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Organizer: Rebecca M. Brown, St. Marys College of Maryland
Chair: Padma Kaimal, Colgate University
Discussant: Janice Leoshko, University of Texas, Austin
While some elements of South Asian tantric artTibetan mandalas, yab-yum sculptures, maithuna couplessee no end to exposure and publication, much of the meaning of major tantric art and architecture of South Asia is hidden from the gaze of the uninitiated. The three papers of this panel explore three very different examples of art and architecture which illuminate the relationship between tantrisms hidden aspects and temple sculpture, bhakti, and the construction of modern India.
The first two papers examine temple architecture and its decoration. The first explores the elaborate patterning that embeds tantric meaning within apparently simple visual signs. The second explores the tension between manifest (prakat) and hidden (aprakat) in the structure and the terracotta program of Bengali temples. The final paper explores the manner in which the hidden aspects of tantrism and tantric art were used to establish an Indian modernity in the 1960s and 1970s. As a group, the three authors establish a counterpoint between what tantric art was thought to be in the mid-twentieth century and what artistic production around tantrism looked like in eighth-century southern India and seventeenth-century Bengal. Each paper engages with tantrism as it intersects wider political and religious institutions: royal patronage, Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and the international modern art movement. The papers together move the study of tantrism in art in new directions, showing that even as tantrism is hidden, its presence is central to much of South Asian art and architecture.
Hidden Tantric Lessons in an Eighth-Century Temple
Padma Kaimal, Colgate University
The Kailasanath temple complex was built between 700 and 725 by a Pallava king at his dynastys capital, Kancipuram, in southeastern India. The architecture and sculpture of this monument express tantric philosophys central principles through visual signs that remain hidden even as they sit in plain view. Any visitor who gains access to the temples walled courtyard will see all around her the interlocked buildings and dramatic carvings that carry these tantric meanings. Those meanings, however, may elude her because they lie not in the forms alone but in patterns underlying the placement of those forms throughout the temple complex. Only visitors trained in tantrainitiates in that esoteric tradition or scholars benefitting from the recent publication of tantric secretsare likely to perceive those patterns and recognize their significance.
One of these patterns I discern at the Kailasanath complex rests in the arrangement of its goddess images. This sculptural program consistently counterposes goddesses on the basis of their sexuality, manifesting as it does so tantras emphasis on the sexuality of deities, the variability of the supreme Goddesss many manifestations, and the goal of transcending dualistic thought. These core lessons of Tantra are thus embedded in the monuments very plan but screened from the gaze of those who have not learned what to look for.
Hidden Meanings in the Temple Terracottas of Seventeenth-Century Bengal
Pika Ghosh, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the devotional movement led by the Bengali saint Chaitanya (15861633), upholds Radhas deeply passionate and self-sacrificing love for Krishna as the ideal state for the devotee to achieve. The primary texts suggest that the goal of the aspirant was to enhance her/his levels of knowledge and meditational skills toward participation in the lila (amorous play) of the deities. This process is understood as a progression from the prakat (manifest) to the aprakat (hidden). The double-storied brick temples built throughout the Bengal delta in the seventeenth century are a site for such aspiration. In this paper I want to explore the possible evocation of older tantric concepts and visual forms that were already prevalent in the region, where rich Buddhist and Shakta tantric traditions had developed earlier, toward enhancing the experience of bhakti. The iconography of the terracotta panels adorning the earliest Vaishnava temples can be read as a progression from the manifest to the more potent "hidden" knowledge, available only to those initiated within the tradition. Panels depicting scenes such as the rasamandala (circular dance of Krishna with the women of Mathura) are particularly rewarding when read in this light.
The Hidden and the Modern: P.T. Reddy, Neo-Tantrism, and the Struggle for Modern Art in India
Rebecca Brown, St. Marys College of Maryland
In the face of a British public aghast at Indian art forms, Ananda Coomaraswamys early 20th century justifications of the study of Indian visual culture lay in the valorization of Indian art as an authentic spiritual expression opposed to a post-industrial, jaded western aesthetic. In the years after Indias Independence, the question of authenticity for modern art turned to an uncovering of the "hidden" and therefore authentic India, giving rise to a neo-tantric art movement.
This paper examines the Andhra Pradesh artist P.T. Reddy (19151996), and traces his struggle with the need to create an authentic Indian visual expression while adhering to the demands of a universalizing ethos within European modernism. His work turns to a reinterpretation of Indian tantric imagery, using its esoteric symbolism and universal forms to bridge the gap between abstraction and Indian-ness. Reddys neo-tantric paintings explore abstract shapes, mandala-like diagrams, and personal symbolic elements, in order to bring the space of a hidden and therefore "purely" Indian culture to shape the Indian modern art movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
By reading his images alongside post-Independence politics and the religious diffusionism in India (and the world) during this period, this paper examines the effects of a new interest in tantrism on the development of Indian modernism. For Reddy, this meant using the Orientalist assumptions about exotic and mysterious India to construct an Indian modernism which relied on the aesthetic of tantrism with its hidden, esoteric imagery.
Organizer: David B. Gray, Rice University
Chair: Robert A. Thurman, Columbia University
Discussant: Laura Harrington, Columbia University
Keywords: religion, art history, India, Nepal, Buddhism.
This panel explores the multiple roles played by the Chakrasamvara Tantra in South Asian history, bringing to light an early medieval Buddhist tradition, the practice of which continues in several South Asian and Himalayan communities. A composite text, Chakrasamvara Tantra drew inspiration from both Hindu and Buddhist sources, criss-crossing sectarian boundaries. It therefore thwarts our ordinary attempts at sectarian identification, proposing instead an alternative model of self-identification, as David Gray argues in his paper. It also challenges our attempts at interpretation, as it is a transgressive text, advocating the crossing of socially defined boundaries such as the purity/impurity and auspicious/inauspicious divides. Its study thus requires hermeneutic sophistication, as Miranda Shaw shows in her paper. Following its composition in India in the eighth or ninth century C.E., it was transmitted to Nepal, where it served as a major influence on the shaping of Newar cultural identity, as John Huntington explores in his paper. Dina Bangdel highlights the importance of representations of the Chakrasamvara goddess Varuni in Newar Buddhist religious history and iconography. Despite its importance in South Asia and beyond it has gained little scholarly attention. This panel will make a contribution toward filling this lacuna in our knowledge of an important South Asian religious tradition. In so doing, it seeks to highlight issues of religious identity and representation in the study of South Asia cultural history, engaging interdisciplinary issues that will be of interest to Asian Studies scholars across a broad range of disciplines and regional specializations.
The Adi Prajna Guhyeshvari and the Beginnings of Samvara Cycle Tantra in Newar Buddhism
John C. Huntington, Ohio State University
Note: This paper is about the less publicly known Buddhist site of Puran (Ancient) Guhyeshvari and not the well-known Naya (New) Guhyeshvari in near Pashupatinath in Deo Patan.
In our recent and ongoing studies of Newar Buddhism at The Ohio State University, we have found that the Svayambhupuranas narratives of the emergence of Chakrasamvara enlightenment methodologies have been reified in a very strict interpretation. Contained within it is the story of the first teaching of the Tantra to Manjudeva by Guhyeshvari and his subsequent teaching of the practice to Prachandadeva of Gaur, who upon receiving initiation (diksha) became known as Shantikar Acharya, the founder of the Vajracharya linage of Chakrasamvara teachings in Newar Buddhism. The incorporation of Guhyeshvari into Buddhism, and her role in Newar Buddhism is little understood and there are several aspects to her role. First, as Adi Prajna, she generates Vajravarahi and the Yoginis of the Chakrasamvara mandala. She indirectly, via Vajravarahi, also generates all of the Buddhaprajnas, who appear as the female Armor deities of the generations stage meditation; she is the goddess Varuni, who is the goddess of the five alcohols (who is the topic of Dr. Bangdels presentation); and she appears as one of the five Yoginis of Vajravarahis completion cycle mandala in the Nepal Valley. In summary, she is the underlying fundamental "source" of all Tantric teachings, the pure essence of the transformative realizations of the Chakrasamvara/ Vajravarahi methodology, and is the ultimate primordial goddess of the Nepal Valley religions. This presentation will be extensively illustrated with digital images.
Cannibalism, Astral Seduction, and Raising the Dead: Bizarre Rites or Metaphorical Terrain in the Cakrasamvara-tantra?
Miranda Shaw, University of Richmond
The thematic topography of the Cakrasamvara-tantra is largely the one familiar from previously translated Indian Buddhist tantras, but the text evinces a singular preoccupation with the magical powers (siddhi) said to result from its ritual procedures and potent mantras. Scholars have debated whether Tantric promises of occult powers serve a purely rhetorical function, advance supernormal powers as ends in themselves, or figure among an integrated spectrum of goals. My paper examines the role and status of magical powers in the Cakrasamvara-tantra. I consider first the wide range of siddhis that are proffered and the questions of literal, philosophical, and ethical intentionality that they raise. I then focus on some ostensibly bizarre rites described in the text, such as the consumption of human flesh, an elaborate rite of astral seduction, and a ritual for raising a corpse and compelling it to do ones bidding.
After presenting several exegetical strategies to justify such seemingly bizarre and "transgressive" practices, I consider the degree to which the work contextualizes such rites and powers within its religious universe. I also consider the broader Indic magical corpus as a factor in the immediate audiences "horizon of expectations" and situate this aspect of the text within the Buddhist magical tradition. In determining whether such passages are rhetorical, metaphorical, or literal in intent, I draw upon the semiotic concept of "semantically saturated" texts to elicit how the promises of magical powers serve to map the enigmatic but nonetheless intelligible ideological and practical terrain of a transgressive subculture.
Goddess of Purified Amrita: Varuni in the Chakrasamvara Tradition
Dina Bangdel, Ohio State University
It is well known in the ritual practices of the Anuttarayoga Tantras that alcohol and other spirituous substances are often used as the offerings in the skull cup. Through meditational visualizations, these symbolic substances are transformed into the nectar of transcendent insight (jnana amrita) that purifies the practitioner to effectively realize the attainments of the Tantric Buddhist path. Specifically, in the Newar Buddhism of the Kathmandu Valley, the visualization of the inner offering mandalas, using both red and white alcohol, are fundamental to the practices of the Chakrasamvara cycle. In this context, it is the goddess Varuni, referred to as Suradevi, "Goddess of Alcohol," who is contained in the inner offering and anthropo-morphically manifests the purified nectar.
Although art as well as religious historians have previously overlooked her significance, Varunis role is central to the practices of Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi. The aim of this paper is three-fold: one, to discuss the ritual role of Varuni within the larger Chakrasamvara cycle; two, to highlight the significance of Varuni within the Newar Buddhist tradition, in relation to other Tantric goddesses, such as Guhyesh-vari, Vajravarahi, and the Caturyoginis; and third, to explore the little-known iconographic representations of Varuni in Newar Buddhist and Tibetan art. In discussing Varuni specifically in relation to the practices of the Newar Buddhists, it is also my intention to bring to attention some core features of the Chakrasamvara tradition in Newar Buddhism.
Mandala of the Self: On Identity Construction in a South Asian Religious Tradition
David B. Gray, Rice University
Tantric traditions have appeared anomalous through a variety of different criteria, and have typically been ignored or dismissed by religious and social historians, despite the fact that they have played a very important role in the development of both Buddhism and Hinduism in South Asia and beyond. In this paper I will argue that a reevaluation of these traditions is necessary to further enrich our understanding of South Asian religious and social history, and deepen our awareness of the continued role of Tantric traditions in the lives of many contemporary individuals and social groups. This paper will seek to contribute to this reevaluation process by arguing that traditional attempts at the sectarian identification of Tantric practitioners is flawed and is based upon assumptions concerning self-identification that are not shared by members of these traditions. I will examine in detail the process of self-identification and self-construction encouraged in one contemporary tradition, that of the Cakrasamvara Tantra, which remains popular in Newar and Tibetan communities. Following Comaroff, I will argue that the texts of the Cakrasamvara tradition and the practices based upon them encourage a construction of self-identity based on a rather different set of assumptions than those common in the West, i.e., assumptions concerning the limits and constitution of the self. I will explore the nature of this considerably more expansive and fluid sense of self and its social and historical ramifications. Following Bourdieu, I will also attempt to show how it is constituted via a distinct routine of practices.
Organizer: Rama Mantena, Smith College
Chair: Lisa Mitchell, Mount Holyoke College
Discussant: Velcheru Narayana Rao, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Keywords: India, colonialism, language, and identity.
This panel examines the emergence of new genres of writing and the construction of new written and oral cultures in the context of European and colonial literary, philological, and religious influences in nineteenth-century South India. Covering the role of grammarians, the influences of Orientalists on language study, comparative philology, the rise of a native intelligentsia, and the emergence of new genres of writing, the panel opens up new terrain within discussions of colonialisms impacts upon literary production and practices. In particular, the panel will explore the relationship between changes in oral genres and textual practices on the one hand, and the emergence of new social formations, political movements, and cultural identities on the other. Bringing together scholars whose research crosses the traditional disciplinary lines of anthropology, history, and literary studies, each paper makes use of methodologies from multiple disciplines. Because we would like to initiate discussion broadly on the relationship between language, genre, and identity in South India, we draw connections between two literary cultures represented by Tamil and Telugu, exploring similarities and differences in their encounters with colonial structures of knowledge. In attempting to make existing South Indian literary and linguistic categories correspond with European understandings of languages and literary genres, colonial structures of knowledge influenced dramatic, though often unexpected changes without ever achieving absolute commensurability. This panel explores not only the effects of these colonial structures of knowledge, but also local literary and linguistic practices which resisted easy translation across contexts, and the absolutely new genres and categories created as offshoots of this process.
Biography of a Language: Telugu "Charitras" and the Foundations of Twentieth-Century Politico-Cultural Formations
Lisa Mitchell, Mount Holyoke College
Telugu charitrasbiographical narratives origin-ally modeled on similar Sanskrit compositionsare seldom considered a separate genre of writing. Rather, the term is generally viewed as a description of the topical choice of authors compositions within a variety of genres. Yet a genealogy of the changing uses of the term charitra reflects shifting subjects of significance not only within Telugu writing, but also within larger socio-cultural spheres of southern India. From medieval biographical narratives and celebrations of the heroic contributions of kings, warriors, saints, and founding figures of religious movements, to the "ordinary" protagonists of the first Telugu novels, the use of the term charitra marks dramatic changes in cultural priorities, sources of patronage, organizational principles and foundational categories. The most wide-reaching of these changes is the appearance at the end of the 19th century of charitrasnot of individualsbut of territories, languages, and collectivities of subjects. Emphasizing something more important than distinctions between biography and fiction, and between history and "tales," an understanding of charitras does not lend itself to easy commensurability with existing European literary categories and analyses. Moving from the medieval origins of Telugu charitras to their modern incarnations, this paper argues that such discursive reorientations both support and reflect the formation of these subjectsparticularly languages, territories, and communitiesas qualitatively new entities in discourse and practice. In doing so, such entities were established as objects available for new forms of affective attachment and as solid foundations capable of supporting subsequent political and cultural movements.
Protestant Textual Practice and the Objectification of Saivism
Bernard Bate, Yale University
In the Tamil world of the 1850s, Arumuga Navalar imported liturgical practices of Protestant Christianity into Tamil Saivism. Navalar is frequently known by his title, "The Champion Reformer of Hinduism," which was given to him by the Ceylonese Tamil leaders several years after his death. But in issuing new liturgical rules focusing on pronunciation, clarity of textual recitation, and orderliness of Saivite rites, Navalar did not so much reform Saivism as create it as something entirely new. In this paper I will describe how Navalar and his colleagues combined elements of Wesleyan Methodist and Saivite textual practices into the production of a phenomenologically discreet realm of "religion." The conjuncture of different forms of textual activity, i.e. the sermon and recitation in Saivite temples called pirasangam, became the locus of a political struggle between a newly identifiable Saivism and Christianity. Ultimately, these new aesthetics and ideologies of language became critical in building an anti-colonial "public" who could then be addressed in following decades.
What Is It Worth? Canon(s) in the Colonial Tamil World
A. R. Venkatachalapathy, Madras Institute of Development Studies
The fashioning of a new literary canon in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries played a central role in defining a Tamil identity. A whole corpus of literary texts was "discovered" and the medium of print was constitutive of this process of literary canonisation. Given the astonishing volume (and quality) of these texts and the manner in which its "discovery" fed into identity politics, the "Renaissance" model has often been employed to describe this process.
Scholarship on colonial South Asia has often concentrated on Orientalism with its emphasis on Sanskrit. This paper draws attention to a "counter-Orientalism" which sought to define a Dravidian-based knowledge which was counterposed to an Aryan/Sanskrit-based construction of India. Such a scholarship had implications for a newly defined canon, which privileged a secular antiquity and a non-Sanskritic foundation of literary production.
This paper also seeks to counterpose the newly defined canon in Tamilnadu with the canon obtaining in colonial Sri Lanka. It is suggested that while the literary canon was shared by Tamilnadu and (Tamil) Sri Lanka in pre-colonial times, a rupture took place in the colonial context.
Secularisation was strong in Tamilnadu: consequently religious literature was either relegated to the margins or only accommodated into the canon for their "literary" meritthis specific appropriation being made by Tamil nationalist/Dravidian movement politics in its attempt to fashion a linguistic identity that would transcend divisions based on caste, class and religion. On the other hand, in Tamil Sri Lanka, religion (Saivism) and caste (Vellalar) played an over-determining role, with continued primacy being given to Saiva canonical texts and Kanda Puranam. The creation of the Indian and Sri Lankan nation-states accentuated the divide.
Telugu Literary History and the Emergence of a Regional Identity
Rama Mantena, Smith College
It is noteworthy that the earliest "modern" histories of the Andhra region produced during the colonial period were of Telugu literature. History, as a way of telling the stories of a people and a region, took hold of the intellectual imagination of Telugu writers in colonial Andhra. However, for these early historians, literature became the avenue through which the past would be consolidated and made whole. What is interesting about this trend is the centrality accorded to a literary tradition in the formation of modern cultural identities. Before Telugu culture was marked geographically (as modern identitarian movements such as the Andhra movement would fight for in their demands for a separate state), literary histories were written linking past with present. This paper will explore the relationship between the formation of modern cultural identities and literary history as a genre. It will be concerned with two principal questions: (1) Specifically, what does literary history provide in the formation and coherence of cultural/regional identities? (2) And why is it that literature gets picked up by the new historical imagination of Telugu writers?
Organizer: Srirupa Roy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Chair and Discussant: Itty Abraham, Social Science Research Council
Keywords: India, state, civil society, colonialism, NGOs, globalization, military, violence.
Drawing upon empirical material from India, this panel challenges two dominant conceptions of the relationship between state and civil society. First, we critically examine the question of autonomy versus embeddedness, or the extent to which these two "prime movers" of social and political life are independent of each other. Such discussions take the boundary between state and civil society as an unproblematic given that is either present or absent. Through an examination of several different case studies, this panel argues that instead of framing our arguments in terms of whether the state/civil society demarcation does or does not exist, we should examine the concrete social and political dynamics of producing and maintaining, reworking and dissolving this boundary. The interactions between state and civil society are not determined by a pre-given demarcation between the two; instead, the demarcation is itself produced through the continuous interaction between state and civil society, and varies considerably from one context to another, even within a single national framework. Second, we interrogate the modalities of dominance and resistance in the context of state-civil society relations through an investigation of several historically as well as spatially distinct instances, ranging from colonialism (Mongia) to globalization (Kamat), from Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat (Roy) to the politics of ethnic identity formation and civil-military relations in the Ladakh district of Kashmir (Aggarwal). Taken together, the panelists examine the theoretical as well as the political-ethical implications of situations where neither a discretely bounded state nor a monolithically understood civil society are the agents and loci of dominance, resistance and critique.
Producing State and Civil Society: The Status of the Inquiry
Radhika Mongia, University of California, Santa Cruz
In August 1834, following the Emancipation Act of 1833, Britain abolished slavery in its colonies. Abolition generated a huge demand for labor in the labor-intensive plantation economies. This demand was met, in part, via the introduction of indentured Indian labor. Though initiated to provide labor to the ex-slave colonies, over the course of the nineteenth century indentured migration became more generalized system of supplying labor to a range of locations. This paper considers the status and modus operandi of the endless state inquiry commissions instated to evaluate the system of Indian indentured migration during the eighty years it was in existence. Within liberal state formations, the inquiry is generally understood as a mechanism that can make the state accountable to civil society. Focusing specifically on the earliest inquiries on Indian migration, motivated largely due to objections from organizations such as the British Anti-Slavery Society, the paper investigates how the inquiry within colonial state formations functioned to both circumvent and incorporate an element of state accountability to civil society. Drawing on such details as the constitution of inquiry commissions, the demarcation of their domain of investigation, and the adoption of certain forms of dissemination with regard to these inquiries, this paper demonstrates how the inquiry serves the ambiguous dual function of simultaneously deflecting and soliciting criticism. It thus suggests that rather than understanding the inquiry within a paradigm of checks and balances, it is better understood as constituting a unique axis for producing the notion of accountability that is so crucial to maintaining the distinction between state and civil society.
The NGO Phenomenon and State-Civil Society Theory
Sangeeta Kamat, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
In the contemporary era of globalization, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are playing an increasingly assertive role in national as well as transnational arenas. What are the implications of this "NGO phenomenon" for political practices, norms and institutions? In this paper, I examine the policy discourse on NGOs in India to show how state-civil society relations are being restructured within the context of global economic reform, and the ways in which the regulation of NGOs is a key aspect of this restructuring. I argue that the current policy discourse on NGOs presents to us the futurescape of state-civil society relations within a neo-liberal economic context. An analysis of policy debates shows how state and civil society are being deployed as "totemic motifs," making invisible the more complex reconstruction of public good and private interest that interconnects state and civil society. Thus, the globalization of the NGO phenomenon calls into question theories that presuppose the separation of state from civil society. Research on the evolving character of NGOs in South Asia also shows that while NGOs are being regulated as part of the neo-liberal economic agenda, they are not mere handmaidens of the state or of capitalist interests. Rather these organizations continuously reinvent themselves and build alliances that allow them to define, negotiate and contest public and private interests.
The State, Its Security, and a Matter of Goodwill
Ravina Aggarwal, Smith College
This paper analyses the contested relationship between armed forces and civilians in the heavily militarized region of Ladakh, located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It focuses on a large-scale operation called Sadbhavna (Goodwill), launched in 2001 by the Indian Army in areas of the state where it has frequently battled Pakistan for control over the Kashmir valley. Rather than militants or enemy soldiers, however, the challenges that the armed forces took on through Sadbhavna included improving education, health, and technology services for civilians and inculcating a sense of patriotism in disaffected hearts. Ladakhi leaders initially hailed Sadbhavna as a revolutionary and progressive initiative that would bridge the existing gap between the missions and objectives of the armed forces and the lifestyles and expectations of the civilians they were deployed to protect. Within a year, however, Ladakhi communities were heavily divided on the issue of Sadbhavna, some passionate in their support for it and others blaming it for widening social rifts. Through this case study, I illustrate how the disputed concept of "goodwill" frames policies and discussions about development, citizenship and security and enables us to rethink the relationship between state and civil institutions in border areas such as Ladakh.
Bearing Witness: States, Citizens, and Inquiries on Violence
Srirupa Roy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
On March 2002, the state of Gujarat in Western India was the site of horrifying acts of mass violence against the resident Muslim minority community. Gujarat has also been the site of an unprecedented number of civil society initiatives to collect the testimonies of victims and to gather information on the involvement of the state and its personnel in the systematic planning and execution of what many have termed Indias first genocide. This paper is a comparative examination of these varied efforts to document the violence in Gujaratefforts that both seek to make truth-claims about the events that occurred, and to offer an analysis of the causes of the violence. The variations in the mode of investigation, the analytic claims, the intended audiences and dissemination strategies of the documentary efforts, and the implications of these inquiries for conflict resolution and reconciliation are discussed in an effort to answer a pressing question: when, why, and how do civil society initiatives make a difference in situations of ethnic violence and offer an effective critique of the state? By examining the variations in these initiatives, this paper disaggregates the notion of a monolithic civil society; develops an argument about the effectiveness of local, national and global civil society efforts to address mass violence; and considers whether and how it may be possible for an official or state-sponsored commission of inquiry to undertake the task of "speaking truth to power" by bearing witness to its own excesses.
Organizer, Chair, and Discussant: Manu Bhagavan, Manchester College
Keywords: diversity, pluralism, nationalism, identity, South Asia.
In recent years, countries in South Asia have seen a marked rise in exclusivist forms of nationalism, visions of state and society heavily reliant upon jingoism, scapegoatism, and xenophobia. But resulting myopic constructions, present for instance in the ideology of Hindutva or the communitarian principle of a separate, corporate Muslim community, are dependent upon particular readings of history, a range of "facts and figures" meant to buttress contemporary claims and agendas. While various challenges to these trends have been made to date, a multifaceted assault on the assumptive fabric of exclusivist nationalism has yet to take place. This panel is a step in this direction.
Our three papers explore some of the many socio-cultural conversations that have taken place over time between supposedly distinct communities. In the process, we also underscore the shortcomings and limitations of "meta-communal" groupings. Syed Akbar Hyder examines how the famed Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib dealt with difference and displacement. Chitralekha Zutshi critiques the concept of a unique, historical Kashmiri identity and highlights contextual political strategies that themselves have carried forward new patterns of power and exploitation in the region. And Paula Richman analyzes South Indian tellings of the story of Rama to foreground the epics multiplicity and to underline its multi-religious dimension. By re-inscribing the dynamics of diversity and plurality into the narrative of South Asian history, we aim to make a pressing contemporary political intervention, putting to rest a variety of canards and debunking the supremacist ideologies of suppression currently prevalent throughout South Asia.
The Poetics of Location: Ghalibs Sense of Belonging in Nineteenth-Century India
S. Akbar Hyder, University of Texas, Austin
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (17971869), the famed nineteenth-century Perso-Urdu poet, operated in the tensions between the multiple worlds he simultaneously occupied. Set in the tumultuous milieu of early and mid-nineteenth-century North India, Ghalibs poetic and prose discourses inscribe new meanings on the concepts of "home," "exile," "religion," and "loyalty." This paper explores the aforementioned signifiers in the light of Ghalibs address to God in abr-e gauhar bar and his praise poem for the city of Banaras, chirag-e dair, by calling attention to the interface of trans-communal sacred geography, the ambivalence toward an abstract enemy, the celebration of homelessness, and the defiance against many a cherished category. Ghalibs playful manipulation of identity markers is read in its historical context while the intertextual relationship between Ghalib and prominent Urdu poetic movements of subsequent generations is highlighted.
The Politics of Kashmiriyat in South Asia
Chitralekha Zutshi, College of William and Mary
This paper argues that the exceptionalist paradigm of Kashmiriyat in the history of Kashmir fulfills the agendas of two inter-linked, at times confrontational, political projects: first, the discourse of a unified Indian nation-state based on a unitary nationalism, and second, a highly federalized nationalism based on regionalized and plural identities. This essay, instead, locates and interrogates the narrative of Kashmiriyat as a historically contingent entity that emerged in the discourse of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference in the late 1940s and early 50s. The conference propagated this secular mantra in an attempt to elide over the increasingly visible religious, regional, and linguistic cleavages in the state. While the onus for the Kashmir "problem" rests with the majoritarian nationalisms of both India and Pakistan, some of the culpability needs to be shared by this particular brand of Kashmiri nationalism, represented by the Conference, which inherited state structures in the region. Exhibiting similar deformities to the unitary nationalisms of India and Pakistan, this Kashmiri organization has been as reluctant as its Indian and Pakistani counterparts to accommodate religious and local differences and multiple visions of nationalism within Kashmir.
The Dynamics of Narrative Disagreement: Treatment of Ramkatha in South Indian Plays, 19201961
Paula Richman, Oberlin College
During the decades immediately preceding and following Indian independence, well-known literary figures writing in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam wrote plays that opened up discussion about the morality of certain actions attributed to Lord Rama in Ramkatha (Ramas story). This paper examines four such plays, one in each Dravidian language, focusing upon how each presented the story from the perspective of a character marginalized or stigmatized in dominant tellings of Ramkatha.
The plays provide fresh and complex perspectives on characters such as Shambuka (the Shudra killed by Rama for daring to perform asceticism), Urmila (the sister of Sita who waited out the forest exile back at the palace) and Ravana (represented as tragically betrayed by his brother). Because these plays are in regional languages, rather than Hindi or English, they are little-known by scholars outside their region. Yet these plays interrogate nationalist appropriation of Ramkatha, give voice to some of the internal contradictions in the narrative, and remind us of the religiously plural context (Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain) out of which modern retellings of Ramkatha emerged.
Organizer and Chair: Sarah Houston Green, University of Texas, Austin
Discussant: Vasudha Dalmia, University of California, Berkeley
This panel examines the way that four twentieth-century women writers in India, writing across three languages and multiple geographic, religious, and social boundaries, negotiate the shifting terrains of feminism, activism, and creative expression. The papers will discuss the lives and work of Mahadevi Varma (Hindi), Wajeda Tabassum (Urdu), Kusum Meghval (Hindi), and Arundhati Roy (English). Their various works echo many of the social and political shifts that transformed the Indian literary landscape over the last century: the rise of nationalist ideology; the fall of the last vestiges of the Mughal empire and subsequent re-positioning of the Muslim identity in Indian society; the legacy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the continuing struggle for Dalit equality; and, finally, contemporary problems of industrial development and the upheaval that the economic demands of globalization inflict on communities across India. The panelists, reflecting on the ways these women engage with issues through writing and activism, explore their published works and, where possible, employ interviews with the authors to answer: What is the nature of the relationship of literature and activism as rendered in their works? How do they envisage themselves as women, as writers, as participants in a continually evolving community?
Sources of Subversion: Mahadevi Varma and the Poetic Construction of the Feminine Subject
Sarah Houston Green, University of Texas, Austin
With the publication of her first collection of poetry, Nihar (Mist, 1930), Mahadevi Varma was poised to become the only major woman poet of the Chhayavad ("Shadowism") era of popular Hindi poetry. She soon joined Jaishankar Prasad, Sumitranandan Pant and Nirala as a definer of the new poetic "manifesto"the subjective voice over social didacticism. A famous poet whose atypical personal life and quiet political agenda reinterpreted traditional standards in social and nationalist contexts, Mahadevi became a cultural icon and is recognized as a pioneering Indian feminist. She is not deemed feminist because of her poetrys content: it is introverted, devoid of social concerns and features a suffering feminine subject longing for an absent lover. Early in her career, however, Mahadevi ceased writing poetry and began to produce social critiques termed "feminist" because they address the condition of women. This paper questions the apparent disjuncture between Mahadevis poetry and prose. Julia Kristevas concepts of the "split subject" and "desire" in a semiotic system are used to expose a feminist impulse in Mahadevis poetry that stands as a precursor to her activist prose. This discovery raises a question widely pertinent to feminist theory: what is the relationship between feminism and activism?
Tears of Freedom: Recasting Women and the Nation in Wajeda Tabassums Urdu Short Stories
Karline McLain, University of Texas, Austin
Wajeda Tabassum (b. 1935) is an Urdu author from Hyderabad who has published twenty-eight books and received much critical acclaim amongst Urdu-language audiences. Yet, because only one of her stories is available in English, Tabassums work is little-known to non-Urdu-language readers. In this paper I will analyze three of Tabassums stories"Aazaadii ke Aansuu" (Tears of Freedom, 1977), "Utran" (Hand-Me-Downs, 1977), and "Jaise Dariyaa" (Like a River, 1979)and will draw upon interviews I conducted with Tabassum in order to bring to light her important commentary on the status of Muslim women in modern India. In 1948 Tabassum witnessed the unseating of the nizam in Hyderabad, and several of her stories portray the decadent lives of the nobility and the peasant revolt during this period. These stories bring a unique perspective to this historical period by featuring female rural and lower-caste protagonists, raising issues that were emerging as central concerns to the womens movement in the seventies. Furthermore, Tabassums usage of a Dakkani dialect of Urdu and of begamati zaban (womens speech) contribute a sense of sociolinguistic realism to her writing that further shifts the focus away from the historians emphasis on the domain of high (male) politics and towards the local and the lived.
Refiguring the Feminine: Mapping the Social and Cultural Lives of Women in Dalit Literature
Laura Brueck, University of Texas, Austin
In their 1972 manifesto, the Dalit Panthers include the category of women under their definition of the word "Dalit," widening the connotation of the term to include anyone oppressed under the rubric of caste, religion, or gender. This was a symbolic shift widely heralded by womens organizations across India. In recent years, however, many Dalit women authors and activists have been careful to point out the need to represent the unique social position of Dalit women as one subjected to the multi-valent hierarchies of caste and gender. In an effort to explore this re-positioning of Dalit women in the sphere of cultural representation, I will utilize extensive material from the life and career of Kusum Meghval. Dr. Meghval is a Dalit activist, founder of the Rajasthan Dalit Literature Academy, and the author of works of poetry, fiction, and research in Hindi. Using her fiction and poetry, as well as interviews conducted with her on the topics of creative writing and social reform, I will delineate certain themes in the depiction of Dalit womens identities. What is the nature of womens resistance to caste oppression? How are Dalit womens experiences rendered poetically? What makes the poetic representation of resistance revolutionary?
Framing the Writer-Activist: Arundhati Roy and the Journey from Fiction to Court
Modhurima Dasgupta, Brown University
In March of 2002, Indian writer Arundhati Roy was jailed and fined by the Supreme Court of India for contempt of court. This paper examines the way in which Roy herself frames how in just five years she has gone from publishing her first novel (the wildly successful, Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things) to imprisonment for criticizing the judiciarys decision on the Narmada Dam construction project. Her journey takes us from novelist to feminist to essayist to activist, and finally to her own reluctant self-label as the new breed of "writer-activist" who she says has the "onerous responsibility" that comes with being a writer in India. This paper gives special consideration to how Roy casts the burden of Indias writers and artists in general to bring contentious social issues into the space of common understanding. In addition, it reveals how Roy applies the feminist ethos that she was raised with (through her mother, feminist activist and educator Mary Roy) in her writings on behalf of many causes, including the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Dalit women writers, the anti-nuclear campaign, and the anti-globalization movement, to name a few.
Organizer and Chair: David Ludden, University of Pennsylvania
Discussant: Sugata Bose, Harvard University
Many scholars, in various disciplines, are now exploring the messy spatial parameters of the world that American area studies has chopped up into neatly conventional regions. In the context of globalization, new academic approaches and political struggles now contest the established meanings of geography so as to expand the intellectual space available for area studies. This panel presents recent research that indicates intersections and divergences among disciplines that are expanding South Asia.
Mapping Persia, India, and Asia: 7501750
Richard M. Eaton, University of Arizona
This paper explores the subjective and objective placements of Persia and India over a thousand-year period. I am interested in the assumptions that govern Janet Abu-Lughods "Eight Circuits of the 13th c. World System" (p. 34), and in the "dead-zones" on her map, i.e., areas that fall within no circuit. I will argue, to the contrary, that one of her dead-zonesthe Helmand-to-Sutlej region, with the central Indus at its corewas in fact the fulcrum of a long durée Persianate cultural axis that extended deep into the Iranian plateau and Indian subcontinent. The role played by this objective axis has far-reaching implications for subjective understandings of "South Asia" and the "Middle East."
Of Hometowns and Diasporic Aesthetics
Rosemary M. George, University of California, San Diego
This presentation asks how our understanding of national literature might change if we were to consider the work of R.K Narayan, an established Indian writer, through an aesthetic framework that is fabricated in diasporic contexts. I begin by examining the work of two contemporary first generation South Asian Americans: the novelist Indira Ganesan and the painter Arijit Sen. Their texts suspend (as in architectural suspensions) imagined spaces that first disrupt, and then, paradoxically, refurbish the very notion of belonging securely in a location that has substantial spatial reference. As a counter-point to this examination of diasporic hometowns, I study the work of R.K. Narayan (19062001), paying special attention to his creation of Malgudi, the quintessential Indian small town which served as the setting for all of his novels written from the early 1930s to the late 1980s. I demonstrate that when Narayan created Malgudi in the early 1930s, prior to the establishment of the independent nation, he did so from an aesthetic position not unlike that of contemporary diasporic writers. Diasporic aesthetics in this paper describe the imaginings that take place outside of, but overwritten by, the idea of nation in the past, in contemporaneous time or, as in the case of Narayan, in the future. How is South Asia "expanded" and "contracted" in these imaginative renditions of spatial affiliation, which exceed the spatial boundaries employed in South Asian literary studies?
To Be or Not to Be South Asian: Contemporary Indian American Politics
Prema Kurien, University of Southern California
I will look at why some groups of Indian Americans embrace the South Asian label and others reject it, and also briefly touch on the activities of these two camps in the post 9/11 period.
South Asia: A Subcontinental Mind-Set?
Willem van Schendel, University of Amsterdam
The postcolonial history of Southern Asia is being studied by a partitioned academy. Despite attempts to overcome the iron grip of the nation-state on the historical imagination, South Asian studies is still dominated by territorial assumptions that take states to be entities of sovereign space acting as "containers" of their societies. Capturing the fluidity of human linkages across the subcontinent requires South Asian scholarly communities to become more "de-partitioned." This effort can be helped by focusing on themes that are best studied by teams which pool their expertise of specific South Asian societies. One such theme could be cross-border linkages, e.g., migration by laborers, settlers and refugees; huge and mostly unauthorized cross-border trade flows; or trans-border cultures, languages, and identities. The study of such themes may point us toward new research agendas in which the production of subcontinental "area knowledge" more explicitly serves a thematic and comparative purpose.
Organizer: Dominik Wujastyk, University of London
Chair: Sheldon Pollock, University of Chicago
Discussant: Sudipta Kaviraj, University of London
This panel continues the exploration of problems concerning the conceptual structure and social context of Sanskrit knowledge from roughly 1550 to 1750. The shared premise of the work of scholars presenting papers in this panel is that this period witnessed a special flowering of scholarship in the Sanskrit medium that continued until the establishment of British colonial power. The indigenous intellectual develop-ments of this time have been occluded partly by the grandeur of the Mughal spectacle, which dominates historical writing on this period, and partly by an implicit fundamentalist view of Sanskrit as a key to earlier periods of Indian cultural life.
Little research has been specifically devoted to the intellectual history of this period, in spite of the fact that historical sources exist in abundance, and that the period produced exceptionally interesting scholarly movements which in some ways contributed to the construction of aspects of Indian modernity, in spite of having themselves disappeared in the face of the establishment of European models of education and scholarship.
The papers of Preisendanz (Vienna) and Ganeri (Liverpool) focus on the work of formal logicians, their schools, goals, and self-images as scholars. Bronkhorst (Lausanne) discusses the work of a small but hugely important group of grammarians who for some reason opened up lines of enquiry into the philosophy and metaphysics of language which had been dead for over a millennium. Wujastyk (London) examines the social background and motivations of innovative writers on medicine science at the end of the seventeenth century.
Bhattoji Diksita on Sphota
Johannes Bronkhorst, University of Lausanne
The philosophy of grammar has only four major representatives in the history of Indian thought. One of these is Bhartrhari, who lived in the fifth century C.E. The other three lived more than a thousand years later, in Benares, and may have known each other. The first of these three, Bhattoji Diksita, was the paternal uncle of the second, Kaunda Bhatta. The third one, Nagesa Bhatta, was a pupil of Bhattojis grandson.
This paper will explore what induced Bhattoji Diksita to come up with hisin relative termsinnovative ideas, concentrating on his ideas about the sphota in particular. This will be done by studying Bhattoji Diksitas ideas against the background of their intellectual precursors, but not only that. In contrast to most earlier Sanskrit authors, we know at least something about the circumstancessocial, economic, traditionalin which pandits like Bhattoji Diksita worked, and which inspired them to produce their often voluminous works. An attempt will be made, using these various kinds of information, to obtain some sort of insight into what made a scholar like Bhattoji Diksita tick.
The New and the Old in Seventeenth-Century Indian Logic: The Case of Gokulanatha Upadhyaya
Jonardon Ganeri, University of Liverpool
In an earlier book (Ganeri 1999), I documented the extraordinary achievements of the Bengali philosopher, Gadadhara Bhattacarya (16041709). His work established him firmly as a leading "new intellectual" of seventeenth century India. There is good evidence that, within a relatively short period, his influence had spread far outside his native Bengal. Bengali intellectuals were already describing themselves as "new" (navya), in order to distinguish themselves and their ideas from an older site of intellectual production, Mithila. The Bengali genius Raghunatha, in the sixteenth century, had first migrated to train in Mithila and then returned to Bengal to found the new site in Navadvipa. Towards the end of our period, Mithila re-emerged as the center of gravity for philosophical studies in India.
In my conference presentation, I will begin to explore the causes of this transformation in the balance of intellectual power at the end of the seventeenth century. The key thinker of the period is Gokulanatha Upadhyaya (c. 1675), a brilliant polymath, prominent public intellectual and a man of wide horizons and extraordinary intellectual resources. He is the only Sanskrit logician for whom we have evidence of competence in Persian and engagement with the literati of the Islamic court. He wrote widely about the nature of argument and debate, the role of language, the transmission of knowledge, and he responded directly to the intellectual challenge of Raghunatha and the self-proclaimed "new" intellectuals in Bengal. Gokulanatha lived too near to the advent of colonialism for his work to achieve the spread and fame of Gadadhara.
The Production of Philosophical Literature in South Asia during the Precolonial Period: The Case of the Nyayasutra Commentarial Tradition
Karin Preisendanz, University of Vienna
The Nyayasutra, compiled towards the end of the 4th century, is the fundamental text of the Nyaya ("Logic") tradition in the classical period of Indian philosophy A succession of commentaries has been preserved from this early period onwards. Through commenting on the increasingly antiquated basic text of the tradition, later philosophical authors developed their sophisticated metaphysical, epistemological and soteriological ideas, in lively controversy. When, in the llth century, the advanced "old" Nyaya was decisively revolutionized in terms of logic and stringency of argumentation, terminology and style, and the "new" (navya) Nyaya inaugurated by Udayana, the Nyayasutra seems to have lost its attraction as a text to be commented upon, even indirectly.
Surprisingly, however, starting already in the 15th century, scholars turned again to the ancient sutra-text and commented directly upon it. The paper will try to explore this phenomenon in its various aspects: who were these savants who cared about an archaic text far removed from their own level of philosophical sophistication; what and who induced them to write these commentaries; what was their intended readership; what was their attitude toward the "old" commentaries; what consequences had the phenom-enon for this older literature; what is the relationship of the commentaries to their other works; how were the commentaries received; and how and where did they circulate, etc?
Change and Creativity in Early Modern Indian Medical Thought
Dominik Wujastyk, University of London
The great classics of Indian medicine are generally considered to be the compendia composed two thousand years ago, and their study dominates Indian medical history. However, manuscripts of these classic works are relatively rare: for all their fame, they were not widely copied or read. By contrast, Indian manuscript libraries contain thousands of copies of a small Sanskrit medical work entitled "A living for physicians" (Vaidyajivana) composed by the Maharastrian physician and poet, Lolimbaraja (fl. 15751600). Lolimbaraja married a Muslim woman, and parts of his famous book are written as passionate addresses to her. Other features of his life and work are unexpected, and these will be examined in the context of other trends of the period, and an attempt will be made to account for the extraordinary popularity of his work, which continues to be read, published and translated in India even today.
Lolimbarajas work may be contrasted with the vast medical and legal encyclopedia written at almost exactly the same time under the sponsorship of Todaramalla (fl. 15651589), one of Emperor Akbars most famous Hindu ministers. In certain ways, this work pre-figured the legal digests commissioned by Sir William Jones for the purpose of helping the colonial courts understand and regulate their Hindu subjects. The paper will explore Todaramallas motivations, and will draw conclusions about the social and intellectual life of these and other late sixteenth-century medical authors.
Organizer and Discussant: Claire Alexander, South Bank University, London
Chair: Ashwani Sharma, University of East London
Keywords: South Asia, identity, representation, film/media, diaspora.
In the wake of a resurgent Islamophobia, "Asian riots" across Britain and the events after 11 September 2001, the media scrutiny of South Asian communities at home and abroad has been intense and furious. Too often, South Asian identities are understood as monolithic and antagonistic, a perspective reified through ethnocentric and nation-bound media that belie the more complex mediations of cultural forms and flows.
The aim of this panel is two-fold: firstly, to unpack the contemporary media configuration of South Asian diaspora identities, with particular focus on the United States and Britain. Secondly, and relatedly, to explore the processes of production and consumption of alternative media practices within the diaspora, considering the intersection and subversion of ethnicity, religion, nation, gender and sexuality within practices of representation. From the production and global aesthetics of Indian cinema to formations of South Asian subjectivities, and the often violent consequences of media images, the panel aims to challenge simplistic accounts of the relationship between media and identity. It thus seeks to locate media and cultural production within the material practices and consequences of the everyday.
The contributors are based in Britain and the United States, but their work reflects on the global formation of South Asian identities and media, bringing together perspectives based in South Asia, Europe and the Americas. The panel is cross-disciplinary, combining sociology, anthropology, media and cultural studies. It includes both established and emerging scholars, presenting new research, and aims to provide a challenging foundation for audience participation and discussion.
Bordering the Impossible: The Crisis of Identity and Nationalist Utopias in Contemporary Indian Cinema
Reminder Kaur, University of Manchester
This paper investigates the resurgence of nationalist imagery through a consideration of Indian popular cinema from the 1990s. It does so in a context of increasing antagonism with Pakistan, the prominence of nuclear armament, the rising popularity of Hindu nationalism and the effects of validating ones national status against cross-currents of globalization. The legacy of Partition and the unresolved issue of Kashmir also continue to raise their heads in this turbulent mixture. Whilst much has been commented upon the romance movies of the 1990s, less attention has been reserved for what might be described as "war/battle movies" of this decade.
By considering films such as Border, Mission Kashmir, Terrorist, and Kohram (Chaos), I highlight the factors that have led to the prominence of such movies. Demonization of Pakistan, extolling the virtues of brave Indian soldiers (jawans), the sacralization of Indian national territory and populations ("the common man"), and their implications for romance and family values are some of the features that characterize these movies. Claims for coherency in representations become more pronounced at times of worldly crisis. As Kobena Mercer argues: "Identity only becomes an issue when it is in crisis, when something assumed to be fixed, coherent and stable is displaced by the experience of doubt and uncertainty." I look at what strategies are deployed to mitigate "doubts and uncertainties" in the imagistic quest of such films for what might be deemed the impossiblefixity, coherency, and national integrity.
Ethnicity, Masculinity, Diaspora: Representing South Asian Men
Koushik Banerjea, University of London
Perhaps more than any other development of the twentieth century, film technology has the power to change our perceptions, not just of the cinema, but of the world. While practices of representation within national contexts have been a focus of interest and concern, the implications for diasporic communities remain, however, largely unexplored. This is particularly the case for diasporic South Asian communities.
This paper looks at the conjunction of ideas of ethnicity and masculinity with processes of cultural production and reception through film. Focusing on the genres of "gangster" films, "spaghetti westerns" and Bollywood action films, as epitomizing highly masculinist travelling discourses, the paper looks at the context in which masculine identities are formed on screen across a range of national contexts and visual landscapes. In particular the paper is interested in the intersection between South Asian ethnicity, globalization and diaspora as they are manifest in the cultural practices of film production and interpretation.
The paper will consider the cross-cultural traffic in representations of male alienation, the aesthetics of violence and the influence of these images on the construction and performance of South Asian masculinities. This linkage is made particularly urgent in the wake of the "race riots" (2001) across Northern English cities and towns last summer, and the upsurge in anti-Asian violence since the events of September 11th.
Colourline within Colourline: The Politics of Bombay Cinema in the British South Asian Context
Meeta Rani Jha, University of London
This paper aims to interrogate the role of viewing practice of Bombay cinema in the constitution of the subjectivities of four British South Asian women. An essential part of the meaning-making process is the continual translation of meaning through the cultural global networks. By analyzing the viewing practice of Bombay cinema in a given context, this paper endeavors to contribute to sociological debate around essentialism and its critiques and to wider theoretical debates on subjectivity, community and trans-global and trans-local identities.
This paper argues that the women interviewees had complex interpretations of their viewing practices, which simultaneously disciplined them and allowed for transgressive readings, which re-invented new meanings in the context of their daily lives. The paper explores the interviews as narratives of belonging, exclusion and the processes of attainment of South Asian cultural capital. The paper considers how "Asian-ness" as difference is articulated and produced by viewing practice, and illuminate the deployment of this discourse as a tool to mediate power relations in the context of their lives in contemporary Britain. In this way, the analysis illuminates how structures of exclusion such as race, religion, class, gender, sexuality, age, language, and region operate within the discourse of Bombay cinema viewing for the interviewees.
The Wake of the Sublime: Representing Sikh Americans after September 11th
Brian Axel, Swarthmore College
The inquiry begins with what, after the September 11, 2001, attacks, was reported to have been a general experience in Europe and North America for Sikh men who wear turbans. That is, large numbers of Sikh men have told stories about being identified by children as terrorists. Particularly, the following expression was extremely common: "Look, daddy, a terrorist! Im scared!"
What is at stake in the analysis of these kinds of moments of interpellation is how the identities of diasporic peoples emergenot in a relation to a supposed place of origin but, rather, through complex negotiations and conflicts around specific forms of representation, circulating in the wake of unimag-inable violence. Subsequent to September 11, Sikhs who were identified as terrorists were attacked across North America. These practices of identification drew out the features of a transformation in forms of recognition that were both gendered and racialized. These developments prompt a series of lessons that are more generally significant.
In outlining what I call the diasporic sublime, the paper draws upon the works of Immanuel Kant and Walter Benjamin to suggest a way of thinking about diasporic identity and subject formation in terms of the limits of experience and the limits of the imagination. It argues, in short, that what is significant for understanding the formation of diasporas is an engagement with what cannot possibly be experienced or imagined.
Organizer: Kumkum Chatterjee, Pennsylvania State University
Chair: Brian A. Hatcher, Illinois Wesleyan University
Discussants: Indrani Chatterjee, Rutgers University; Brian A. Hatcher, Illinois Wesleyan University
Keywords: history, South Asia, colonial, cultural and intellectual history.
This panel engages with certain important hypotheses which dominate South Asian history currently. The issues of colonial knowledge and the emergence of history as a colonial discipline have been at the forefront of historical enquiry in the recent past. However, this body of scholarship, has mischaracter-ized the nature of indigenous South Asian traditions of scholarship as well as the social structures and cultural parameters that underlay them. Secondly, the dynamics of the transition process itself have barely merited attention.
All the papers in this panel address the area of interaction between indigenous scholarly and cultural traditions and colonial influences. Chatterjees paper takes issue with prevailing views and shows that 18th-century Bengali society, instead of being yoked to repetitive, formulaic scholarly paradigms, found creative, innovative intellectual solutions which were relevant to the time. Curleys paper studies the interaction of western and indigenous traditions in the later 18th century and highlights the nature of social and intellectual activity at the time. Guha-Thakurtas contribution emphasizes how Indian scholars made the complex transition from being "native informants" to modern, professional scholars.
The panel thus interrogates important existing notions and makes significant contributions to the interface of social/cultural history and intellectual history. The paper presenters are well known for their research and publications in the field of social and cultural history; so are the two discussants.
Visions of the Past: Genealogies, Kings, and Society in Early Modern Bengal
Kumkum Chatterjee, Pennsylvania State University
This paper focuses on an extraordinary generic narrative entitled the "Rajabali" (Annals of Kings) which was in circulation among certain segments of literate society in 18th-century Bengal.
The point of analyzing this narrative is that it provides a unique point of entry into a cultural and scholarly world of early modern South Asiaa sphere which has been poorly studied until now. Existing literature has tended to see this period as one of complete intellectual and cultural decadenceor, at best one which was yoked to repetitive, formulaic Puranic traditions which offered it the only way in which it could project a vision of the past.
This paper engages with this formulation by demonstrating that early modern society in fact devised unique ways of conceptualizing its vision of the past by deploying multiple strands of scholarly influences, i.e., the Puranic traditions incorporating genealogies or lineage histories, the chronicles of Muslim kings based in Delhi as well as the ascendancy of the English in Bengal.
The conclusion, which transcends the genre of narratives being specifically studied here points to the creativeness and dynamism of the indigenous cultural and intellectual milieu prior to the age of "high colonialism" in the later nineteenth century.
Trans-Cultural Translations in an Era of Transition: Jaynarayan Ghoshal and Later Eighteenth-Century Bengal
David L. Curley, Western Washington University
The later 18th century witnessed an era of transition in Bengal. On the one hand, it witnessed the decline of the indigenous nawabi of Bengal; on the other, it experienced the establishment of the early colonial state. During this era indigenous cultural concepts and intellectual traditions (i.e. "Hindu"/Sanskritic and Islamicate/Mughal) were strong and vigorous and were in fact being pressed into the service of the early colonial state. Simultaneously, western/colonial influences were gradually filtering into this society. This interface between indigenous and colonial intellectual and cultural tradition is usually located by existing scholarship in the later 19th century. This paper makes an important departure by studying such interactions in the later 18th century, when indigenous traditions were far stronger than what they became in the later 19th century and western/colonial influences had yet to gather the power they subsequently did.
This paper studies the social and intellectual activities of one of the most important personalities of later 18th century Bengal, i.e., Jaynarayan Ghoshal, who had risen to eminence through his connections with English trade to illuminate the issue referred to above. The paper emphasizes how Jaynarayans contact with missionaries as well as with indigenous groups like the Kartabhaja Vaishnavas combined to produce a complex and unique vision of "social progress" in the early colonial period. This mission of social progress is studied through Jaynarayans production of a literary treatise, the construction of a school and the building of a temple.
Interlocuting Texts and Monuments: "Insider" Knowledges and "Native" Scholarship in Nineteenth-Century India
Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, India
This paper explores the early history of the induction of Indian textual and scholarly expertise in the study of antiquities in colonial India. As Indias archaeological and architectural remains came to be mapped and surveyed over the 19th century the colonial quest for accurate, authoritative knowledge in this area necessitated the need to tap into a range of "native" linguistic and practical expertise, i.e., the working knowledges of practicing artisanal communities and the detailed textual knowledges of pandits. By the mid to later 19th century, new spaces of participation for Indian scholars opened up within the new "westernized" and professional field of archaeology. Yet, the grounds would subtly shift in the production of the authority of the Indian expert as he found himself negotiating the dual role of "critical insider" and modern scholar. This paper focuses in particular on the figures of Ram Raz and Raja Rajendralal Mitra to highlight the transformation of such scholars from the position of "native informant" to that of professional, modern scholars and the simultaneous moment of both negation and consecration of a modern Indian scholarship in the field in this case of archaeology.
This paper thus is a contribution to the study of the dynamics of intellectual and cultural interactions between colonialism and indigenous Indian scholar-ship in the later 19th century.
Consider the Pandit: The Place of Sanskrit Scholars in the History of Colonial Bengal
Brian A. Hatcher, Illinois Weslyan University
This paper reflects on the place of Sanskrit pandits in the history of colonial Bengal, paying attention both to what we can say about the work of such scholars during this period and to the challenges faced by historians in search of such scholars. Pandits were active on a variety of fronts during this period, from the editing and translating of the Orientalist archive to debates over socio-religious reform, to the construct-ion of modern Hinduism. To the degree that we are able to recover their contribution in such areas, we stand to enrich our understanding of the intellectual and social history of colonial India. While the lives and projects of pandits are often lost to view, there is nevertheless information that can help us in this task of recovery. Using two rare Bengali autobiographies written by 19th-century pandits, this paper attempts to ask questions such as: How have pandits responded to changes in their intellectual, social and political milieu? What role have pandits played as agents in the transformation of their intellectual traditions? And finally, what implications does the search for pandits have for the historiography of colonial India?
Organizer: Peter S. Gottschalk, Wesleyan University
Chair: Parimal G. Patil, Harvard University
Discussants: Vijay Pinch, Wesleyan University; Parimal G. Patil, Harvard University
Long after British imperial rule faded from South Asia, an intellectual hegemony remains. Through British administration and cultural influences, Western ways of knowing have, in many cases, displaced indigenous epistemologies, categories, and descriptors. This hegemony has and continues to have a profound effect not only on the way Westerners understand South Asia, but on the self-understanding of South Asians themselves. This paper session will explore pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial approaches to the study of religion in the Subcontinent by Westerners and explore the impact upon scholarship and community life in both South Asia and the West. These papers constitute a set of well-integrated reflections which complement one another in exploring some of the multiple sites of Western conceptualization an eighteenth-century missionary, a Bihari village and contemporary practices of Western and Indian Catholics.
Yet, each of the concepts of South Asian religions considered maintains a relevancy, if not a considerable currency, in todays scholarship. The implications of these epistemologies for contemporary research require a reflexivity toward the foundational logic of the fields of knowledge themselves, not only specific methodologies and conclusions. Although the concepts considered may appear as Western constructions, their appropriation by South Asians means that they continue to have implications for both Westerners and South Asians not only academically but politically and spiritually as well. Ultimately, this session of papers seeks to prompt reflection on the category of "religion" itself as it focuses on Western investigations of South Asian practices, beliefs, literatures, and symbols identified as "religious."
Conceptualizing South Asian Religion: A Precolonial Perspective
Will Sweetman, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
The considerable recent scholarly attention to conceptualizations of South Asian religion has focused upon works from the latter part of the eighteenth century or later, with earlier works being dismissed as superficial. At least some earlier works are, however, worthy of attention not only for their scholarly merit but because they reflect the assumptions of a period which was not yet defined by colonial rule. Among these the works of Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, an early eighteenth-century missionary to South India, are of particular interest both for their nuanced conceptualization of Indian religions and because it is possible to identify the sources on which this conceptualization rests. This paper examines the conceptualization of South Asian religion in several of the most important of Ziegenbalgs works and suggest that this conceptualization is based on Indian conceptions to a far greater degree than has been recognized.
The contribution of Ziegenbalg and his colleagues to the early development of Indological scholarship is considerable. J. E. Gründler and Ziegenbalg selected, translated and annotated 99 letters written by Tamils in response to questions about Indian religion and society. These letters constitute the first substantial collection of writings by modern Indians to appear in print in Europe. The work of the mission was important not only in the dissemination of Indological learning in Europe but also in inaugurating the eighteenth-century "information revolution" in India itself, through founding of public schools and the work of converting Thanjavur intellectuals not to Christianity but to Enlightenment ideals of public knowledge.
Knowing Arampur: Western Epistemologies in Colonial Knowledge of Village Religions
Peter S. Gottschalk, Wesleyan University
Despite the rise of postcolonial critiques, much of Western scholarship on the religions of South Asia relies on epistemologies as deployed by British imperial agents. Moreover, many scholars from the Subcontinent continue to rely on these forms of knowledge even as they reflect on the impact of colonial domination. The dependence of contemporary scholars on these epistemologies complicates our ability to reflect critically upon them. By focusing on the object of knowing, rather than on the process, many of the dynamics and characteristics of these epistemologies become clearer. To this end, this paper examines the ways in which the colonial government in "British India" explored and described religion in a village and among its residents in Bihar. The paper contextualizes this study of religion within the larger imperial project of topographic, population, linguistic, and ethnographic surveys of north India from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries.
Religion served as a central category for these epistemologies with an assumed set of subcategories meant to differentiate between various groups according to their beliefs and practices. Thus, the Subcontinent quickly became a peninsula bifurcated, in British eyes, by religion. Although the British understood this term to mean something different to Indians than to themselves (no analogous term being indigenous to South Asia before the arrival of Muslims), they did not take this difference as a point of departure for critical reflection but as yet another marker of cultural divergence. This assumption of divergence suffuses Anglo-American scholarship to this day and bears reflection.
Constructing Hinduism in Postcolonial Catholicism
Mathew N. Schmalz, College of the Holy Cross
India and Hinduism have always had a special place in the Catholic religious imagination. While Christianity itself arrived in India long before Catholic missionaries, Indian Christianity has long been associated with Western missionary efforts. In the period following the Second Vatican Council, Indian Catholicism began to reassess its colonial past. The resulting effort to integrate Indian or Hindu ritual practices and symbols into Indian Catholicism was then intended to "inculturate" Indian Catholicism by abandoning Westernized forms of religious expression associated with colonial domination. These efforts gave rise to a range of efforts to adapt Catholicism to Indian culturefrom the experimental India rite Mass to the Catholic ashram movement. What unifies both these Catholic efforts to engage Hinduism in a post-colonial age is their effort to revalue the relationship between India and the West. In doing so, however, both approaches have employed standard Orientalist tropes: Hindusim is a unified whole. It is "feminine," "non-rational," "timeless" and almost exclusively identified with what some might call "Brahminism." Especially instructive is the use of various bowdlerized forms of non-dualism within such post-colonial vision since they are deployed not only to articulate the complementarity of religions but also to deconstruct Catholicism itself. This paper will examine how these tropes are deployed in post-colonial Catholic constructions of Hinduism and how they serve to replicate the categories Orientalist discourse even as they attempt to criticize Christianitys colonial past.
Chair: Anupama Rao, Barnard College
Discussants: Christopher J. Fuller, London School of Economics and Political Science; Gyan Prakash, Princeton University; Gaytari C. Spivak, Columbia University; Judith Walkowitz, Johns Hopkins University; Rudolf Mrazek, University of Michigan; M.S.S. Pandian
In this roundtable, a group of senior scholars who work in the fields of anthropology, history, and postcolonial literary studies will bring interdisciplinary perspectives to bear on a discussion of Nicholas Dirks book, Castes of Mind (Princeton, 2001). In his earlier work, Nicholas Dirks argued that for a colonial sociology of knowledge, caste indicated the tyranny of the "cultural" in Indian society as well as its awkward mutation into a peculiarly colonial form of (illiberal) political agency. Castes of Mind takes up an exploration of castes history as a colonial category, as well as its role as a form of political identity with great consequence for understanding the histories of democracy and secularism in contemporary South Asia.
The roundtable will focus on the relationship between metropolitan ideologies of political govern-ance and the genealogies of the category of caste in South Asia. Drawing on the panelists areas of specialization and interest, the roundtable: considers the relationship between caste and race in the metropolitan imaginary, examines the contemporary politics of caste identity and Hindutva, explores how histories of caste discrimination might speak to debates in feminist theory about rights and identity, connects the shared religious and cultural histories of South and Southeast Asia while maintaining the tension between their political presents, and explores political theories of minority rights and recognition.
Organizer and Chair: Theodore P. Wright, Jr., State University of New York, Albany
Discussant: Howard Wriggins, Columbia University
Keywords: international relations, theory and practice, South Asia, post-9/11.
Events in South Asia since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States have shown a further sharp change in cross-boundary political behavior which has been developing since the end of the Cold War and the appearance of global uni-polarity. A non-state actor, al-Qaeda, and an unrecognized "rogue" regime, the Taliban, have come to play major roles; a "war on terrorism" with no geographic limits or clear termination has been proclaimed, boundaries and border crossing as the criterion for "aggression" have been diminished, international conventions against unlimited detention and even torture of prisoners of war have broken down, expulsion or "ethnic cleansing" of indigenous populations from occupied territories have been practiced, targeting of civilians by both "terrorists" and state security forces have become commonplace, nuclear brinkmanship by middle powers and most recently a policy of "preemptive" attacks on suspected enemies has been announced. How is all of this to be interpreted? The panel will present three different perspectives on this radical new paradigm: a critique of neo-realist thinking by Maya Chadda and David Ariosto on the war in Kashmir, an economic interpretation of the American war in Afghanistan by Syed Bashir Hussain, and an Islamic interpretation of the "clash of civilizations" between and within Islam and the West by Zohair Husain.
End of Ideology, Pax Americana, or Clash of Civilizations? The Broader Logic of U.S. South Asia Policy in the Post-9/11 Period
Maya Chadda, William Paterson University; David Ariosto, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
How do we characterize the post-9/11 United States policy in South Asia, particularly toward the conflict in Kashmir? And how does this policy fit into the larger U.S. goals that have motivated its "war on terrorism"? The connections between the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan, dismantling of the Taliban regime, forging of an "antiterrorist" alliance world-wide and the differential role that the U.S. has defined for the two South Asian states in this effort, uncover the broader ordering of U.S. foreign policy priorities in this region and the post-9/11 period generally. This paper will argue that none of the meta explanations of the post-cold War period, whether it is the "end of ideology," "clash of civilization," or Pax Americana or the guiding thrusts that emerge from these, can provide an adequate explanation for the U.S. strategy in South Asia. This is because of the uncertain nature of transition in international politics, and the incomplete nature of nation-states in South Asia. Any full explanation of U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan, particularly with regard to Kashmir, would have to take into account these compelling conditions. It would have to also account for the ways in which these conditions shape the U.S. policy. Neorealism offers a powerful explanation, founded though it is on what are now regarded as the "passé" assumption of "state primacy" and "national interests." It would have to be modified, however, in view of the transnational character of the threats that confront the main players in Kashmir and the ways in which these undermine the theoretical premises of neorealism.
The Political Economy of Americas Non-war War in Afghanistan
Syed B. Hussain, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
It is a truism to propose that complex historical phenomena like the questions of war and peace do not generally lend themselves to simplistic singular factors of explanation. On the other hand it is naive to believe that the pursuit of national interest can be fully grasped without a robust understanding of the underlying economic forces. To subject the American preoccupation with its current war in Afghanistan to a political economy approach does not imply, even remotely, a resort to conspiracy theory of historical developments. On the contrary it is a meaningful device to provide additional insights into the multifaceted, far reaching exercise of imperial power in which the U.S. establishment is presently engaged.
It was widely reported in the early 1990s that the U.S. policymakers had initiated extensive discussions to identify post-Cold War threats to the interests of the west in general. Issues of human rights violations, religious fundamentalism, terrorism, and drug trade amongst others were identified for strategic planning and preemption. That a modicum of military Keynesianism is involved in such a calculus is reflective of the importance of military industrial complex considerations. That the Gulf oil resources could be made more secure for western access through American arms presence is obvious. That the Caspian Sea area holds vast oil and gas reserves is well documented. That UNOCAL, a giant American oil conglomerate, was planning to build a 1,000 mile long pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea is a matter of public record. As late as 1998, while the Taliban government officials were negotiating the pipeline deal with UNOCAL, the U.S. government was favorably disposed towards the Taliban. The latter lost this favor, maybe coincidentally when they switched from UNOCAL to an Argentinean-French consortium for better returns on their project. Does this mean that the establishment provoked the World Trade Center incident? Of course not. Do these considerations enter into strategizing the present campaign in Afghanistan and elsewhere? Perhaps. Can this be an appropriate object of study? Certainly. This paper is a tentative exercise intended to connect the speculative dots to see if some light can be shed on the political economy of this non-war war.
Changes in International Relations Theory in the Aftermath of 9/11 from an Islamic Perspective
Zohair Husain, University of South Alabama
I shall focus on Americas role in the Muslim World and the reaction to it in the form of al-Qaeda, a global revolutionary Islamist non-governmental network. President Bushs "war on terrorism," despite his denials, looks to Muslims like a war against Islamists all over the world and to embody Samuel Huntingtons "clash of civilizations" thesis. It promises a decade of accentuating an action-reaction syndrome of violence and thereby may broaden, deepen and accentuate revolutionary Islamism, anti-Americanism and both an intercivilizational clash (Revolutionary Islamists vs. Christians, Jews and Hindus) as well as an intracivilizational clash between Muslim secularists vs. Revolutionary Islamists in the twenty-first century.
Organizer and Chair: Douglas E. Haynes, Dartmouth College
Discussant: Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, Trinity College
Little work has been done on the history of consumption in South Asia. Economic historians have long been interested in exploring the participation of peasants and workers in production, but attempts to consider their roles as consumers have been piecemeal. Even discussions of the "middle class" rarely analyze consumption patterns before the 1980s. While literature on Europe, Japan and now China has argued for the centrality of consumption to processes of economic change, there has been no parallel tendency in scholarship about the subcontinent.
In this panel we aim at developing a collective approach to consumption in South Asia, one that brings together perspectives from economic, social and cultural history. The panelists come to this subject mainly through work on artisanal products. All have become dissatisfied with approaches that treat buying patterns merely as a function of price or the "survival" of traditional tastes. Consumer choice and desire shaped production and use of goods well before the "consumer revolution" of the 1980s and 1990s. Constructing consumption histories from the colonial period forward will allow us to move beyond simplistic accounts of the replacement of artisanal goods by industrial ones, indigenous products by imports, and local manufactures by mass-made things to appreciate consumer strategies in specific contexts of power. By bringing together studies of several different kinds of commodities and by encouraging input from the full range of Asian specialists attending the conference, we hope to forge a better understanding of the ways consumption patterns have influenced the South Asian economy. This panel marks the early stages in the formation of a working group on the history of consumption.
The Effect of Changing Patterns of Consumption on the Production of Traditional Manufactures in Colonial India
Tirthankar Roy, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics
Consumption patterns changed significantly during the colonial period. Earlier studies tended to stress two aspects of this change: the rise of products manufactured in mechanized industries and the decline of precolonial elites. In emphasizing these two factors, scholars overstated the importance of both and overlooked the breadth of the changes in consumption taking place in colonial India.
This paper seeks to provide an overview of the effects of changing consumption patterns on the production of traditional manufactures in South Asia during the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. It seeks to explore a series of factors influencing shifts in buying patterns. For example, it will examine the influence of imports on consumption not only via direct competition, but also by changing tastes for new designs and new materials. The emergence of "non-traditional" consumers within India will be also be discussed. There were several such groups: European residents; urban middle classes who were fashioning new lifestyles, work habits, work environments, and notions of tradition; and under-privileged social groups who were breaking out of prescribed modes of consumption. The first of these groups was important in a range of skill-intensive productsshawls for example. In clothing and in furniture, there were signs of adaptation to the demands of the other two groups. Migration of laborers and the ethnic melting pots created in railway towns or plantations represented another way consumption was reshaped. Finally, the paper will treat the patronage and consumption of indigenous precolonial elites in the colonial context.
Far more than a simple change in scale of such consumption, there was demand for different goods with different standards and designs.
The paper will then explore some of the adjustments that artisans made in technology, material, location and production organization to meet this changing market environment.
Honor, Desire, and Fashion: Textile Consumption in Northwest India and Pakistan
Michelle E. Maskiell, Montana State University
Women and men in northwestern colonial India used textiles to express established ideas about behavior, but they also used them to embody evolving practices. Textiles as visible and touchable parts of material culture, were and are, in Chandra Mukerjis words, culturally produced "carriers of ideas" that "often act as the social forces that analysts have identified with ideology-as-word" (Mukerji, Graven Images, 15). In other words, people could use cloth to act out preformed ideas but also to modify, even to create, behavioral practices such as those associated with both parda and male respectability. Neither the "discourse of the veil," that dense web of verbiage against and for parda, nor discussions of indigenous ideas of South Asian male honor, have acknowledged the importance of respectable dress for men as well as women. Respectable clothes for men required a great deal of cloth just as modest clothing for women did. Sheer quantity mattered, although the specific characteristics of the textiles used, their thickness, etc., varied historically along class and generational lines. One thinks immediately of the importance of turbans as symbols of Indian male honor among many northwestern social groups. This paper will consider selected late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century everyday practices that centered on the use of hand-woven and/or hand-embroidered textiles for clothing and gifting. Two important examples will be Kashmiri shawls and Punjabi phulkari (embroidered shawls). This paper will show how evolving panda practices, along with changing consumer desire and notions of fashion, effected the consumption of hand-woven and hand-embroidered textiles both before and after Independence.
Economic Change in Western India and the Consumption of Handloom Cloth, 18701920
Douglas E. Haynes, Dartmouth College
This paper examines the scale and the patterns in cloth consumption in western India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite the availability of cheaper forms of cloth imported from abroad or manufactured in Indian mills, the demand for handloom cloth actually seems to have grown during this period, thus stimulating the slow growth of the regions handloom industry. This paper explores the reasons for this development. Instead of assuming that this trend was rooted in the stubborn persistence of "traditional" values, I argue that it owes much to changing consumer tastes and shifts in the nature of the regional economy. I explore three dynamic processes influencing the scale and nature of consumption patterns: (1) the growing consumer orientation of newly prosperous peasants who were developing greater cash incomes in certain limited pockets of western India; (2) the spread of regional clothing styles, particularly for women, among urban and rural classes with greater access to cash income; and (3) the successful dissemination of these styles by merchants from producing towns. The paper especially stresses the importance of the highly differentiated patterns in cloth consumption by gender and region. It will also treat the limitations on the expansion of consumption associated with the uneven character of economic growth and the economic subordination of laborers and poor peasants to dominant elites.
Crafting Modern Consumers of Traditional Goods: The Making and Remaking of Artisanal Consumption in Colonial India, 18801920
Abigail McGowan, University of Pennsylvania
In this paper I discuss consumption of crafts in late-19th- and early-20th-century Western India as a series of strategies and options available to consumers in the context of expanding availability of goods, both artisanal and machine-made, Indian and foreign. Working through and off from Christopher Baylys idea of the innate and socially given qualities of cloth in particular, I argue that we need to expand our understanding of consumption in South Asian crafts to include other processes of emulation, fashion, and commercializationprocesses which operated not just by replacing artisanal goods with industrial ones, but through new and changing use of "traditional" goods as well.
Specifically, in this paper I will explore the complexity of consumer strategies through an analysis of furniture and block printed fabric made and consumed in Western India. In both these media, objects produced at the turn of the century incorporated Western elementsthe forms of chairs, sofas and tables in the case of furniture, new designs in block printswhile at the same time reusing or reinterpreting traditional onesthe decorative carvings and design details in wood, the overall arrangement of patterns suitable for saris, odhanis and the like. These specific examples are evidence of wider trends, whereby consumers selectively appropriated new things while rejecting others and artisans carefully forged new syntheses between traditional and "Western" elements. Such creative responses to changing consumer demand, I will argue, shaped the development of traditional industries in this crucial period of economic adaptation.
Organizer and Chair: Barbara N. Ramusack, University of Cincinnati
Discussants: Mrinalini Sinha, Pennsylvania State University; Barbara N. Ramusack, University of Cincinnati
Keywords: India, sexuality, family history, conjugality, Kamasutra.
This panel seeks to examine critically the emerging discourse on sexuality and family in India through discussions around reforms within the Nayak community in Kumaon district, United Provinces, national debates on birth control, and finally the transnational reception of the Kamasutra and erotic art in the colonial world. These papers together will demonstrate the urgency with which issues of family, conjugality, and sexuality were debated within different public forums in India and Britain. The panel will highlight, once again, the impossibility of separating the public and private spheres in the making of social, cultural, and political identities.
Benighted Folk, Modern Families: Nayak Reform and Middle Class Domesticity, 18501931
Sanjay Joshi, Northern Arizona University
This paper will explore the politics and rhetoric surrounding movements of social reform aimed at the "improvement" of a community called Nayaks, living in the Kumaon division of northern India. Nayak men allegedly set up women of their community as prostitutes, and the community was the target of a variety of reform effortsby Christian missionaries, colonial officials, and most vocally, by middle class nationalists in the early twentieth century. All these agents sought to improve the benighted Nayaks. My paper focuses on the middle class efforts. The denunciation of the benighted Nayaks, I argue, also reveals the way in which the middle class in twentieth century colonial India was seeking to construct its identity as modern and yet not-western. Exploring ideas about sexuality, appropriate gender roles, and most significantly, the family, imbedded in the rhetoric of improvement, my paper explores the construction of a new, and often fractured, discourse of domesticity emerging as part of middle class formation in late colonial India.
Gender, Sex, and Nation: Politics of Birth Control in Colonial India, 19201947
Sanjam Ahluwalia, Northern Arizona University
The debate on birth control in colonial India serves as an important site for exploring the social constructs of gender and the politics of national desire and sexualities. International birth control pioneers such as Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes were keen participants in these debates. Although Sanger highlighted sexual freedom and reproductive control as determining subjectivities of modern individuals, when talking about Indian women within marriage, she undermined their sexuality, arguing primarily for mens conjugal rights. Indian male advocates such as Aliyappin Pillay and Narayan Phadke also saw in the use of birth control greater possibilities for expression of male conjugal rights. Indian middle class feminists were supportive of the cause of birth control and passed a resolution in favor of birth control in 1932 within the All India Womens Conference. Indian feminists, despite their support for birth control, framed womens political agenda within the context of the family, underscoring womens maternal roles. Gandhi was opposed to the introduction of contraceptives in India. Gandhis antipathy was based on his ideas of womens sexualityhe primarily regarded Indian women as mothers of the nation and as such considered them asexual. Even though participants in the birth control debates spoke from different vantage positions, there were interesting overlaps in their gendered representations of sexuality. This paper will, therefore, examine the contending positions on birth control as a lens to understand the gendered discourse on sexuality within colonial India.
The Sexual Politics of Richard Burtons Kamasutra
Anne Hardgrove, University of Texas, San Antonio
Described by translator Alain Danielou as "the worlds oldest and most widely read guide to the pleasures and techniques of sex," the Kamasutra has long been considered an essential repository of sexual knowledge from ancient India. My study begins with the Orientalist "discovery" and translation of the Kamasutra in late 19th century by Richard F. Burton, whose translation, until recently, has been the definitive edition of the text. I situate Burtons translation in light of his wider research on global sexuality and erotica, and consider why Burtons project represented a threat to British ideas of racial superiority. I pay particular attention to how Burton struggled to find ways to make his discoveries and knowledge of exotic sexualities respectable to academic and popular audiences in Great Britain, and explore his efforts to establish the Anthropological Society of London as a respectable venue for his research. I then examine the nationalist response to the Kamasutra in India, and focus on how nationalist leaders initially disavowed traditions of Indian erotica in their political work in the fight against colonialism. Later, in post-1947 independent India, translators and writers newly returned to the Kamasutra, situating the text as part of a nationalist discourse of science, derived from an ancient Hindu tradition. Finally, I discuss the Wests construction of gender and sexuality through the Kamasutra and the subsequent popularization of the text, as a form of neo-Orientalism, through the "sexual liberation" movement of the 1960s and beyond.
Organizer: Shailaja Fennell, Cambridge University
Chair: Francesca Bray, University of California, Santa Barbara
Discussant: Radhika Chopra, University of Delhi
This panel seeks to provide an interdisciplinary forum that analyzes the manner in which social, economic, political and cultural processes contribute to the construction of gendered spaces. The eighteenth century is an important site for situating such an analysis with its global currents of modernity and colonialism conjoining with local waves of provincial power mongering and community uprisings in many parts of Asia. These macro and meso level phenomena play a fundamental role in shaping the lives and livelihoods of individuals, households and neighbor-hoods in the city and countryside. The manner in which these phenomena interact and intersect to create and control local spaces in the bureaucratic, cultural, and intellectual spheres provides a valuable opportunity to delineate the gendered dimension of such spatial construction. The use of a gendered lens for studying the growth of local spaces in the eighteenth century will provide important insights into the formulation of categories of male and female and the social construction of masculinities and femininities in the eighteenth century.
Administered Behavior: Bureaucratic Represent-ations of Gendered Identity in Local Spaces
Shailaja Fennell, Cambridge University
The imperative for political control of the local economy in the eighteenth century was a matter of the greatest concern in the river valleys of the Doab and the Jiangnan. The imperial order was considerably exercised by the opposition to central control in the local economies. The local bureaucracies were handed over the onerous responsibility of quelling disaffection and enforcing law and order in the districts under their jurisdiction. The officials of the local bureaucracy employed numerous administrative devices, ranging from legislative procedures to financial sanctions, to ensure conformity in the local polity. These devices have a strongly gendered dimension that can provide rich descriptions regarding the manner in which masculinities and femininities were constructed in the local economy.
This paper focuses on the importance of the normative usage of categories of "male" and "female" in the considerations of the local administration. The regular presence of gendered description in local administrative records such as gazetteers, decrees and official correspondence indicates an acute awareness in bureaucratic spheres regarding the powerful impact of the gendering of individual identity. The central argument in this paper is that local administrative procedure utilized the instrumental value of gender to construct a dominant mode of masculinity and femininity with which to suppress deviance in the political and economic spheres. The characterization of men as "filial" and women as "chaste" are commonplace illustrations of the descriptive techniques employed in the administrative space. These obvious candidates overshadow the more complex and gender-ambiguous qualities such as "excellence," "obedience," and "public-mindedness," which are more central to conformity and acquiescence. Examining these qualities in the context of the construction of dominant sexualities draws out the intricate linkages between the reproductive processes and the political sphere. The central role of the reproductive identities in orienting bureaucratic representations of appropriate behavior in the economic and political sphere shows that there is a pressing need to undertake an integrated analysis of the reproductive, political, economic and cultural spaces through the use a gendered lens.
Music, Masculinity, and the Performance of Sexuality in the Mughal Mehfil
Katherine R. Brown, SOAS, University of London
Elite society in Mughal India was highly segregated in terms of gender, with social space physically separated into male and female domains by the wall of the harem. Gender was also invoked metaphorically within male space as a signifier of social status. Transgressions of the strict norms of princely etiquette were stigmatized as "effeminate" and thus indicative of inferior social status. The male elite were thus encouraged to distance themselves from transgressive behavior, thereby asserting both their masculinity and their high status (see note 1). Because of musics latent potential for transgression in Islam, musical culture is a powerful lens through which to examine the gendering of social norms in Mughal society. Despite their low status, musicians of both sexes were uniquely permitted to enter the most exclusive of masculine spaces, the private mehfil, and, in a subversion of social norms, momentarily to exert power over their patrons in the performance of music. This power was often construed in sexual terms. The roles performed by patron and musician in the seventeenth-century mehfil were deliberately codified to create distance and thus avoid possible transgressions. However, by the eighteenth century, these distinctions had collapsed, and relations between patron and male musician in the mehfil had become overtly homoerotic. In this paper, I will investigate the changing roles of patron and musician in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Delhi, in the light of Mughal constructions of masculinity and transgression. In particular, I will demonstrate how the eighteenth-century sexualization of the most prestigious class of musicians, the kalâwants, is symptomatic of the wider breakdown of social cohesion associated with the eighteenth-century "crisis" of the Mughal Empire (see note 2).
1. Rosalind OHanlon, "Manliness and Imperial Service in Mughal North India," Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (1999) 42:1, 4793 (8184).
2. Muzaffar Alam, The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India: Awadh and the Punjab, 17071748. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997 (4345).
"Penetrating the Veil of Mystery": India as the Veiled Orient in British Travel Writing of the Late Eighteenth Century
Ananya Jahanara Kabir, Cambridge University
The gendered nature of the colonial and imperial gaze has become almost an axiom of contemporary scholarship on European imperialism. Following Edward Saids Orientalism, numerous scholarly works have reiterated how, from the Enlightenment onwards, the Orient was posited as feminine and passive in order to motivate and justify the masculinist energies of European exploration, conquest and dominion. Yet the widespread recognition of this macro-level gendering of Europe and the Orient has all too often obscured, if not taken for granted, the micro-level processes of depiction and representation whereby it was accomplished. This paper explores one such process: the discursive circulation of the image of the Orient as a veiled woman, and of the European explorer as her male unveiler. Specifically, I will examine the use of this trope by British travelers to India in the late eighteenth century, for example, James Forbes, Bishop Reginald Heber and William Hodges, as well as their descriptions, often accompanied by illustrations, of actual veiled Indian women. I shall also compare these male references to Indian "veiled beauties" to the descriptions embedded within the writings of female British travelers to India in search of the Picturesque. By analyzing how a well-worn trope of the European-Asian encounter, current, in fact, from antiquity onwards, gathered particular discursive agency during the eighteenth century, this paper shall demonstrate the importance of a rigorously historicized approach to gender as an analytical category within colonial discourse analysis.
Organizer: Yasmin Saikia, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Chair and Discussant: David Gilmartin, North Carolina State University
The postcolonial celebration of hybridity and the delinking of people and place have generated theoretical discussions on the constructedness of categories and a questioning of authenticity. This panel aims to intervene in the discussion by focusing on the struggles of three different groups in South Asia who seek to insert themselves in particular places, assert belonging and register oppositional politics of location, in short, find a home. Their predicament makes us aware of the danger of overlooking the historical and lived experiences of marginalized and dispossessed peoples who resist, not revel, in their uprootedness in complex ways.
We are intervening in the discussion by interrogating the concept of displacement. Nila Chatterjees paper addresses the insistence of Hindu East Bengali refugees from Pakistan, on their entitlement to belong within Indian national space but on their own terms as Bengalis. Yasmin Saikias paper examines the lack of place for Biharis in Bangladesh and the discourses of "enemy" and "statelessness" generated by the Bengalis that renders them "homeless." Sanjib Baruahs paper questions the power and abuse of the term "tribal" in Indias northeast and probes into the relationship between the "tribal" elite, laboring migrants in tribal enclaves and exploitative policies of the political regimes in New Delhi. The questions that emerge from these papers are broadly concerned with political and theoretical issues that arise when people are seen as "out of place" by the dominant order. The presentation of archival material and fieldwork data from the margins of South Asia provides an opportunity to interact with the narratives of people struggling to overcome erasure, physically and metaphorically, to assert belonging and empower themselves on their own terms.
Refusing Marginality: East Bengali Hindu Refugees and their Politics of Entitlement
Nila Chatterjee, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
This paper addresses the predicament of Bengali Hindus who found themselves a minority in post-Partition East Pakistan, and sought resettlement in India. Scarred by the trauma of violence and population exchange wrought by Partition in Punjab, the Indian state was reluctant to acknowledge the East Bengali Hindus experiences of insecurity, recognize them as refugees or provide resettlement assistance in hopes of discouraging displacement. Despite this official foot-dragging, and public ambivalence in West Bengal towards East Bengali Hindu refuge seekersthe history of latters displacement has spanned more than four decades. The paper will focus on the displaceds insistence on inclusion within the Indian nation through a narrative of historical entitlement and the pragmatic translation of this discourse into political mobilization for rehabilitation.
Biharis, Bengalis, and the War of 1971: Speaking Silence and Displacement
Yasmin Saikia, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
In 1971, the Bengalis of East Pakistan went to war against the establishment of West Pakistan. Several groups of non-Bengalis, the so-called Biharis of East Pakistan, did not join the Bengali liberation struggle. In turn, they provided active support to the West Pakistan army. In the post-war phase, Bengalis unleashed a pogrom of violence against the Biharis. Driven out of their homes they were forced to live in temporary rehab camps and they were transformed into "refugees"/ "stateless people," while the govern-ment wrote them off as "Pakistanis waiting for Repatriation." Thirty-two years later, 250,000 Biharis still live in 63 camps all over Bangladesh, without social, educational, legal and political rights. As non-citizens, "Biharis," are denied representation. They cannot even claim the label "displaced." Combining a method of archival research with fieldwork and oral history, this paper investigates two related processes: the transformation of Biharis from citizens of Pakistan to stateless refugees in Bangladesh and the politics of "enemy" narrative of Bengalis that aim to keep Biharis "homeless." Within the Bihari communities several discourses have emerged. For some "home" is India, others claim "Pakistan" and a small group wants to be recognized within Bangladesh. Age and gender play important roles in the choice of "home." The peculiar predicament of Biharis in post-independent Bangla-desh opens up for a renewed investigation the two-nation theory of partition, rights of citizenship or lack thereof and the narratives of identity within the territorialized histories of post-colonial South Asia.
Citizens and Denizens: The Ethnic Homelands and the Crisis of Displacement in Northeast India
Sanjib Baruah, Bard College
A large number of "tribal" people entitled to protective discrimination under the Indian Constitution live in those states. The rights of "non-tribals" to land ownership and exchange, business and trade licenses and access to elected office are restricted. A number of these "tribal" enclaves now are full-fledged states. One of the unintended effects of this regime of protective discrimination is that the notion of exclusive ethnic homelands has become normalized in the region. In a context of massive social transformation that attracts significant numbers of people to the region, this has generated an extremely divisive politics of insiders and outsiders that has led to these displacements.
Organizer: Jeffrey M. Diamond, Cornell University
Chair: Purnima Dhavan, Bowdoin College
Discussant: Doris R. Jakobsh, Wilfrid Laurier University
Keywords: colonial knowledge, Punjab, information order.
The discourses surrounding knowledge formation have become more pronounced in recent studies of colonial India. Drawing from and reconsidering the expanding literature about knowledge, including the notion of the "information order" proposed by Chris Bayly, this panel will explore how colonial knowledge was constructed and utilized to formulate categories of cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and legal identity. Most researchers now accept that such categorization gave the colonial state greater access to and control over the daily lives of diverse South Asian communities. However, this panel also seeks to explore the long-term implications of this knowledge in the North Indian regions of Punjab and United Provinces. By focusing on the changing colonial interpretations of linguistic, ethnic, cultural, and legal identities in Northwestern India, the four papers will examine how paradigms of colonial information and interpretation were created and tested by the early British administrators. As specific communities in South Asia sought to resist or exploit colonial understandings of social and cultural identities, the panel also will analyze how discursive limits of such categorization constricted debates within colonial society about the paradigms that first created the categories. This analysis will provide us with a broader understanding about the complex nature of the creation and use of knowledge in colonial society along with its wider effects.
Rehabilitating the Sikh "Marauder": Changing Colonial Perspectives of Sikhs, 17651840
Purnima Dhavan, Bowdoin College
Official reports of the East India Company from the late eighteenth century identified groups like the Sikhs, Rohila Afghans, and Pindaris as lawless marauders who threatened the stability of Awadh and the northwestern holdings of the company. As Ranjit Singhs forces began to annex larger parts of West Punjab late in the eighteenth century, Sikh chiefs in East Punjab forged new alliances with the British in an attempt to preserve their autonomy. To counter the negative opinion of the British, Sikh chiefs and intellectuals endeavored to explain the genesis of the Sikh warrior tradition through histories and in official correspondence. While Khalsa Sikhs located the genesis of their warrior traditions in the religious reforms of their last Guru, the British credited the martial prowess of the Sikhs to intrinsic racial traits. The British recognized the advantages of an alliance with the Sikh chiefs, and sought to harness their resources to their imperial project, simultaneously limiting the threat of raids on the northwestern borders of the Companys holdings. Seeking to counterbalance the growing power of the Afghans and Ranjit Singh, the British hastened to cement their ties with other Sikh chiefs. Although the colonial theory of the martial races owed much to Sikh Khalsa ideology, by asserting that the vigor of the Sikh martial tradition could only be preserved within the restraining discipline of the imperial armed forces, colonial administrators utilized this theory to reduce the autonomy of the Sikh warrior aristocracy.
Caste, Ethnicity, and Policing in Colonial North India, 18701920
David A. Campion, Lewis and Clark College
The philosophy and practices of policing were among the defining elements of British rule in India and had a profound impact upon the colonizers and colonized alike. This paper examines the role of caste and ethnicity in the policing of the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), one of the most populous and strategically important regions of India during British rule. The creation of a unified Indian Police Service in 1861 led to recruiting strategies in which caste and ethnic identities were simultaneously encouraged and exploited by the colonial regime to create a cadre of loyal policemen. British officials applied their theory of "martial races" to policing and ensured that Sikhs, Gurhkas, Jats, and Muslims enjoyed a privileged and disproportionately large representation as constables and inspectors. Simultaneously, colonial perceptions of the so-called "criminal tribes" helped exclude whole segments of Indian society from government service and subjected them to increased police surveillance and public suspicion. Police recruitment and surveillance practices reinforced the colonial image of India as a conglomeration of races, religions, and ethnicities whose different characteristics could be gleaned from close observation and put to profitable use in the colonial enterprise. This process of dissection by caste and ethnicity served to reduce the vast population of India from an overwhelming and ungovernable whole to numerous constituent parts whose competing interests and group identities could be harnessed and even played against each other by the tiny colonial elite.
Approaches to the Study of Language and Culture in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Northwest India
Jeffrey M. Diamond, Cornell University
The colonial encounter in the northwest Indian region of Punjab was first constructed from the minimal contact British officials had with the region prior to its full annexation in 1849, along with the knowledge they possessed from administering the neighboring region of the North-Western Provinces. After annexation, British officials (and Christian missionaries) sought to develop detailed knowledge about their new territory in order to discover, delineate, reconstruct and classify indigenous knowledge and society. In particular, they investigated the diverse linguistic and cultural foundations of the region. Using a variety of sources, this paper examines the attempts to study late pre-colonial and early colonial Punjab in several key areas of analysis. First, I demonstrate that the Punjab was a region where oral culture and language predominated. Thus, linguistic, empirical, and folklore studies became vital to the efforts to study the predominately oral languages and cultures in the region. I critique the production of these studies by analyzing the writings of colonial officials, missionaries and the indigenous literati. Secondly, I explore how adaptations to Orientalist textual studies in colonial India and the expanding focus on empirical analysis influenced research on the Punjab. Thirdly, I illustrate that these studies offer insights into British rule and colonial comprehension of Indian society as they helped to describe the Punjab to a wider audience in Britain and India. I conclude that these studies shaped the formation of administration in the region and laid the basis for later colonial and postcolonial understandings about Punjabi language and culture.
Law, Women, and the Family in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Punjab
Tabassam Shah, SOAS, University of London
Several studies in the history of the Indian subcontinent have drawn attention to the role of law as one of the colonial states tools for pacification, legitimization, control and reform. Too few studies have addressed the colonial states formation and application of family law and knowledge about the family, especially regarding issues such as female infanticide. In this paper I will examine how the colonial administration in Punjab was at the forefront of anti-infanticide policy formation prior to the 1870 passage of the Act to Prevent Female Infanticide. Perceiving the practice as a social crime and drawing from government surveys of other Indian provinces, Punjab officials deduced that specific social groups committed female infanticide to preserve their high place in the social hierarchy. To confirm these earlier surveys, colonial officials identified the "infanticidal" population by gathering knowledge on three levels: the ethnography and social causes of female infanticide in Punjab, the nature of the "custom" of infanticide as suggested by folklore within communities, and the extent of the practice in targeted communities. Prior to the 1870 act, the colonial project. to gather knowledge on infanticide involved complex surveillance for detection. Censuses and surveys were used to demarcate areas where surveillance techniques and "punishments" would be appropriately executed. The Punjab government prided itself in maintaining low levels of interference with matters of family and custom. However, this paper illustrates that they did not hesitate to study infanticide in order to influence peoples notions of family and community life and eradicate the "pernicious" evil.
Organizer: Shanti Pillai, New York University
Chair: Frederick M. Asher, University of Minnesota
Discussant: Richard Schechner, New York University
This panel takes a fresh look at processes of globalization in India through an examination of the travel and translation of traditions of performance. The four papers together highlight the complexity of the relationship between local practices and global circulation and point towards the need to rethink some of the classic assumptions long held by scholars on India about the unchanging essential nature of Indian tradition. Coming from a range of disciplines, includ-ing anthropology, performance studies, ethnomusic-ology, and art history, the panel participants define performance broadly and with an eye to aesthetics, political economy, and multivalent significances.
The major themes of the panel are: (1) performances attest to a longer history for global processes in India than is often acknowledged by discussions which center on mass media and Internet technologies; (2) foreign participants play an increas-ingly important role in the production of and meaning attributed to traditional ritual and artistic practices; (3) mass mediated cultural forms and their accompanying performance practices influence local cultural forms, which in turn travel abroad; (4) the globalization of local traditions can exacerbate local inequalities and is not always met with enthusiasm by all local proponents.
Worldly Moves: The Changing Political Economy of a South Indian Classical Dance
Shanti Pillai, New York University
What happens to the local practice of performance traditions that circulate globally? In this paper I will explore the implications that the international production and performance of the South Indian classical dance, bharatanatyam, have for local producers in Chennai, India, the dances traditional home. My focus will be on the changing political economy of bharatanatyam with an eye to how artistic merit and opportunities to perform in India are increasingly dependent upon a dancers access to overseas markets and international cultural brokers. I will secondarily consider how local performers, producers and critics feel about these changes and their often gloomy outlook on the future quality of the dance form. This case study demonstrates that the globalization of local traditions does not necessarily translate into a newly invigorated life for those practices and can exacerbate the social, economic, and political inequalities amongst practitioners. Moreover, worldwide performance does not necessarily imply mutual understanding between traditional practitioners and those who make use of their teachings in other places. The lesson is an important one as many scholars have too simply celebrated the globalization of culture, looking to histories of cultural borrowing and transmigratory moves as proof of the resilience of local practices. As my paper will demonstrate, such narratives tend to normalize globalization in ways that too easily allow its contradictions and disparities to escape from view.
Mass Mediated Music in North India during WWII: The Life of a Lucknowi Jazz Musician
Brad Shope, Indiana University
The globalization of cultural practices, so often associated with late-twentieth-century mass media and electronic technologies, actually has a much longer history. Historical ethnographic methods can reveal many surprising and unknown stories about social and artistic interactions in India. This paper examines the flourishing communities of jazz musicians which began to appear in Lucknow during the 1930s. Influenced by the presence of mass produced and disseminated American popular music in North India, self-taught musicians began performing jazz in dance halls, railway institutes, and private clubs. I will explore this music culture by considering the life history of a popular musician who came to the forefront around the Second World War. James Perry, as a young man, was heavily influenced by the presence of American and European gramophone records and foreign radio broadcasts from VOA, BBC, and Radio Ceylon. He performed in several dance halls catering to those celebrating an American popular music aesthetic at the time in Lucknow and, as a Goan, found himself crossing boundaries of identity distinction in numerous capacities. Drawing from Mr. Perrys oral narratives, I will elucidate his musician-ship as it relates to a past cultural demographic in Lucknow and the manner in which it contrasted an established classical music and dance canon.
Festivals, Faqirs, and Foreigners: The 2001 Kumbh Mela
Sondra Leslie Hausner, Cornell University
The Kumbh Mela is a cyclical religious festival that repeats every three years in four North Indian cities. The gathering serves as a fixed point on both the map and calendar of the communities of Hindu renouncers, and their foreign and local followers. Every Kumbh Mela in history has probably been an enormous gathering, but the 2001 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad was the first festival that received massive international press coverage and unprecedented numbers of foreign participants. The BBC ran nightly specials about the festival every day for a month, and the number of foreign and local reporters trailing around recording equipment was a spectacle in itself. Thousands of backpacking foreigners sat beatifically at the feet of renouncers, hoping for spiritual guidance, a hashish pipe, or both.
Although the Kumbh Mela, like other Indian rituals and festivals, is commonly viewed as "ancient" and "timeless," it is actually thoroughly contemporary as it is always the product of present social, religious and political forces. In this paper I will address the multivalent levels of significance of the 2001 event. On one level I will examine the discourses circulated by both the foreign and the Indian press with an eye to how they mediated between local and global dynamics in offering explanations of the event for different audiences. Secondly, I will explore the interactions between foreign and Indian participants as they took place in the various renouncer camps, which became the primary social and spatial centers of the festivals proceedings.
Can the Indian Tune Go Global?
Peter Kvetko, University of Texas, Austin
In November of 2000, musicians, journalists, and executives from the Indian music industry gathered in Mumbai for the MTV-Planet M Music Forum. Their purpose was to discuss the current state of Indian popular music and to consider the possibilities for taking Indian popular music to global markets. In the first section of this paper, I outline the development of Indipop music, focusing on the social and technolog-ical changes in urban India that have spurred the recent emergence of non-film-based popular music and its accompanying performance practices. Next, I analyze the 2000 Music Forum as an important encapsulation of the planning, performance, and reception of Indipop music in Mumbai. Finally, I draw on recent studies of popular world music and globalization theory to draw broader conclusions about performance, transnationalism, and the social meaning of popular music in contemporary urban India.
Organizer: Abhijeet Paul, Open University
Chair and Discussant: Daisy Rockwell, Loyola University, Chicago
Keywords: South Asia, Partition of India, Bengal, Bengal after Partition, 1947, poverty, dehumanization, Ritwik Ghatak, Bangladesh, Muslims in Bengal, Partition literature and films, anticolonialism, history, politics.
The renewed academic and popular interest in the Partition of Indiaof both Bengal and Punjabhas seldom focused on the Bengal side of the story. This multi-disciplinary panel therefore seeks to address the various interlocking issues and narratives of the Bengal partition: communal riots and tensions, refugee rehabilitation and its problems, the Muslim minorities in West Bengal after the Partition, artistic and cinematic representations of the struggle and governmental apathy in its aftermath on both sides of the borderWest Bengal and East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
Shelley Feldman, by drawing on both historical and comparative examples, concentrates on the dominance of West Pakistan and the subsequent neglect of East Pakistan in any meaningful discourse of the Partition in the specific context of post-war state-building process. Joya Chatterji reinterprets Partition historiography to bring to light the political impact of the ghettoization of the Muslim community in West Bengal during the years 194767, which partly contributed to the downfall of the Congress rule in Bengal in 1967. Gautam Ghoshs deployment of anthropological binaries, namely, "civilization" and "barbarism," effected by a temporal reading of written and cinematic texts of the Bengal partition, creates the opportunity for a comparative understanding of post-Partition polity formation in India as well as the post-Cold War American War on Terror. And Abhijeet Paul reprioritizes the human story of the Partition by focussing on the films (1950s70s) made by Nemai Ghosh and especially Ritwik Ghatakfilms that were intensely personal as they were political in their documentation and critique of an absurd divide and its aftermath. Finally, Daisy Rockwell, the discussant, with her understanding of the partition of Punjab, keeps the comparatist view alive in the panel.
Revisiting the Silence around the 1947 East Bengal Partition
Shelley Feldman, Cornell University
Comparisons of the 1947 partition in East and West Pakistan are notable for their differences and for what has been uncovered about the experiences in each place over the past half-century. As well, it is clear that our imaginings of 1947 are largely shaped by the experiences identified by the violence that characterized Punjab and the West, the leadership and high politics of partition in the West, and constructions of South Asian politics constituted by the relationship between (West) Pakistan and India. Further, the 50-year anniversary of Independence, which led to a revival of interest and research on Partition, went largely without comment in East Bengal/East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, although there was some attention to the determinants and experiences of partition in scholarship on West Bengal. In this paper I offer a tentative explanation of these differences in terms of why they have emerged and what they portend for understanding conceptions of partition. Drawing on both historical and comparative examples, I will situate the explanation in a theoretical engagement with Veena Das understanding of "critical events", and an exploration of processes of state-making in the post-World War II period. I will then use the comparison to specify the sustained salience of such terms as Bangals and Ghotis in the aftermath of both 1947 and 1971.
The Aftermath of Partition: Muslims in West Bengal, 194767
Joya Chatterji, London School of Economics
This paper explores the complex impact of Partition on the Muslim communities that chose to remain in the state of West Bengal after 1947. It looks at the processes which forced Muslims into new patterns of settlement, and at the political implications of these changes. After Partition, Muslim families who had lived cheek by jowl with Hindus in many areas of West Bengal, were increasingly forced into small ghettos. Threatened by continuing communal hostility and intimidated by refugee vigilantes into fleeing Hindu-dominated areas, they sought security in numbers in ever smaller areas. The result of this was not only that in the late 1950s and 60s, West Bengal Muslims increasingly asserted a distinct political identity. The very fact of their settlement in dense clusters also gave them more electoral muscle than they would have achieved had they been more widely dispersed. The upshot was that Muslims were able to attain a degree of political influence which few could have foreseen in 1947and to use their influence to help bring down Congress rule in Bengal in 1967.
Civilization and Barbarism, Then and Now: Post-Partition India and Post-Cold War America
Gautam Ghosh, University of Pennsylvania
This paper will examine textual (fictional, autobiographical, journalistic and scholarly) as well as cinematic narratives of the 1947 Partition of India. I will focus, in particular, on the representation of Bengal within these narratives of Partition and the Partitions aftermath. An interpretation will be provided of the ways in which notions such as "civilization" and "barbarism" are deployed in these materials. This interpretation will, in turn, provide for a discussion of various overlapping notions and practices of "temporality," as these: (i) correlate to various genres of narration and representation; and (ii) create new opportunities for, and restrictions on polity formation in Bengal and in India. I will close with some remarks on the ways in which "civilization" and "barbarism" are being invoked, at present, in the "War on Terror."
Rootless in Bengal: Films of the Partition (1950s70s)
Abhijeet Paul, Open University
This paper examines the cinematic texts of the Partition representing the economic, social and cultural displacement and the subsequent struggle of the refugees during the 1950s1970s. It is also interesting to note that the documentation and the critique of the Partition and its impact have been more poignantly told in the films of the fifties and the sixties than in written literature of the timefictional and non-fictional. Art and politics therefore couldnt have come closer in Nemai Ghoshs Chinnamool (Rootless 1950) and Ritwik Ghataks Subarnarekha (Subarna-rekha 1962) or Komal Gandhar (E-Flat 1961), for example. The films document and comment on the displacement and eventual rootlessness, the enormous pressure on the fledgling economy of West Bengal during the fifties and especially the sixties, the deplorable social and economic conditions of the refugees, the subsequent struggle of the refugees to gain land in West Bengal, and finally their contribution to the downfall of the Congress government in 1967, thus marking a new era of power-relations between the refugees and the emergent left rule in the state of West Bengal. The Partition films certainly left a deep impact on the New Cinema that was to emerge with Mrinal Sen among others in the 1970sfilms that did not hesitate to address bold political themes like poverty, dehumanization, class and gender exploitation in Bengal, without losing artistic integrity.
Organizer: Ramnarayan S. Rawat, University of Delhi
Chair and Discussant: Eleanor Zelliot, Carleton College
Keywords: Dalits, history, anthropology, India, 18502003.
The traditionally deemed "untouchables" of India, who constitute 20 percent of the population, are increasingly turning to instruments of democratic politics to press their struggles for social justice. The term Dalit represents a radical new identity coined in opposition to the "untouchable," Scheduled Castes, and Harijan identities of the past, and has been effectively used to mobilize various disparate caste communities. The past two decades have seen Dalit politics move out of the shadows of larger movements which once appropriated their strugglesgroups like the Congress, Left and lower caste organizations. The recent successful capture of power by Dalits (represented by the Bahujan Samaj Party) in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is just one example of this radical assertion. Moving beyond studies which have situated Dalits only in relationship to other movements, this panel seeks to explore the many meanings invested within this increasingly powerful identity. Beginning with an interrogation of some of the categories bequeathed by colonial and national narratives, this panel will explore the historical construction of Dalit identities and trace their operations within everyday lives and practices. Bringing together scholars from three continents and from the disciplines of history and anthropology, the panel will also emphasize Dalit perspectives which counter mainstream understandings of colonialism, nationalism, modernity, community and gender. It will do so by tracing small voices of protest within dominant narratives, exploring Dalit womens contestations of hegemonic discourses, and examining expressions of Dalit identities in literary works and everyday life practices of Dalits.
Making the Chamar a Criminal: The Crime of Cattle Poisoning in Nineteenth-Century Uttar Pradesh
Ramnarayan S. Rawat, University of Delhi
Colonial narrativesshaped by colonial agendas and interpretations of Indian society influenced by Brahmanical textsprovide us with the first histories and accounts of Dalit communities like the Chamars. Colonial accounts of many Dalit communities in the 19th century described them as criminal castes, denied them a history, and created stereotypes that have influenced subsequent histories. Few Dalit communities left any written records for the nineteenth century, raising challenges to historians who wish to understand the perspectives of Dalits in the past. In the paper I read against the grain in order to subvert the hegemonic colonial histories of these communities by taking help from small voices within the colonial archive. Tracing the ways in which Chamars were constructed as a criminal caste by colonial officials, this paper explores how Chamars were accused of the organized crime of cattle poisoning because of their "caste" and "traditional occupation." It argues that Chamars were involved in the leather trade as a legitimate business enterprise, not recognized by the colonial statean enterprise that involved buying old or sick cattle for their hides. It also examines colonial representations of Chamars as "natural" poisoners and the extension of colonial arguments to all crimes relating to cattle. Most importantly, the paper explores colonial voices of protest and doubt toward the accusations being made against Chamars, opening up spaces for alternative readings of colonial accounts.
Dalit Intellectual Discourse in Modern Andhra: Gurram Jashua
Jangam Chinnaiah, SOAS, University of London
This paper explores the evolution of cultural and literary alternatives by the Dalits (Untouchables) in Telugu literary and intellectual spheres. By focussing on the life and works of Gurram Jashua, an eminent Dalit writer and intellectual, it will analyze the impact of modern liberal democratic and egalitarian ideas on the writings and activities of the oppressed sections and their representatives in contesting the dominance of the caste Hindu intellectuals in literary and ideological spheres. Gurram Jashua wrote nearly thirty Kavyas (texts in poetic form) on the lives and sufferings of Dalits. Denied access to Hindu religious Scriptures by the caste Hindus, Jashua defied these attempts by the upper castes to make knowledge their exclusive preserve and read Sanskrit texts on his own. Among his writings Gabbilam (Bat)a composition which attacked the caste system and untouchabilityis considered the most important. In this semi-fictional and autobiographical text, Jashua narrates his struggle as a poet and human being. Drawing from Kalidasas Megadhutha (Cloud Messenger), he subverts the Hindu mythological symbols and uses the Gabbilam (Bat) as a metaphor for an untouchable who is considered neither a human being nor an animal. In narrating his personal sufferings, he also takes into account events during the national movement and critically examines their impact on the lives and conditions of untouchables. While articulating the voices of Dalits through his writings in a traditional poetic form, Jashua tried to address the oppressors and to create a space and dignity for his brethren in cultural and literary spheres.
On the Outside Looking In: Rural Dalits, Reproduction, and Modernity
Sarah K. Pinto, Princeton University
It has been said that caste ideologies are, above all, matters of the body. This is true both in terms of Hindu orthodoxy and in encounters with the state and institutions predicated on notions of equality. In rural communities caste identities are often mapped onto both bodily practice and engagement with institutions. In terms of reproduction, such elements as over-reproduction and use or disuse of family planning are used to distinguish persons and groups from one another. This paper explores the ways Dalit women in rural Uttar Pradesh situate their identities as marginal subjects on the home ground of their reproductive bodies, carving out a space for themselves on the edges of institutional practice. I suggest that this marginality provides a space in which the category "Dalit" diffuses into and overlaps with other categoriesthe poor, the rural, the illiterate, the landlessputting caste into a modern idiom of progress. However, Dalit women at once engage and contest notions of "progress" defined in these terms. As in Dalit political mobilization, they bring into critical focus, even if on fanciful and radical grounds, the dominant imaginings of the Indian state through everyday talk about reproduction and struggles to navigate institutions that stake a claim to their reproductive bodies. Marginality, for them, is a complex and tenuous space, characterized by a tension between longing for enfranchisement, fear of state regimes in which, they suspect, they are "always already" defined as marginal, and rejection of the terms by which "modernity" is defined.