of the community is particularly lacking in understanding and exploring the unique positionality of the Dalit prostitute, whose existence is a sign of freedom and authoritarianism, as it highlights the oppression of Dalit women and prostitutes by Dalit men. Therefore, I will examine the politics of touchability/sexuality of the Dalit community, through the Dalit prostitute of 1930s Kamathipura, in this paper.


Buying Strap-Ons as the World Burns: The Sri Lankan Crisis
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Themal Ellawala - tellaw2@uic.edu (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Sri Lanka experiences the worst socio-political crisis of its postcolonial history and its trans men discuss buying strap ons. Leftist feminists from the capital who led the massive popular uprising of 2022 speak of ceaseless struggle to some of the most marginalized women on the island who are exhausted. What does it mean to inhabit crisis and to survive its crisis-ness? Thinking through these two vignettes, culled from the dissertation fieldwork I recently concluded, I explore the textures, intensities, and orientations of daily life in crisis in Sri Lanka. The everyday-ness of crisis, in Sri Lanka and increasingly in the world as we know it, begs questions of how we persist in such conditions, how we signify life and death amidst turmoil, and ultimately what the fabric of crisis is. By attending to the interplay of action and inaction through the discourses and lived realities of the crisis, I suggest that the quotidian experience of crisis is one that cannot be fully represented by the dominance-resistance paradigm, and that people insist on feeling and desiring in ways that that betray the complexities of structural conditions and those suspended within them. What such an experiment gestures towards is an understanding of how marginalized figures seek to inhabit a fullness of being despite, or precisely because, of crisis, which in turn illuminates the ontic and categorical limits of crisis itself.


Life in the Margins: Sex Work, Feminisms, and Imperialism in Late Nineteenth-Century India
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Fnu Rashmi - rrashmi@gradcenter.cuny.edu (Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Co-Author
Fnu Rashmi - rrashmi@gradcenter.cuny.edu (Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Examining British colonial documents, the Russell Committee Report of 1893, and Andrew and Bushnell’s Queen’s Daughters in India (1898), this paper attempts to reconstruct the life-story of a young girl, Massamat Itwaria from Lucknow, and her journey from being a “kept woman” to a “public prostitute” in the 1890s. The reforms of the colonial state targeted at native women in nineteenth-century were endowed with a rescue mission: “white men saving brown women from brown men” (Spivak, 1994). Later, these efforts were taken up by Victorian and Edwardian feminists in the West. They assumed the responsibility of uplifting colonized women, especially the native “prostitutes” (as mentioned in British records). They blamed the corruption of both white colonial officers and the compliance of native men for the helpless condition of the native sex-workers. Scholars have critically examined the regulation of prostitution in the British empire (Levine, 2003) and the appropriation of imperialist ideology by British feminists (Burton, 1994). However, their focus had been limited to the elite women and the high politics of the metropolis and the colony. My emphasis on the life-story of Itwaria, who approached the missionaries to be rescued from the military brothel, shifts the focus from the dominant narrative and incorporates feminist approaches to retrieving a subaltern voice from the colonial archives. Through the study of Itwaria’s life, the paper engages in a critical assessment of the role of feminist missionaries in the colonies and the agency of a colonized subject in her encounter with white feminists. It also reflects on the methodological challenges involved in reconstructing a subaltern life through the colonial records. The biography of a nineteenth-century sex-worker, representing an important segment of colonized women in the margins, will be of interest to scholars working on biographies, legal histories, subaltern lives, and feminist studies.


Tonite and Everynite: Gender, Class and Morality in Calcutta Nightlife (1940s-1980s)
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 629
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Aishika Chakraborty - aishikachak@gmail.com (Jadavpur University )

The war to end all wars had just begun when the Grand Hotel of Calcutta changed hands—from Arathoon Stephen to Mohan Singh Oberoi. Following the attack on Pearl Harbour when America joined the war, Calcutta became one of the military bases for the Allied soldiers, heading towards the Eastern Theatres. Through the churning into oceans, emerged the elixir of life that the floundering Grand Hotel of Calcutta was desperately looking for. This paper explores the changing nightscapes of Calcutta, which presented a dynamic market for entertainment of dance and music, when the colonial city was transformed into a military cantonment with blackouts, curfews, famine, hunger and chaos. Set against the Second World War, while the first part of my paper chronicles the journeys of transnational dancers of the nighttime city, the second part maps the sexualisation of night-time entertainment of post-independence Calcutta, which continued unabated with a new rank of dancers—now filled with refugees, migrants and squatters. Dancing out resilience in troubled times, did the famished yet erotic bodies unsettle the moral universe of Bengali middle class polluting their sacral domain of culture? This paper seeks to rewrite the erased history of the disenfranchised cabaret dancers who talked back against the authoritarianism and moral policing of the progressive democratic state that forced them out from the space of public performance, taking away their means of livelihood and survival.


Watershed(s): Indus, India, Independence
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Manasvini Rajan - mrajan@umass.edu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

In this paper, I propose a reading of water-related agreements in the context of independent India. I consider two treaties – the Inter-Dominion Agreement of 1948 and the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 – that govern the terms of water sharing between India and Pakistan. I read these treaties through the lens of a short story, Saadat Hasan Manto’s “Yazid” (1952). I argue that such a reading offers insight into the role of water in the project of Indian nation building. The Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 is considered to be the originary disaster in the history of both states, spawning decades of violence whose manifestations and consequences persist to the present day. It has been studied extensively as a political, economic, cultural, and social disaster. The ethnic, religious, and gendered dimensions of Partition violence have also been written about. However, literary scholarship has yet to attend to the environmental dimensions of the catastrophe. This is a critical gap I aim to fill through my study. My critical intervention is twofold. In the first case, I read India’s developmental policy as a series of enclosures – material, imaginative, narrative, epistemological. Independent India’s claims to sovereignty, especially its sovereignty asserted in opposition to Pakistan, relies on such enclosures. Significantly, these are enclosures of waters since much of the performance of sovereignty occurs in the Indus River Basin. My second intervention is methodological. I argue that it is critical to read administrative and legislative texts as imaginative writing, as texts that are fictitious insofar as they imagine a community and a landscape. Reading them as such is key to interrogating the imaginations they emerge from. This paper, then, hopes to offer a way of reading texts that is attuned to historical and contemporary crises, particularly environmental crises.


Orange Farmers Knowledge and Experience on Climate Change in Namsaling village of Ilam District
Single Paper

Location

Session: Session 10: Saturday, 10:30 am - 12:15 pm
Room: Parlour Room 634
Floor: Floor 6

Organizer
Nainakala Tamang - nainatamang77@gmail.com (Tribhuvan University, Kritipur Kathmandu)