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July 2019 AAS Member News & Notes

Proposals for the AAS 2020 Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts are due in just over two weeks! The deadline for all proposals is Tuesday, August 6 at 5:00pm Eastern Time. There will be no extensions to that deadline, so don’t wait until the last minute—submit your proposal as soon as possible.

*New for #AAS2020*: Digital Technology Sessions

Following the success of our 2019 Digital Technology Expo at the Denver conference, we have decided to incorporate digital sessions into the regular conference program. See the Call for Proposals for more information about Digital Technology Workshops, Roundtables, and Lightning Presentations.

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Participate in our first AAS Photo Competition and your image could be featured in our 2020 calendar for donors! AAS Members may submit up to two pictures for consideration. Act fast—the deadline for submission is Saturday, July 20.

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Graduate students in International/Asian Studies who are based near the AAS Secretariat in Ann Arbor, Michigan are invited to apply to the new AAS Internship Program (AASIP). We offer paid internships for students seeking to utilize their research and writing skills in support of our educational and digital media initiatives. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, with review beginning August 1. For more information and instructions for preparing an application, please see the link above.

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Several AAS Book Prize competitions are currently accepting submissions. Please consult the individual prize competition pages for specific rules and instructions for submission. Note that different competitions have different deadlines, with some coming up on August 1.

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The Southeast Conference of the AAS will hold its 2020 annual conference, hosted by New College of Florida from January 17 to 19 and is now accepting paper and panel proposals. The CFP deadline is October 31.

In Memoriam

Walter Hauser (1927-2019), South Asian historian at the University of Virginia (1960-1995)

It is only obvious for me to say that Walter Hauser changed my life. Or perhaps put differently, I believe there is a fragile part of our identity that we craft ourselves—and I am who I am—because of my deep connection with India—none of which would have come to be had I not  I walked into Walter Hauser's office in 1979 and signed up for History of India (HIAS 290, as I recall.)

Among his contributions to scholarship, in general, Walter Hauser’s approach to peasant studies—from the very beginning of when that idea emerged—put the subjects of history at the center of historical analysis. And he did this, not because it was theoretically trendy, as some people do now (or some people retroactively attribute to him) but because his political commitment to people, who suffered from oppression, was to see them as agents of their own destinies, politics, and social change. He wrote about individuals—such as Swami Sahajanand Saraswati—who were leaders of vast peasant movements and others, like Karyanand Sharma and Panchanand Sharma, who fought for their own rights, land, and autonomy. In these people he saw an optimistic view of the world that there can be social change and it comes from below. He believed (and I see this as critical and so different from other scholars) that everyone in positions of oppression—whatever their level of education or wealth or power, whatever their religious community, class, or jati—understands (and understood) their own oppression and from that knowledge seek ways to alleviate it. It doesn't mean social justice is necessarily achieved (or ever complete), but Walter Hauser saw clearly the seeds and nature of the fight in everyday people and circumstances.

This worldview—that there is self-knowledge (in every circumstance), as well as sparks of agency, and evidence of the struggle for autonomy—even in the face of prejudice and repression—is a lesson for all of us that I continue to try to share with my students. It is reinforced when I meet activists here and in India. Even in the face of failed struggles, there is always someone pushing against the constraints and limitations put before them by powerful forces and institutions. His was the history of those efforts and those people. This is an inspiration too for today’s politically challenging moment.

As I was introduced to India, I was introduced to this view of humankind, where colleagues, fellow travelers, and comrades were as much people who lived in villages as politicians, landlords, or academics, and administrators. 

History, then too, has to come from villages and sources as close to the past as possible. It is hard work that takes walking from place to place and talking to individuals. It is slow and painstaking and vitally important! Theorizing from afar is not ever enough.

Walter Hauser took that principle—beyond his work on Swami Sahajanand Saraswati and the All India Kisan Sabha (Peasant Organization)—to the study of elections in India, to the relationships he built with academics all over the world, and to his great friendship—extraordinary friendship—with Kailash Jha. And through Walter Hauser and his collaborator, Kailash Jha, myriads of connections have followed.

Walter Hauser’s legacy, travels through his students, of course, such as Philip McEldowney and Christopher Hill, and Vijay Pinch and me and our expanding rings and rings of folks. My students, who have all passed through Delhi, Patna, and Ranti village: Joel and Sarah and Dana and Ted and Holly and Erich and Cayla, etc.—names he may not have known—but who have followed in his footsteps. They are all part of something like a silsila (to use a Sufi analogy) that Walter Hauser set in motion.

And through him I met his wife, Rosemary Hauser and his family, all relationships that shape who I am. Kenyon College, where I have now taught for 30 years, knows that when dignitaries come to town, I will cook an Indian meal (not ever to the standard of Rosemary Hauser) but with all the sides she taught me to include on the table and with an outward facade of effortlessness, which I am sure was real for her and is a manufacture in my case. I still put napkin rings on my cloth napkins as she did. I welcome students to my home and feed them—as I just did on June 4th. My table—with its Indian meals—which people talk about in Gambier, is what it is because of Rosemary Hauser.

Every day in the classroom, I feel Walter Hauser’s legacy. In each article and book I write, there is a piece of his voice and it all started that day in September of 1979.

I will be forever grateful and will always pass it forward.

—Wendy Singer, Kenyon College

We welcome submissions for the AAS Member News & Notes column, so please forward material for consideration to mcunningham@asian-studies.org. Please note that we do not publish book announcements in this space; new books by AAS Members will be announced on the association’s Twitter feed (@AASAsianStudies) and Facebook page (@AASAsianStudies).

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