List of Panels



Reconsidering Islamic Legal Traditions in South Asia: Politics, History, Ethnography


J. Jones1, K. Lemons2, J. Stephens3

1Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, 3Department of History, Rutgers University, New Jersey, United States


Short panel abstract This panel explores legal thought and practice within South Asian Islam. Refocusing discussion away from state-led management of personal laws, it explores instances of adjudication by clerics trained in the Islamic sciences, situating them in relation to other facets of the Islamic tradition.


Long panel abstract With the burgeoning of the study of law in South Asia over the last decade, many scholars have offered important analyses of the historical and contemporary practice of religious personal laws, including that of so-called Muslim Personal Law (Sturman, Vatuk, Basu, Solanki, Agnes etc). Nevertheless, while such studies have often focused upon legislative and case-based developments within Muslim Personal Law, relatively little research has been conducted upon non- and para-state institutions in which personal law matters are adjudicated not by secular judges but by clerics trained in the sciences of Islamic adjudication. Furthermore, this research rarely engages with scholarship on Islamic traditions (theological, normative and educational alike) more broadly in South Asia, to the impoverishment of both.
This panel seeks to bring together recent scholarship on Islamic adjudication (that is, the resolution of disputes between Muslims carried out by jurists trained in Islamic law) with work on other, related facets of the Islamic tradition in South Asia. Drawing from work on South Asian Islam from across disciplinary perspectives and spanning a range of regions and periods, papers will consider themes such as: the major scholars and religious institutions which have played roles in Islamic adjudication; the links between the normative adjudication of laws and the wider dynamics of legal reform; the interactions between informal practices of adjudication with state jurisprudence or legislation affecting Muslim law; and the links between South Asian legal traditions and broader trends in Islamic jurisprudence and practice beyond South Asia, and/or in the South Asian diaspora.







Son preference and gender bias in South Asia: shifts and continuities


R. Kaur1, C. Guilmoto2

1IIT, New Delhi, India, 2CEPED, IRD/UPD, Paris, France


Short panel abstract This panel welcomes all contributions by social scientists describing the shifts in gender bias across South Asia, with a particular focus on fertility, family, marriage, education and work.


Long panel abstract Son preference was often seen as well entrenched in customary practices and clearly delineated across regional divides within South Asia. As such, it projected a rather stable geography and sociology of gender bias. However, it is our clear understanding that recent dynamics of gender bias have been shifting, sometimes in contradictory directions. This panel aims in particular at mapping how recent strands of social and political change, and economic progress are redefining gender and family systems, education and work trajectories, impacting the twin phenomena of son preference and daughter aversion. Educational expansion, policy reforms, increased access to employment, or fertility decline have probably reduced the pressure of patriarchal norms on women. Yet, we have witnessed at the same time both a resurgence of forms of male preference and the emergence of new arenas of bias towards women due to political and religious mobilization, adoption of middle-class values, commodification and violence in cities. Simultaneously, a growing proportion of the young urban male population has been left out from social and economic progress and clings to traditional gender values in order to assert their position in the face of the rise of women in the public space.
Submissions to this panel should aim at showing the contrary winds over men’s and women's status in rapidly changing South Asia. Tentative contributors include anthropologists, economists, and sociologists working on these issues from both a micro- and macro-perspective. Abstracts should reflect new findings or interpretation based on recent ethnographic or quantitative data.







Colonialisms Compared: Practices of Power in the Portuguese, French, and British empires in India


T. Mayer1, I. Zupanov2

1University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 2Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (CEIAS), EHESS, Paris, France


Short panel abstract This panel seeks to compare the practices of power that underpinned the colonial enterprises in India by the Portuguese, the French, and the British. Its papers will focus on concrete local praxes rather than abstract ideologies or grand imperial designs.


Long panel abstract Scholarship on European imperialism remains organized into distinct national schools. This panel seeks to overcome this divide by comparing the practices of power that underpinned the colonial enterprises in India by the Portuguese, the French, and the British. The chronological and ideological differences that are said to define the imperialisms of these respective nations has long precluded a comparative examination of their concrete, local praxes. Spanning from the sixteenth to twentieth century, the era of European imperialism in India was formative not only for the Subcontinent and its inhabitants but also for European agents of imperialism and the consumers of imperial commodities situated in the metropoles. In this broad period, balances of power shifted significantly. Military and political hegemony was subject to realignments and performances of power became essential not only between Europeans and South Asians but also between competing European factions. Focusing our lens on lived experience, material exchanges, identity formation and contestation, the papers in this panel will provide new insights into the construction and communication of power in the era of European colonialism in India.

Presentations will likely include papers by Ines Zupanov (CEIAS) on the Portuguese, Tara Mayer (UBC) on the British, and Blake Smith (Northwestern & CEIAS) on the French case. One or two additional papers by prominent exponents of the new imperial history approach to studying colonialism in India will be solicited upon acceptance of the panel.







Vernaculars, Memory construction and Emotion: Giant Jinas and Warrior Epics in Gwalior


H. Pauwels1, E. De Clercq2

1Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington, Seattle, United States, 2Indologie, Rijksuniversiteit Gent, Gent, Belgium


Short panel abstract How do Hindu, Muslim, and Jain cultural self-understandings relate to the production of collective emotion at the moment of the emergence of the vernacular? We contextualize the first use of Old Hindi for epic retellings in 15C Gwalior against the background of the arts and the built environment.


Long panel abstract Very little is known as yet of the processes involved in the formation of emotional regimes as expressed in vernacular literatures at the point when they emerged, although they are crucial for understanding the roots of animosity and violence in modern South Asia. This panel mounts an interdisciplinary effort to study the interrelatedness of Hindu, Muslim, and Jain cultural self-understandings and the production of collective emotion at the moment of the emergence of the vernacular as a mode of literary expression. It focuses on contextualizing the use of Old Hindi for the first time as a vehicle for retelling the epics at the Tomar court in early fifteenth-century Gwalior. This north Indian town was at the time a vibrant commercial center for Hindus, Muslims and Jains. The latter are often forgotten, but played an important role sponsoring Apabhramsha literature, painting, and most spectacularly giant Jina images hewn into the cliffs beneath Gwalior fort. At the same time, Gwalior was also a center of Sufi literary production. We investigate how these instances of memory-construction in different media and emotional regimes are interrelated, situating the literature against the backdrop of the arts and built environment. This panel brings together students, junior, and senior scholars from Gent, Belgium (De Clercq, Hens), Paris, UW Seattle (Pauwels, Costello, Diamond) and NYU (Saarthak Singh), in collaborative research aiming to transcend the conventional boundaries of language, architecture, art, and religious studies.







Childbirth in South Asia: multiple perspectives on continuing paradoxes


R. Jeffery1, C. Jullien2

1Edinburgh India Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 2Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland


Short panel abstract We invite medical anthropologists, medical historians, medical sociologist and public health specialists, to consider contemporary issues and their historical origins in the place of birth, conditions of childbirth and midwifery in South Asia.


Long panel abstract Childbirth in South Asia has long been an issue, for the colonial government, which sometimes used women’s poor health to justify imperialist interests, and for independent successor states, often accused of neglecting women’s healthcare. Recent debates focused on India’s relatively poor performance in reducing maternal and neo-natal mortality, compared to relative success in Bangladesh; Sri Lanka has had a long history of low rates, while Pakistan and Nepal remain laggards. Important new Government schemes have recently been introduced across South Asia to address these concerns, and it is timely to review their operations. E.g. policy on birthing assistants (trained or ‘traditional’) and the nature of their skills (biomedical or not) have changed: in the 1980s, formations of traditional Birth Attendants were being promoted, but now the hospital has become the focal point of childbirth. Such discussions draw increasing significance as the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) morph into Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030). In addition, processes of neo-liberalization affect governmental capacities, public health programmes increasingly involve private-public ‘partnerships’ of various kinds and a growing number of NGOs are involved to support the states with the management of maternal and infant healthcare. But, despite the increased attention being paid to safe motherhood, and the steady rise in institutional deliveries in South Asia, progress is slow and halting. By bringing together anthropologists, historians, sociologists and public health specialists, and looking across South Asia, this panel aims at questioning the continuing paradoxes as well as the new challenges linked to childbirth in the region.







Rethinking regions: Cultural formations and circulation through and across regional boundaries


M. Boivin1, A. Murphy2, P. Zehmisch3

1Center for South Asian Studies (CEIAS), Paris, France, 2Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, 3Center for Advanced Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany


Short panel abstract How can we combine attention to regional particularity with a concern for cross-regional historical connections and cultural formations? This panel will explore the tension between the region and the cross-regional, exploring cultural formations and circulations in relation to regional specificity.


Long panel abstract Even though "area studies" has been subject to significant critique, most of us continue to think in regional terms about our work. This is a necessary feature of historically-tuned, highly contextualized work, intertwined with locally embedded research questions. Such a commitment is not, therefore, to be dismissed easily. At the same time, we know that the cultural formations in specific regions are intimately linked to a broad range of cultural practices across a wide geographic range. Furthermore, while the vernacular has been examined in recent scholarly literature in relation to the cosmopolitan, we are only beginning to study the relation between the vernacular, which may be both understood in linguistic terms and as a locally rooted dimension of everyday life, and the regional as well as the cross- or trans-regional. In what ways could a trans-regional reading enhance our understanding of specific regions, adding complexity to how we understand the local and particular? How can we usefully investigate the impact of cross-regional circulation on the making of the vernacular, in order to enhance our understanding of how boundaries of language, “tradition”, place, and belonging are both maintained and crossed?
Not limited in terms of chronology or place, this panel will allow specialists of different disciplines to explore the tension between the vernacular, the regional, and the trans-regional.

Possible participants include Emmanuel Francis (EHESS-CNRS, Paris); Churnjeet Mahn (Strathclyde, Scotland); Amina Okada (Musée Guimet, Paris); Navtej Purewal (SOAS, England); Samira Sheikh (Vanderbuilt University, USA); Julie Vig (student, UBC, Canada).







Modi and religious minorities: the BJP in power since 2014


G. Singh, H. Kim

SOAS, University of London, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract The panel assesses the BJP’s public policies on religious minorities since May 2014. It will evaluate how these policies are reshaping the public discourse on religious minorities and their impact on institutions for minorities, public sector employment, service delivery and communal violence.


Long panel abstract The election of a majority BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in India (May 2014) signals a dramatic break with the policy on religious minorities of its predecessor, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). This break, normative and ideological accounts of the BJP-led NDA’s policies argue, poses an existential threat to India’s tradition of state secularism. It has also resulted in the cultivation of Hindu cultural values by the government that have fostered an increase in violence against Christians and Muslims by the BJP’s activist organisations.
This panel aims to develop a rigorous overview of the BJP’s policies on religious minorities by addressing four critical areas. (i) How the government, and the BJP’s field organisations, are reframing the constitutional, national, political and religious discourses on religious minorities. (ii) The impact of BJP policies on national institutions for religious minorities such as the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the National Commission for Minorities. (iii) The government’s approach to the policy recommendations of the Sachar Committee (2006) and the Kundu Committee (2014) that the significant under-representation of Muslims in public sector employment and service delivery should be corrected. And, (iv) an analysis of data since May 2014 about the intensity and nature of communal violence, specifically against Christians and Muslims.







Political representation in India: new discourses, new practices?


S. Tawa Lama-Rewal1, V. Dutoya2

1Centre d'Etudes de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud, CNRS-EHESS, Paris, France, 2Centre Emile Durkheim, CNRS, Bordeaux, France


Short panel abstract This panel will analyse contemporary discourses and practices that seek to reform and reinvent political representation in India, both at the local and at the national level. It will focus on critiques of misrepresentation and on procedural innovations, and question their impact on democracy.


Long panel abstract On the one hand, the electoral process looks stronger than ever in India, judging from the increasing rate of electoral participation, and the ability of several parties to form a government on their own. On the other hand, the 2010s have been marked by a loud critique of parliamentarism and political parties as they function in the country, and by a series of “democratic innovations”. This panel will identify and analyse those discourses and practices that advocate and implement a new approach to representation, with or without elections. For instance, what is the legacy of the Hazare movement (2011-2012) that claimed a representative role for civil society organizations and judges, both in terms of ideas and in terms of practices? What is the impact of recurrent demands for “democratic reforms”? What is the effect on the politics of reservations of ever new claims to backwardness, now emanating from groups that have long been considered as dominant?
Regarding new representational practices, papers might investigate how online activism affects political mediation; how participatory budgeting gives rise to a new form of political representation; how the gram sabha in rural areas, and neighborhood associations in large cities, forge new links between participation and representation. These representational practices could be studied from the point of view of political science, as well as sociology, anthropology or any other relevant discipline. While this panel will focus on India, papers that engage in a comparison with other South Asian countries are also welcome.







Documenting Mathematical Practices in South Asia: What Sources for what history?


A. Keller1, S. Babu2

1Sphere UMR 7219, CNRS and University Paris-Diderot, Paris CEDEX 13, France, 2French Institute of Pondicherry, Pondicherry, India


Short panel abstract This Panel would like to bring together people working on sources in different South Asian languages, documenting the past practices of mathematics in the Indian subcontinent with an emphasis on vernacular sources for South Asian history of mathematics.


Long panel abstract Sources documenting past mathematical practices in Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, Persian, in various forms of Prakṛt have been edited and sometimes studied in the last fifty years, but the mathematics they testify to have remained in the margins of the writings on the history of mathematics in South Asia, which is predominantly influenced by texts in Sanskrit. What mathematical practices do these new sources document? How do they transform our understanding of mathematical practices in South Asia? For instance, Sanskrit mathematical texts use the decimal place value notation, while some sources in Tamil use a numerical notation with no place value. How were computations made with such notations? The relation of these documents to Sanskrit sources could also help us revisit notions of appropriations, translations, interactions in mathematical practices, leading to a renewed reflexion on the context in which mathematical texts were produced. Where were mathematical textes produced? Who were the practitioners involved in their making and how did they participate in the process? What other kinds of materials could help us write a history of mathematics in south Asia which could describe the diversity and conflicts in the making and circulation of mathematics?







Literary Sentiments: Gender and the Vernacular in colonial and postcolonial South Asia


H. Harder1, S. Nijhawan2

1Suedasien Institut, Ruprecht-Karls Universitaet Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany, 2Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, York University, Toronto, Canada


Short panel abstract The panel looks at the literary world in colonial and postcolonial South Asia with a focus on relationships between the vernacular and gender. It aims to advance links between colonial and postcolonial vernacular spheres by consulting a wide range of print materials, including fiction and nonfiction.


Long panel abstract The panel looks at the literary world in colonial and postcolonial South Asia with a focus on the relationship between the vernacular and gender. Questions concerning gender have occupied scholars of South Asian feminism, gender studies, history, literature and cultural studies, amongst other disciplines, since the 1980s. Our aim is to advance meaningful links between colonial and postcolonial vernacular spheres by consulting a wide range of print materials, including fiction and nonfiction. Rooted in Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as in interdisciplinary Area Studies more broadly, we set out to investigate complex and politicized forms of gendered cultural expressions in print. In doing so we address literary production and its reception and consumption in the respective public spheres.
While sophisticated studies have pointed to the linkages between gender and vernacular print culture, they tend to focus on ‘star’ individuals or on major periodicals. This panel, however, wishes to study the margins, literally and metaphorically, by turning to lesser known individuals, genres, magazines and writings, which nonetheless left their imprints on the language and the literary sphere. Through a diverse range of writings, the panel thus aims to examine the private and the public, the self and the nation, the individual and the community, the intimate and the social.
Seeking an interdisciplinary approach and cross-disciplinary conversations, we solicit contributions of scholars working on vernacular materials with a focus on gender. The project has already successfully held a workshop with a group of senior and junior scholars. We now wish to open up this group and the ECSAS seems an excellent forum for us to do so.







An imagined - The Making of the Virtual (Indian) Sindhi identity in the 21st century


B. Rajpal

Centre d'études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (CEIAS), EHESS, Paris, France


Short panel abstract This panel views the global Sindhi identity through the prisms of the Partition & the social media. It investigates the shifting attitudes of the Sindhi identity in the age of digital technology & questions whether the virtual media has replaced the loss of the homeland Sindh for the Indian Sindhis.


Long panel abstract This panel aims to explore the role of the internet and the social media in defining the Indian Sindhiyat, i.e. the Sindhi identity. Post Partition, the Hindu Sindhis who migrated to India from Pakistan have continued to express the loss of their (access to the) homeland Sindh. With the technology and the digital media boom, how is the visual media being used to define and create the Sindhiyat? The virtual communities formed through the networks of social media including the internet message boards, the google email groups, the online chat rooms, the virtual worlds, the social network services, the specialized information communities have potentially crossed the geographical and political borders to create a ‘global Sindhiyat’. Interestingly, Jhulelal, the Sindhi god worshipped simultaneously by the Sindhis of India and Pakistan has been the dominant figure through all these media. Therefore, this panel allows us to question the virtual Sindhi identity that has been formed in the present day, mostly by the Indian Sindhis. Hence, papers on the ideas such as the Jhulelal explosion on the social media, the role played by Jhulelal in the creation of the diasporic / NRI / global Sindhiyat, the Jhulelal devotional rituals through the social media transmitted virtually from India and other countries, other visual media (cinema, installations) used to construct Sindhiyat across the globe, are welcome.
Please note that the papers submitted to the panel should be original and should not have been presented elsewhere.







Arabic in South Asia: a language in/of the margins?


C. Bahl, S. Leese

SOAS, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel will bring together scholars working on Arabic texts and Arabic speaking communities in the subcontinent, across all historical periods. Who has cultivated Arabic learning, what meanings has Arabic produced and taken on, and how has Arabic functioned within multilingual systems?


Long panel abstract As well as being an integral part of the devotional sound world of South Asian Muslims, Arabic has been an important idiom of literature and scholarship in the subcontinent. A cursory examination of Arabic manuscript and print collections reveals a plethora of material. While the invaluable broad history written by Zubaid Ahmad (1946) points to the manifold opportunities for research on Arabic in South Asia, subsequent work has generally been piecemeal or has not gone beyond the level of survey. However, research by Engseng Ho, Ronit Ricci, Carl Ernst, Marcia Hermann, and others has drawn attention to Arabic’s place in multilingual systems, the circulation of Arabic speaking communities and texts, and the links forged through Arabic with the wider connected world from Anatolia to South East Asia.
Building on this scholarship, this panel seeks to bring together researchers working on the Arabic language within South Asian contexts. It aims to explore its changing significance and various functions in different historical and social contexts from the medieval to the modern period, including as an oral devotional language, a scholarly idiom in core Islamicate disciplines such as Qurʾānic exegesis and jurisprudence, a medium for historical writing and Sufi treatises, and as a vehicle for poetic virtuosity. Papers are invited that draw on primary sources to examine the changing significances of Arabic over the centuries, its relationship with other transregional languages such as Persian, as well as the numerous vernaculars of the subcontinent (e.g. Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu and Tamil), and the different communities who cultivated Arabic as an idiom of literature and scholarship within the multilingual fabric of South Asia.







Juristic Personalities and the ‘Rights of Non-Humans'. Gods, Animals and Natural Resources as Legal Persons in South Asia


D. Berti1, A. Good2

1Centre d'Etudes Himalayennes, CNRS, Villejuif, France, 2School of Social & Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract Attributing legal personality to animate or inanimate ‘beings’ has taken on new forms with courts granting the status of ‘non human persons’ to animals or natural resources. At stake in these rulings are notions of personhood, intentionality, responsibility, as well as various kinds of ‘rights’.


Long panel abstract The question of which legal status to attribute to animate or inanimate ‘beings’ (gods, animals, institutions) has recently taken on a new development since the law in various countries has granted the status of ‘non human persons’ to animal species (dolphins, chimpanzees, birds) as well as natural resources (rivers, mountains, glaciers). These laws draw on scientific findings, on the legal or ethical arguments made by environmental lawyers and animal right activists, and stem from conflicts on which courts have had to decide.
Some issues concern the courts’ handling of religious or cultural practices such as animal sacrifices, the use of elephants in temple processions, bullock races and cock fights, etc., where a discourse about cruelty and religious reform clashes with a discourse about ritual traditions and religious freedom. Other cases deal with conflicts over animals that receive special protection either because they are important from a religious viewpoint (cows or monkeys); are ‘in danger’ (tigers, lions or leopards); or, being considered an ‘intelligent species’, are granted fundamental rights. By contrast, in other situations the courts or state administrative bodies (such as the Wildlife Department) have classed specific species (monkeys, wild boar, peacocks) as ‘vermin’ or dangerous, and authorize their killing or capture on the grounds that their behaviour is incompatible with human life and activities.
These cases call upon a variety of notions (of personhood, intentionality, responsibility, cruelty, morality) or of ‘rights’ (right to life, to live with dignity, human and animal rights, right to fly, statutory rights), and also entail issues concerning the separation of powers among state institutions.







Banglascapes in Southern Europe: comparative perspectives


F. Della Puppa1, J. Mapril2, A. Priori3

1Department of Sociology, Philosophy, Education Applied Psychology (FISPPA), University of Padova, Padova, Italy, 2Center for research in Anthropology (CRIA), New University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal, 3Master Public Anthropology, University Roma Tre, Rome, Italy


Short panel abstract Migrations from Bangladesh to Southern Europe have significantly grown in the past decades. This panel focuses on different aspects of the Bangladeshi diasporic experiences in Southern Europe, including the relationships with the country of origin and the different settlement countries.


Long panel abstract In recent years, Bangladeshi migrations in Europe have significantly changed. If the UK continues to be one of the main destination, Southern European countries, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece have assumed a new role in European Bangladeshiscapes. As argued by several authors, Southern Europe is both a final destination, and a new scenario for making a living and an increasingly important hub for the Bengali diaspora and transnationalism linking Bangladeshi migrant communities in Europe and worldwide, and, sometimes, a stage in onward migration routes.
Despite the crucial role and importance of Southern Europe for Bangladeshi transnational migrations, and a growing body of literature on the topic, there is still no comparative approach that looks at this segment of the Bangladeshi diasporic landscape.
The objective of this panel is to bring together scholars who focus on different aspects of Bangladeshi migrations in Southern European countries, considering the relationship between emplacement, migration routes, incorporation trajectories, relationships with Bangladesh (economic, political, religious, etc.), ties with the UK and the different political and economic opportunity structures in different Mediterranean countries.







Levels of Culture in the Early Modern European Study of South Asian Languages


H.W. Wessler1, P. Aranha2

1Dept. for Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, 2Dept. of History, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany


Short panel abstract The panel explores how the development of early modern European studies on South Asian languages was affected by the relations between different levels of culture. We will examine how the knowledge production on South Asian languages occurred in a tension field produced by social asymmetries.


Long panel abstract This panel would like to explore how the development of early modern European studies on South Asian languages was affected by the relations between different levels of culture. We will examine how European missionaries, scholars and proto-colonial officers gained socially embedded insights into South Asian languages, and how their counterparts reacted to this form of knowledge production.
These included native informants, belonging to a wide array of social groups (Brahmans, other dominant castes, "black Portuguese", subalterns of various kind) and to different religious communities (various Hindu groups, native Christians, Muslims etc.).
Our focus on levels of cultures is inspired by the study of the relations between elite and popular cultures, developed in cultural history and ethnohistory in the 1970s and 1980s by scholars like Carlo Ginzburg and Peter Burke. We would like to stress the role of social asymmetries in the development of proto-indology, moving beyond irenic notions of "cultural encounters", "hybridity" and "cosmopolitanism" more current in recent years.







Pakistan Desires: Queer Futurities of the Urban


O. Kasmani

Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany


Short panel abstract Focusing on queerness and the city in Pakistan, this interdisciplinary panel traces how the normative tenor of the urban comes to be intra-actively undermined via desirous acts that insist on the possibilities for another world: writing, art, sex, religious and political participation among others.


Long panel abstract If not yet here, shimmers of a queer urbanscape are ever more in sight in present-day Pakistan. From three additional gender categories in its national database to trans* right initiatives; from homo-erotic art in the gallery to feminist occupation of public space; from defiant rites at Sufi shrines to online sites of transgression; from dating apps to political rap; and from the country’s first LGBTQI+ festival to a trans* mosque project in the making – Pakistan’s urban horizons are being continually tested, reconfigured, reimagined. This interdisciplinary panel will engage with queerness not simply as a category of the sexual but 'a mode of desiring' to borrow from Muñoz (2009): In the not-yet-here of queerness, Pakistan can be imagined as a theoretical site of futurity “that is attentive to the past for the purposes of critiquing the present” (2009: 18). Focusing on queerness and the city, papers will trace the multifarious ways in which the normative tenor of the urban comes to be intra-actively undermined through desirous acts that insist on the possibilities for another world: writing, art, sex, religious and political participation among others. Given the want of research on the subject, the panel ambitiously seeks to map an emergent constellation of queer performances in contemporary Pakistan through inter-disciplinary methods and perspectives. Besides theoretical and ethnographic contributions from academics in the humanities, the panel encourages presentations from authors, artists, and activists; and welcomes the inclusion of film and other media. A balance in terms of gender, international participation, and early career researchers will be ensured. It will also aim for a publication of the proceedings.







Women and Public Spaces: Questions of Sexuality, Visibility and Freedom


R. Sen1, R. Govinda2

1School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi, New Delhi, India, 2School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel invites papers which explore how diverse women interact with urban public spaces in contemporary South Asia and in doing so compel us to re-examine the conceptual and material intersections of gender, sexuality, space, mobility and violence.


Long panel abstract Access to, being visible in, and having the freedom to inhabit public spaces are significant in the recent discourse on women’s rights to cities in South Asia. Whilst the attention by the media, policy makers and law enforcers alike has been mostly on women’s ‘safety’, women themselves are challenging gender and sexual norms to claim unfettered access to urban public spaces in novel ways, of which the Pinjra Tod campaign (questioning differential curfew timings for male and female hostellers), the tumblr blog Girls at Dhabas (inviting pictures of women chilling at roadside cafes) and the NGO-led initiative Women on Wheels (aimed at training female cabbies) are notable examples. Who are the women asserting themselves in public spaces? Have there been particular transformations in urban public life that have enabled them to do so? Which women remain invisible? Are the discourses of ‘safety’ and ‘freedom’ necessarily separate when it comes to women’s access and freedom in urban public spaces? And, what are the other vectors through which gender and sexuality play out in urban public space in contemporary South Asia? This panel invites papers which unpack the complex gamut of women's experiences and realities of interacting with urban public spaces in the region. It is an attempt at re-examining the conceptual and material intersections of gender, sexuality, space, mobility and violence. The panel aims at bringing into conversation researchers interested in themes such as solo women travellers, gender and public transport, campaigns for access and freedom to be in city spaces, gender-based violence in public spaces, creation of women-only spaces, sex workers and public spaces, and the gender politics of public protests.







Religious Networks, Religious Communities


B. Hatcher1, R. Voix2, L. Wong3, R. Ghosh4, C. Clementin-Ojha5

1Department of Religion, Tufts University, Medford, United States, 2CEIAS, L'L'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France, 3Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom, 4Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, India, 5CEIAS, L'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France


Short panel abstract This panel foregrounds the themes of mobility, lineage, place-making and hagiography in relation to the articulation, emplacement and re-formation of a variety of religious communities in modern Bengal. Panelists present original research on Sufi, Shaiva, Vaishnava and vernacular Hindu movements.


Long panel abstract This panel brings together junior and senior scholars from India, Europe and the United States to explore themes of mobility, lineage, place-making and hagiography in relation to the articulation, emplacement and re-formation of a variety of religious communities in modern Bengal. While regional in geographic focus, the panel aims to promote comparison around a variety of interlinking themes that help us think about processes of community formation, including the dispersion of Sufi networks and teaching lineages, patterns of Shaiva monastic settlement, traditions of teaching and discipleship and their reconfiguration by nineteenth-century Gaudiya Vaishnavas, and the development of hagiographical literature around the figure of the Bengali savior, Baba Lokenath Brahmachari. The four panelists will present elements of their original research and will be joined by a senior scholar with significant experience in Hindu monasticism and sampradāya formation who will serve as a discussant for the session.







Gauging Comics and Graphic Narrative in South Asia


E. Ilves1, D. Cappello2

1Südasien-Institut, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany, 2Cluster Asia and Europe in a Global Context, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany


Short panel abstract The topic will be approached from different theoretical and methodological perspectives in order to reach a broader understanding of the processes involved in creating, publishing and receiving comics and graphic novels in South Asia.


Long panel abstract Despite the fact that views on the value of ‘comics’ have varied greatly over the years, this medium of expression has been attracting an interest from academia for quite a while. Particularly nowadays with the rapid growth of image production due to the increasing process of digitalization, the ‘comics’ discourse often finds itself in the limelight of popular media culture and academic discussions. Although there is a significant amount of research on comics in general, not much has been done on the topic. Some studies have focused on the impact of popular media on religion and national identity (e.g. the famous “Amar Chitra Katha” series), and only few have investigated the significance of comics in vernacular languages for the literary, cultural and political spheres of a specific region.
In this panel we will look into modern and contemporary comics and graphic novels in South Asia in both English and regional languages. The topic will be approached from different methodological perspectives in order to reach a broader understanding of the processes involved in creating, publishing and receiving comic books and graphic novels in South Asia. One of our aims is to show how literary and artistic features of graphic narrative blend with political aspects such as national identity, gender and class relations. Moreover, the sources will be analyzed by looking at the text-image relations in order to identify the specific language of expression that arises from the congruency of textual and visual forms. Furthermore, comics will also be investigated from a literary and historical perspective by examining the link between certain genres and the revival of national narratives from the post-independent era onwards.







Textoclasm, profanation, and desacralization in South Asia


P. Rollier1, B. Larios2

1University of St Gallen (HSG-SHSS), St Gallen, Switzerland, 2Südasien-Institut, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany


Short panel abstract This panel explores the dissenting ways of relating to religious books, scriptures and other textual artifacts across South Asia. Our focus lies in the disputed status attached to the material presence of texts and words that are either deemed sacred or offensive to one’s religious tradition.


Long panel abstract This panel explores the dissenting ways of relating to religious books, scriptures, and other textual artifacts across South Asia. We are interested in investigating past and present controversies surrounding the treatment of the sacred in its material form — be it a holy scripture, a religious manual or another physical representation of a sacred text. Our explicit focus lies in the disputed status, function and efficacy attached to the material presence of written, printed and inscribed texts and words that are either deemed sacred or offensive to one’s religious tradition. Prescriptions regarding the treatment and handling of these material objects greatly differ from one religion to another, but also depend on the cultural, political and epochal contexts under consideration. Despite such diversity, can we nevertheless detect points of convergence across contexts? Is there, then, a distinctly South Asian way of apprehending the destruction, profanation or desacralization of religious text as material objects? Our panelists reflect this richness by offering contributions from different disciplines with their own regional and religious focus.







Caste and the outcaste. Subaltern histories of jati formation.



N. Jaoul1, R. Rawat2


1IRIS/CNRS, EHESS, Paris, France

2Departement of History, University of Delaware, Newark, United States 


Short panel abstract The existence of jati among Dalits and most backward castes has been taken for granted and dehistoricised. This panel invites scholars of the Dalit movement, of caste and social historians to question this dead angle and enter in a critical assessmentn of jati formation among the subaltern.


Long panel abstract The existence of jati among Dalits and most backward castes has been taken for granted and dehistoricised. However, it is time for scholars of the Dalit movement, scholars of caste and social historians to question this dead angle. This panel welcomes a diversity of approaches: local and transregional caste monographies of scheduled castes and most backward castes, accounts of different academic approaches of caste formation (anthropological, sociological and historical theories of caste), geographies of jati territorialities, etc.
The manners in which the process of caste formations have responded to economic, cultural and political contexts will be of great interests in order to contextualize these histories and examine their dynamics, that cannot be attributed to so-called “sanskritization” alone.
As underlined by S. Baily, the question of labour migrations and sedentarization in the villages in particular seems to have been a major factor in the crystallization of these groups.
What has been the relationship between ascriptions to menial labour (like sweeping, tanning, etc) and jati formations? What has been the relationship between the formation of jati identities and religious sects? How has the colonial ethnography reflected as well as influenced these groups? What social memory do they retain from their past? How have the Dalit and lower caste movement’s intellectuals addressed the question of caste among themselves, from Ambedkar’s attempt to create a homogenous dalit community, to the BSP’s attempts to mobilize dalit and most backward caste identities? Without being exclusive, these are some of the questions that will be discussed.







Producing and Consumming Photography in South Asia (1840-1980)


Z. Headley1, V. Caru2

1CNRS EHESS, CEIAS, Paris, France, 2CNRS, IFP, Pondichery, India


Short panel abstract This panel seeks to interrogate the social, material, and retail conditions of production, diffussion and consumption of commercial photography in south Asia from its arrival in 1840 up to the introduction of mechanised processing and printing in the mid 1980s.


Long panel abstract This panel seeks contributions pertaining to the history of the commercial practices and popular uses of photography in South Asia between 1840 and 1980. Though the history of photography in the subcontinent has some superb coffee table books, that its use by the colonial administration and local princely states has benefited from some in-depth scholarly scrutiny, that solid but scarce work from Madhya Pradesh and Bengal tell us about commercial studio photography, the social history of commercial studio photography and the visual rhetoric of the family portraits they produced has failed to attract sufficient scholarly attention.
This panel seeks to interrogate the social, material, and retail conditions of production, diffusion and consumption of commercial photography in South Asia. Papers can address a variety of topics pertaining to the relationship entertained by the majority of the population with photography, which gave them access to an emblematic prerogative of modernity: to have their picture taken.
These may be: 
- the diffusion and adaptation of photographic process in a colonial context;


- the development, in a caste society, of the profession of commercial photographer;
- biographies of early commercial studio photographers;
- corolary skills and professions which emerged from the establishment of photo studios;
- the use of family portraits in households and the use of hybrid photo-objects in rituals;
- the impact of the introduction and consumption of studio portraits on vernacular notions of personhood and kin.







The sayyids in South Asia: the social and political role of a Muslim elite


J. Levesque1, L. Gautier2

1CEIAS, EHESS, Paris, France, 2Trinity College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract Sayyids claim descent from Prophet Muhammad. They generally stand at the top of the Muslim social hierarchy and tend to occupy an important role in public life. This interdisciplinary panel hopes to throw light on what it means to be sayyid in various socio-cultural contexts of South Asia.


Long panel abstract Sayyids claim descent from Prophet Muhammad. They are found in nearly all Muslim communities and generally stand at the top of the social hierarchy, a status comforted by moral norms among both Sunnis and Shias that command respect towards Prophet Muhammad’s kin. As a result, sayyids tend to play an important role in public life – notably as religious leaders and intellectuals. In some regions of South Asia, notably in Sindh, this status offers two advantages – charismatic authority and a network of (often powerful) people – that endow sayyids with a leadership role. In Sindh as well as in South (Pakistani) Punjab, sayyids occupy a prominent position among politicians, combining, thanks to their status, worldly power and wealth with spiritual legitimacy. In these regions at least, being sayyid thus appears as a resource that can be mobilized in social relations as well as in the political arena. This does not mean, however, that sayyids’ authority goes unchallenged. In India, for instance, the recent rise of pasmanda movements puts to question the right of elite Muslims – often of sayyid lineage – to represent the ‘Muslim community’. This panel hopes to throw light on what it means and entails to be sayyid in various socio-cultural contexts of South Asia. Because being sayyid is rarely conceptualized in and for itself, we propose to examine in a critical way the sayyid category, its multiple uses and changing meanings, in order to better understand, first, the evolutions of social stratification among South Asian Muslims; and second, the recomposition of Muslim elite networks and Muslim leadership, notably in the political sphere.







The Institutionalisation of Heritage in South Asia: the Possibilities of a Trans-Disciplinary Approach


A. Da Fonseca1, P. Basu2

1School of Oriental and African Studies, London, United Kingdom, 2British Library, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel brings together current research on the institutionalisation of heritage in South Asia with a focus on visual and performing arts. It explores artistic practice chosen to represent heritage, institutions that categorize and promote them, and the nature of heritage created in this process.


Long panel abstract This panel will bring together current research on the institutionalisation of heritage in South Asia with emphasis on visual and performing arts. It focuses on institutions that construct or cultivate the local heritage such as government policies, award schemes, museums, academies, NGOs and scholarship. It also focusses on the traditions that undergo institutionalisation as heritage such as dance, theatre, handicraft and the visual arts. Finally, it interrogates the “folk”, “classical”, “local”, “religious” and “nationalist” as categories of heritage constructed by the dialogue between art practices and institutions.
Research on previously understudied visual and performing art traditions in South Asia have flourished post-Independence and with neo-liberalisation (e.g. Jain, 1984, 1998; Chatterji, 2009; Bharucha, 1993, 2000). There is also growing scholarship on museums and heritage in South Asia, particularly in relation to identity politics and religious revivalism (Singh & Mathur, 2015). This panel will explore the dialogue between art practices chosen to represent local heritage and the institutions through which this takes place.
This interdisciplinary panel calls for scholars of art and textile history, dance and performance studies, and museum and heritage studies. It combines theoretical and ethnographic interventions on heritage studies. Themes may include:
Cultural politics of heritage (performance and visual arts)
Tourism, fairs and festivals, authenticity and cosmopolitanism in art.
Modernity, globalisation, identity politics and revivalism.
We aim to bring out a special issue in a relevant journal as a follow-up to this conference.







Who Speaks for the Village? Representations of the “Rural” in India from the Colonial to the Post-Colonial Era


D. Thivet1, J. Cabalion2

1EHESS, Paris, France, 2Université François Rabelais de Tours, Tours, France


Short panel abstract This panel will explore the representations of the village and its different social groups in India by colonial and postcolonial administrations, political parties, scholarship and literature from the colonial to the post-colonial era. It will focus on the transformations undergone by rural society.


Long panel abstract The idea of the village has been central throughout Indian history. Since colonial times, Indian villages have been pictured as “small republics” and as a relevant microcosm for understanding the Indian society at large. This panel will explore the representations of the village and its different social groups in India, constructed by colonial and postcolonial government administrations, political parties, social movements, NGOs, scholarship and/or literature from the colonial to the post-colonial era: who speaks for/about/of/against the village and for the so-called “peasant classes”? In providing a broad and long-term historical perspective on the different representations of the Indian countryside, it will identify the significant changes that the Indian rural society has undergone over time, notably its changing power relationships and the consequences of the transformations of its primarily agrarian economy. It will also analyse, against the idea of a harmonious whole, the heterogeneity of Indian rural society, its stratification and deeply entrenched economic and social divisions. For instance, papers might investigate the actors, external or internal to rural society, who have claimed to represent the interests of the “village” and how its internal social differentiation has been addressed; how the gram panchayat has contributed or not to renew the representation of various categories of rural society; the transformation of agrarian struggles through the lens of dispossession-related resistances; etc. These different aspects of the representation of the “rural” and its social components could be studied from the point of view of history, political science, sociology, anthropology, or any other relevant discipline.







Genres and the Cultural Ecology of Early Modern South India (16-18th century)


M. Trento1, T. Ariav1, T. Leucci2

1University of Chicago, Chicago, United States, 2CNRS, Paris, France


Short panel abstract This panel examines the cultural production of early modern South India via the prism of genre. We explore the role of genres in literature, painting, music, and dance, and propose to view genre in this period as a crucial site of social and cultural negotiation, innovation and self-reflexivity.


Long panel abstract Our panel proposes to examine the cultural production of sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century South India via the prism of genre. This period was characterized by a special attention to genres, and to their adaptation and innovation within the literary, artistic and architectural domains. For instance, the Tamil grammatical tradition classified the 96 genres of ‘short literature’ (ciṟṟilakkiyam) at this time, as part of a larger process of rethinking itself and the literary canon. Concurrently, the Nāyaka and Maratha rulers of Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Thanjavur encouraged experimentation with new performative genres, at the crossroad of different literary, musical and performative traditions, as shown by David Shulman, Indira Peterson, Davesh Soneji and others. Taking this feature as a starting point and an inspiration, the panel proposes to investigate how genre in these centuries was a site of creative exploration, both manifested in practice and explicitly theorized. We will examine how the reflection on genre went hand in hand with the development of complex intertextual networks, cutting across languages and media, with an emphasis on irony and innovation. We will also explore the uses of genre as indicative of the ways in which intellectuals, poets and artists situated themselves in relation to their past, their present, and the complex social and cultural geographies of South India in the early modern period.

The discussant will be Sascha Ebeling (University of Chicago).






Economic Corridors, Development and Regional Cooperation in South Asia and Beyond


S.O. Wolf

South Asia Democratic Forum, Brussels, Belgium


Short panel abstract The panel focuses on the development of Economic Corridors (EC) in South Asia with reference to China’s OBOR/One Belt, One Road initiative. Papers elaborate on involved interests & challenges. Social, economic & political impacts of ECs on states and regional cooperation will be analysed too.


Long panel abstract Regional cooperation in South Asia is hampered by a lack of connectivity due to congeneric economies, political fragmentation, socio-religious cleavages and conflicts that exist among the regional states. To enhance connectivity in this region, the concept of ‘economic corridor’ is finding its way into foreign policy & development strategies as it becomes a buzzword in economic stimulation plans and a major platform for deepening regional integration in South Asia. The idea of regional economic cooperation has taken root early on in South East Asia, spearheaded by the Greater Mekong Subregion initiative. In South Asia, however, the prominence of economic corridors is a more recent phenomenon. Currently, the most advanced example is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a development project initiated by China. However, such mega-projects also raise numerous questions, especially with regards to the feasibility of its implementation and its economic, social and political impacts on the region. Against this backdrop, the panel will focus on the following questions: Firstly, what are the perceptions, expectations, interests, and challenges regarding economic corridors? Secondly, from a national (i.e., domestic) perspective, will the (envisaged) economic corridors have an impact on the integration of the economically underdeveloped areas? Thirdly, can we expect economic corridors to serve as a pioneer projects for further regional economic cooperation and integration within South Asia? In other words, will such bilateral endeavors be an impetus or rather another hindrance for current regional cooperation, especially in regard to the larger context of China’s major development strategy of ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR)?







Living on the Edge: Highland Societies and Lowland Polities


D. de Simone1, J.M. Gandhimathi3, A. Casile4, M. Willis5

1British Museum, London, United Kingdom, 2LSE, London, United Kingdom, 3Government Museum, Chennai, India, 4L'Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), Paris, France, 5ERC synergy project, British Museum, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel will focus on the relationship between upland societies and lowland polities. Although there is much evidence for both over the longue durée, the ways in which these dispensations interacted, and have been documented, has been largely unexplored despite developed theoretical literatures.


Long panel abstract This panel will focus on the relationship between highland societies in the upland areas of South Asia and lowland polities that have been normally centred on royal sites, agro-urban conurbations and networks of trade and pilgrimage. Although there is much evidence for both over the longue durée, the ways in which these dispensations have interacted and constituted each other has been largely unexplored despite developed theoretical literature in such fields as centre-periphery discourse, highland-lowland archaeology, indigenous identities, conflict, property relations and subsistence systems.
The convenors of the panel seek to explore new modes of working and thinking about highland and lowland cultures in several ways. Firstly, presentations will be sought that reassess analogous and connected riverine systems and their hinterlands. Secondly, presentations will be encouraged that undertake a re-examination of monuments, sites and archaeological documentation against new understandings of human agency, landscape history, technology and the movement of people, goods and belief systems. Thirdly, presentations will be encouraged that reflect on documentation and historiography, especially library and museum collections of highland material. The convenors are keen to explore how objects and documentation data, removed from their contexts by methods of collection and regimes of cataloguing, can be re-contextualized though interdisciplinary forms of analysis embracing GIS, anthropology and the sociology of landscape.







Multiple worlds of the Adivasis


S. Dasgupta1, V. Damodaran2

1Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 2Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract As ‘adivasis’, or tribal communities, become visible as subjects in debates around indigeneity, identity, conversion, development and even climate change, our panel, which cuts across the colonial and postcolonial time-frames, seeks to initiate critical discussions around the subject of the adivasi.


Long panel abstract ‘Adivasis’, or tribal communities in South Asia, are visible as subjects in debates around indigeneity, identity, conversion, development, even climate change. The longue duree histories of adivasis provide insights into the impact of modernity and development, rapid environmental transformations, displacement, poverty, a narrative of ‘globalisation from below’. Their legal status has come in for discussion: legislative enactments and battles in courts indicate a jostling of contending criteria by judges, pleaders and adivasis. Representations of an unchanging adivasi culture continue to be perpetuated in museums. The post-colonial Indian state has made loss of land, displacement, migration and forced resettlement a part of adivasi experiences. But amidst this, there also lies a story of their assertion: voices of adivasis, even if multiple and fractured, are heard as they assert their identity, express their politics and negotiate with the state.
Our proposed panel cuts across the colonial and postcolonial time-frames. The proposed themes include the impact of industrialization on adivasis,the issue of conversion by Christian missionaries and the Hindu Right,and adivasi politics in the red corridor. We invite reflections on culture, gender, social structure, health and environment. We invite comparative studies from Pakistan, Burma, Nepal and Bangladesh. How does the Indian adivasi story feed into global debates around indigeniety? We hope our panelists will move beyond the colonial archive and engage with adivasi voices, oral narratives and their modes of negotiation with the everyday in order to provide insights into the multiple worlds of the adivasis today and add to the newly emerging field of adivasi studies.







‘Muslim woman’/Muslim women


P. Jeffery

University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract The stereotyped ‘Muslim woman’ has often been the terrain on which debates about Muslims in South Asia have been framed. Yet relatively little is known about how Muslim women experience everyday life in South Asia. This panel explores the diversities of Muslim women’s lives in a range of contexts.


Long panel abstract All too often, Muslim women feature in academic literature and in public discussions alike as the universalised ‘Muslim woman’ as if ‘Muslim’ and ‘woman’ are the only identities that affect their everyday lives. Yet we know that people’s lived realities throughout South Asia are profoundly influenced by regional variations, by rural or urban residence, by the quality and quantity of formal education they receive, by employment opportunities, household composition, marital status and stage in the life-cycle, and so on. There is, then, no such person as the ‘Muslim woman’, only a diversity of lived realities for Muslim women. In the contemporary context of debates about Islam and communal politics, there is a growing trend towards hardening and polarising of identities, and the continuing deployment of the stereotyped ‘Muslim woman’ in the posturing and policies of political actors. This panel aims to address and challenge the presumptions on which such debates rest by presenting papers that explore various aspects of Muslim women’s everyday lives: for instance, marriage and divorce, personal law, property rights and dowry, gender-based violence and sexual harassment, access to health care, experiences of education (whether in madrasas or schools and colleges), employment and economic position, mobilisation and political activism, and region of residence (including in the various diasporic communities).







Gender and Health in Colonial South Asia


S. Sehrawat

School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University, Newcastle University, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel will explore how the intersection of gender, class, race and ethnicity has historically shaped healthcare in colonial South Asia by examining the role of trans-national feminist activism, maternalist medical discourses and nutrition.


Long panel abstract Ideological justifications of colonial rule in India cast the British as saviours of oppressed Indian women, and medical care as evidence of imperial benevolence. This panel explores the historical roots of extreme gender disparities in access to healthcare and nutrition in colonial South Asia. Papers will examine the development of imperial networks of women medical experts, the construction of female bodies by transnational medical discourses of maternalism and ask how gendered experiences of health and illness intersected with race, class and ethnicity. The panel will break new ground by examining the transnational flow of ideas on women's health and analyse the continuities and disjunctures between the colonial and postcolonial period.







Writing - Grammar - Power: Language Issues in South Asia


G. Berkemer

IAAW, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany


Short panel abstract This panel explores relations of languages, grammar traditions and writing systems to topics from fields such as anthropology, history, political and religious studies. Research on schriftlinguistik and textbuchkritik in an South Asian context creates knowledge beyond traditional language studies.


Long panel abstract This panel explores the relation of South Asian languages, their traditions of grammar writing and their writing systems to topics from various fields of research, such as anthropology, history, political and religious studies, etc. Putting research on schriftlinguistik and textbuchkritik (both not translated into English so far) into an South Asian focus, it reaches beyond traditional issues in linguistics and language learning.
One focus will be the relation of writing/script and language. The convenor invites papers on topics like the politics of orthography, language fission and script, script and questions of ethnicity and religion, minority langauges and script.
The second focus will be on the relation between the teachers and the tought: grammar and colonial power, orthography as elite culture, gender stereotypes in text books.







The (Un)Partitioned Sindh: the entangled of identity, legacy and religion



K. Kamran1, B. Rajpal2, S. Saba1

1Centre d'études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud (CEIAS), (EHESS), Paris, France, 2University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel looks at the Sindhi society of Pakistan in its post-Partition period and explores the role of the social hierarchy in the Sindhi devotional practices in Pakistan


Long panel abstract This panel attends to the effects of the Partition of 1947 on the region of Sindh and its people. It questions the effect of the creation of the nation-state of Pakistan on the social hierarchies of the Sindhi society and further investigates the role that devotion as expressed in the different religious persuasions has played in shaping the Sindhi identity and the sub-identities post Partition. This will allow us to explore how Sindh as a homeland has offered to the Sindhis who have continued to live in Pakistan post-Partition and the impact of the Partition on their devotional practices. It will also explore the interplay between the social hierarchy and the devotional practices of the Sindhis of Pakistan. Therefore, we invite papers that will address the issues of the Partition and the Sindhi devotional practices in Pakistan within the framework of Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and other religions, as well as transformations in the Jhulelal worship traditions from pre to post Partition, social hierarchies within the Sindhi society, Jhulelal worship, influence of the nation-state on the devotional practices of Jhulelal.
Papers submitted to the panel should be original and should not have been presented elsewhere.







Mainstreaming the margins: Northeast India and Hindutva’s cultural project


S. Kumar1, S. Saika Saikia2

1Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 2Kings College London, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract The paper looks into the Hindutva's Cultural Project in North-East, hitherto marginalised but ethnoculturally diverse region, followed a two pronged strategy by accommodating the elites in mainstream political profile while desiring their ethnocultural diversity to be part of the Hindutva paradigm.


Long panel abstract India’s northeast, comprising of eight states, has historically been a marginal but diverse ethno-cultural space in the nation’s socio-political imaginaire, challenging the territorial-cultural project Indian state imbues. However, with massive victory of BJP in the 2014 General Election, a tectonic shift occurred in the politics of northeast as the BJP successfully dented the dominance of Congress by relying on the RSS’ logic of building a thick network of activists embedding the party at the local level via social work within communities. Besides political agenda, BJP is attempting to realize its cultural project of establishing a narrow Hindutva identity in an otherwise culturally and religiously diverse region. Hence, BJP’s political overtures in North Eastern States since 2014, is an interesting case in hand where the interplay of Hindutva’s cultural project well entrenched into the democratic discourse, laden with the political strategy of ‘mainstreaming the margins’ by employing socially embedded and customized electoral tools, leading to giving an off the bloc advantage to the saffron party. Thus, while they go for the institutionalization of popular cultural codes like ‘cow vigilantism’ and ‘liquor ban’, ‘love-Jihad’ into the Hindi Heartland, they promise just the opposite in the North-Eastern States given cultural distinctiveness therein. However, at a deeper level the contradictions into their electoral approach w.r.t Mainstream and Margin disappears when one witnesses their attempt to metamorphose the everyday cultural practices of the margins in sync with the Mainstream and the paper attempts to analyze the same.







Goa: Encounter, Complexity, Division, Cosmopolitanism


A. Henn1, R.M. Perez2

1School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe-Arizona, United States, 2Center for International Studies, University Institute of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal


Short panel abstract This panel presents papers that deal with Goa as a place of long lasting historical encounters facilitating a particular religious complexity, social division, cosmopolitanism and global migration. Cases will entail especially (post)-colonial, religious, subaltern, literary, film and art studies.


Long panel abstract This panel presents papers from diverse disciplines (history, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, linguistics, literary, tribal, film and art studies) dealing with Goa as a case and place of a particularly long historical encounter that facilitated an intricate religious and cultural complexity, as well as an intense ethnic and social division and diversity. It aims to highlight the connection between the early modern Portuguese-Catholic colonial hegemony that inscribed religious, racial, caste and tribal divisions in Goan society with late modern settlements and movements of national and global migrants, expatriates, retirees and tourists favoring the emergence of a distinctly cosmopolitan society and culture. Theoretically, the panel aims at discussing the concept of ‘encounter’ as a tool that highlights historical contexts, political power relations, and economic circumstances and invites to scrutinize the post-colonial cohabitation of local conditions and global dynamics.







Non-European and European grammatical tradition: inventionorganization and designation of linguistic structures


C. Muru

DISTU Department, University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy


Short panel abstract This panel aims to discuss about the history of early descriptive linguistics looking both at the first attempts made by Europeans in describing non-European languages and at Indian grammatical traditions with the aim to observe the process of inventio, dispositio and extentio which occurred.


Long panel abstract Reflections about the origin of language, as well as the need of grammatiser (Auroux 1994: 134-135) is a common trait of those civilizations in different part of the world characterized by a written tradition. The practice of writing seems to be connected to the need of grammatiser the language and this task, whatever the aim for which it is produced, pedagogical as well as theoretical, may be characterized by at least three peculiar characteristics (Poli 2014):
- inventio: for which the creation of new categories and devices for describing a language must be directly connected with the personal creativity of the one who is dealing with the task of description;
- dispositio, for which the existence of a model of reference guides the compiler of the description. Thus categories and the orders in which they occur in the original model are repeated for the description of another language;
- extentio, strictly connected to the previous one, it implies the enlargement, not only the adaptation, of the model of reference.
These practices are shared by ‘early European grammarians’ while describing non-European languages, as well as within local grammatical traditions, such as the Indian one.
This panel, proposed in the framework of the 25th ECSAS, aims to discuss about the history of early descriptive linguistics looking both at the first attempts made by Europeans in describing non-European languages and at Indian grammatical traditions with the aim to observe the process of inventio, dispositio and extentio which occurred.







Majoritarian Politics and Vigilante Justice in India


K. Nakamizo1, C. Bates2, R. D'Souza1, J. Atwal3

1Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, 2School of History, Classics, and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 3Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India


Short panel abstract This panel will debate the emergence of ‘vigilante justice’ in India. Notably, by ‘gau-rakshaks’, ‘anti-romeo squads’ etc. How these new forms of violence affect on state legitimacy and democratic practise? Do this ‘Majoritarian’ politics end the ‘Unity through diversity’ in India’?


Long panel abstract This panel will debate the recent spate of ‘vigilante justice’ in India. While vigilante justice is not new to Indian politics, the current spate of violence inflicted by self appointed organizations indicates that these may be qualitatively different phenomenon at work. Earlier, the Salwa Judam in Chattisgarh, for example, revealed how the politics of violence could be enabled by the Indian state and effectively at times normalised through several discourses about the need for containing terrorism or neutralizing ‘ anti-state groups’ such as the Maoists. In effect, the Indian government showed the ability to suspend democratic norms and routines to legitimise a para-military response.
At best, however, the Salwa Judum could be conceptualized as being a type of local experiment of sorts that was relevant to only the Chattisgarh state. With the Gau-rakhshaks and the anti-romeo squads, however, the violence has been structured around pushing for an all India type of identity which in turn feeds into a new attempts to institute majoritarian politics as being the normal.
For discussing this new phase in majoritarian politics, we have four presenters and two commentators as listed below. We will explore the issue of vigilantism from the perspectives of two disciplines: political science and history.







Education and Transformation in Contemporary India


M. Thapan1, T. Mueller2

1Dept. of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi, India, 2Pädagogik bei Verhaltensstörungen - Sonderpädagogik V Wittelsbacherplatz 1, University of Wuerzburg, 97074 Wuerzburg, Germany


Short panel abstract The panel emphasizes the significance of education in the moral and nationalist dilemma that India finds itself in. We invite papers focussing on contemporary contradictions, cleavages and dilemmas in the field of education from a range of perspectives in varied social and cultural contexts.


Long panel abstract In Indian schools, the textbook is the ruler of consciousness. A focus on the ways through which schools and teachers seek out alternative methods for the transaction of knowledge is important. To transform consciousness, teachers and their training must become part of any radical policy agenda. Understanding structures of inequality in educational processes is as significant as understanding the experience of inequality. We welcome papers that develop these foci as well as studies that examine the world of students and teachers in a variety of contexts.
The pursuit of educational degrees in higher education does not necessarily convert into the much prized social and cultural capital they supposedly embody, and the experience of persistent forms of social inequality remains. We invite papers that address questions of inequality, agency and engagement in the varied contexts of student movements and student mobility in search of higher education.
This panel also seeks to understand the possibilities for the transformation of consciousness wherein 'morality' does not turn into a nationalist agenda but is nurtured as a secular approach and ethics in pursuit of the ‘good’ society. Such new beginnings ensure that stakeholders view themselves in relation to their peers and others through empathy and solidarity, and that inequalities are altered through engagement, contestation and change. The panel focuses on efforts within the education sector in India to develop such agendas in the face of institutional cultures of decay, state apathy and the nationalist agendas of moral rearmament and religious revival.







Coded citizenship. Biometrics, identity and de-socializing technologies in South Asia


P. G. Solinas

University Siena, Italy


Short panel abstract The panel will be focused on the contemporary systems of identification by digital biometric profiles, cards and databases under governmental control.
The main cases, the AADAAR in India and NADRA in Pakistan supply a baseline reference for comparative reviews and anthropological implications.


Long panel abstract The panel will be focused on practices and social conversion from socially rooted systems of self-identification (kin groups, social ties) to the neutral codes of inventorying. Several cases of state-based systems have been implemented in the last decade in South Asia. The UIDAI and AADAAR in India, The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan opened a space for some crucial questions. What about dynamics of individualization, face to deep customary rules of obligations, solidarity, dependence? Is the public dimension of self compatible with the frames of kin-rooted circuits of relationship (“kul”, “gotta”) and more modernized corporate classes?
The programs are presented as mainly directed to reach a full realization of the person on the field of banking, financial autonomy, subjective freedom from traditional ties of debt, moneylending and personal bondage. It will be a decisive field of analysis the real dynamics that such a radical change is expected to produce. The ideal image of a market actor, completely free and fully mastering the modern prerogatives of a accounts’ titular, transactions and investments… , as a perfect “homo oeconomicus” appears too distant from the actual state of debased poor and marginalized peasantry, with its charge of submission and fragility.
On the other side, cards and databases, operate a significant influence on social support and informal economy. Nonetheless, the juridical change that the programs try to introduce say, from corporate identity to strictly individual self-empowerment, seems to pose an historical challenge that the anthropologists must be certainly able to interpret.







Self in Performance II: Life Narratives in South Asia


M. Browarczyk1, A. Chudal2

1South Asian Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland, 2Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria


Short panel abstract Focusing on interdisciplinary study of life narratives in South Asia we invite scholars of different fields to research construction(s) of the self in life narratives in various forms (literature, orature, cinema, performing arts, and social media etc.) from the period of early modernity onwards.


Long panel abstract The panel, in continuation of the panel at the 2016 EASAS conference, focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to study of self-expression in South Asia, which can be found in diverse forms of culture texts: literature, oral traditions, interviews, performances, art, cinema, and social media etc. Here, through the concept of the self in performance, we seek for a definition of the self as heterogeneous, fluid and liminal. We invite scholars of various disciplines to consider how the self is constructed in these life narratives. We aim at emphasizing the diversity of forms of narrating the self in in different regions of South Asia and in various historical contexts and, concurrently, at representing the multiplicity of constructions of the self in particular life narratives. The emphasis on various texts of culture provides an insight into placing an individual within complexities of South Asian societies, which at present are undergoing major social and cultural transformations. In particular, the on-going social campaign for the inclusion of previously marginalised and excluded histories and stories by, for instance, dalit writers and LGBT activists, contextualises self narratives as playing important role in mapping the subjectivity and agency of those earlier excluded. We would like to draw attention to research on reception of these texts as well. We invite contributions focussing on, but not restricted to, the following: autobiographical practices of women and/or other marginalized actors in orature, literature, cinema, and other media; the construction and fluidity of self-identity and responses to it on social networking sites; reception of self narratives.







Religion and Socio-Political Violence in South Asia


F. Heidemann1, A. Jones2, S. Sahoo3

1University of Munich, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Munich, Germany, 2Emory University, Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States, 3Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, New Delhi, India


Short panel abstract This panel seeks to go beyond simplistic assumptions regarding connections (or lack of connections) between religion & political violence in South Asia, and provide nuanced & sophisticated analyses of the nexus between religion, politics and social violence both in historical and contemporary cases.


Long panel abstract South Asia has witnessed a dramatic increase in political violence justified by reference to religion. Much of this has been carried out by religious fundamentalist groups who have been gaining political strength and even legitimacy in South Asia. For example, the Jamaat e-Islami in Bangladesh, the RSS in India, the Taliban in Pakistan, and various radical Buddhist groups in Myanmar and Sri Lanka have threatened the lives and faith systems both of religious minorities, as well as of other communities seen to be hindering the belligerents’ ideologies and practices. Human rights agencies have raised concerns regarding the level of religious freedom in these states. While religiously inspired violence has been much noticed, noted and criticized, it has been rarely studied, with the notable exception of religious violence in the context of the partition of India and Pakistan. This panel seeks to go beyond simplistic assumptions regarding connections (or lack of connections) between religion and political violence in South Asia, and provide nuanced analyses of the nexus between religion, politics and social violence both in historical and contemporary cases. Basic questions are: What is the relationship between religion, politics and violence in various times of conflict in South Asia? Is it helpful to categorize violence as either religious or political and social? Who are the different agents involved in violence, and what is their relationship with the state and with various religious institutions? How is religion used both to inspire and to counteract social and political violence? What are the subjective experiences of victimhood and how do survivors reconstruct their social world religiously, politically and socially?







The Ethics and Practice of Remembering in India


S. Kapila1, G. Ganapathy-Doré,2

1English Department, Grinnell College, Grinnell, United States, 2English and Anglo-Saxon Languages, Université de Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France


Short panel abstract Memory is particularly charged in India where the historical traumas and the violent formation of national identities continue to affect our present and future. This panel will study memory practices in India in literature, a public museum, art projects, and in social interventions.


Long panel abstract Memory and its reverse, forgetting, are particularly charged in India where the historical traumas and the violent formation of national identities continue to affect our present and future. Public processes that would lead to a collective understanding of the aftermath of the trauma of territorial division and our social responsibilities in the newly formed nation state did not happen in South Asia. There have been no truth and reconciliation commissions, public housing projects, or other social collective acknowledgment of responsibility for sectarian violence in the subcontinent in the way we have seen in South Africa and Rwanda, for instance. The transmission of memory to second and third generations has not been studied especially because the idea of forgetting has been so central for those generations preoccupied with constructing the new nation in the first few decades of independence. We live in an age in which memorial practices have multiplied all over the world, both because the twentieth century closed as one of the most violent and because new generations have now taken charge of memory. In this climate, it becomes critical to ask how and why we remember, to what end, in which communities, and how do we discuss difficult pasts in the present. Is remembering always an ethical imperative, always a desired goal?
Panelists propose to discuss the construction of the first partition museum in the subcontinent scheduled to open in Summer 2017 and the Nehruvian legacies of the early years of independence in literature. Other tentative topics include memorializing Gandhi through contemporary art projects and the uses of memory and forgetting in other cases, for instance of domestic trauma.







New Realms of the Fantastic: Interdisciplinary Investigation of the Fantastic in South Asian Literature and Film


J. Wiśniewska-Singh1, J. Kurowska2

1Chair of South Asian Studies, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland, 2Department of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden


Short panel abstract The panel invites explorations of fantastic narratives in South Asia with a focus on their role as socially revealing texts of culture. We welcome papers that incorporate the fantastic in the current literary and film discourse, focusing not only on the renowned but also on ‘popular’ texts.


Long panel abstract The panel invites explorations of fantastic narratives, both renowned works and those classified as ‘popular’, with a focus on their role as socially and culturally revealing texts. The fantastic had largely been ignored or dismissed by critics as an expression of irrationality, regarded as frivolous, foolish, and less valuable than the practices of realistic literature. The panel offers a cultural study of the fantastic as a mode, rather than genre, placed between the opposite modes of the marvellous and the mimetic. We seek to explore the fantastic as opposition to reality, as the expression of ‘otherness’, by raising questions of the nature of the real and unreal, and the relation between them. Analysis of a fantastic text (graphic novel, comic, film, and new media), produced within and determined by its historical and social context, may open new perspectives for the study of worldview, genre criticism, and literary theory as well as the functions of the fantastic in works of fiction. We hope to initiate a discussion about limits of the established literary canon and challenge the notion of the ‘high’ and ‘popular’ cultures. We invite contributions investigating themes and recurring motifs of the fantastic, as well as the different genres inherent to it (science-fiction, horror, detective fiction, historical fantasy, utopia) through various methodological approaches: exploring the fantastic and social change, the fantastic as escapist literature, aiming at the definition of the self and the other in the fantastic, offering a study of the normative through the fantastic and fantastic versus realistic, and more through various interdisciplinary approaches.







Body politics, female subjectivities and reproductive health rights in South Asia


M. Unnithan1, S. Mitra2

1Department of Anthropology, Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom, 2Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany


Short panel abstract This session seeks to explore the growing popularity of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) like IVF, surrogacy, egg and sperm donation alongside inequalities in access to fertility treatment, contraception, abortion and maternal health care in South Asia.


Long panel abstract This session seeks to explore the growing popularity of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) like IVF, surrogacy, egg and sperm donation, artificial insemination alongside critical issues to do with rights, ethics and justice which emerge around inequalities in access to fertility treatment, contraception, abortion and maternal health care in South Asia. The rapid privatization of healthcare accompanied by the transnationalisation of fertility treatment in several South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka for example, has enabled women to participate in reproductive labour, seek fertility assistance and redefine meanings of kinship and family. At the same time, a shifting interest on (in) fertility assistance has led to the neglect of other domains of reproductive health and psychological well-being, further depriving women of their basic entitlements and rights. Papers in the panel will discuss the emerging discursive practices around reproduction and its juxtaposition with the complexities of culture, technology, market, justice and ethics that often appear antithetical to each other.







Landscapes, agriculture, tourism and ethnicity in the Himalayas: An India-Nepal comparison


F. Landy

French Institute of Pondicherry, University Paris Nanterre, Pondicherry, India


Short panel abstract Who owns the landscapes in Asia?
Through the analysis of contemporary landscape changes in five Asian countries, we confront landscape representations, discourses and practices of local societies, states, and tourism operators, and the resulting power relations.


Long panel abstract Whose landscapes in Asia?
High mountain tourism, at least in the Himalayas, is above all based on a landscape of high peaks, often snow-covered, which one wishes to admire if not to traverse. What then is the place of agriculture and livestock, which are practiced at lower altitudes? Can tourism contribute to the salvation of an activity producing "environmental services"? Different types of tourism demand (domestic and foreign) should be distinguished. Are the landscapes sought after by tourists the same as those sought after by villagers, or by local or national authorities? How is this "natural" tourism articulated to "cultural" tourism, based on a certain ethnicity threatened by folklorization?
This panel is proposed by the ANR funded AQAPA project (A Qui Appartiennent les Paysages en Asie?). In five Asian countries, the project confronts landscape representations, discourses and practices of local societies, states, and tourism operators, and the resulting power relations. An aim is to interpret the forms taken by touristification as well heritage making.
We propose to report our results in a comparative way for the two Himalayan fields of the project, in Kumaon (India) and the Annapurnas (Nepal). Other papers outside the project could easily be aggregated to our panel, either on neighboring topics or on neighboring regions (Bhutan in particular).







Major Patrons in Minor Courts: rethinking early modern cultural production


N. Cattoni1, R. Williams2

1SLAS, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2SOAS, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel considers early modern cultural productions outside the main cultural centres of North India, including small courts, religious centres, and elite households. By critically examining “peripheral” regions and patrons, we will explore the diversity of cultural actors.


Long panel abstract Many studies of early modern India are readily attracted to the famous royal courts, major religious centres, important cities, and of course the Mughal court: these were all important sites of cultural production, and were home to the patrons of celebrated artists and intellectuals. Nevertheless, cultural texts and objects also proliferated outside the larger centres, and significant works produced in smaller places circulated over an extensive, interconnected landscape. Until we critically consider the diverse nodes of patronage in the complex and mobile networks of artistic and literary production, our sense of early modern culture and society will remain disproportionately skewed towards big names in big places. This panel will reorient our focus from the “centre” to the “periphery”, and challenge the validity of these terms, by examining the role of patrons and artists “at the margins” in the fashioning of early modern culture.
We invite papers examining early modern scholarship and culture through vernacular, Sanskrit or Persian sources with a focus on the “periphery”. In recognition of the diverse interests of patrons and the interdisciplinary conversations between early modern intellectuals, we welcome papers on literature, music, painting, material culture, and the performing arts. Papers can interrogate a particular patron, court, poet, temple, text, artist or concentrate on the notion of circulation between the centre and the periphery.







Studying Up: power, politics, and practice in elite education


A. Ruddock, J.-T. Martelli

King's College London, London, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel presents a growing body of work on elite educational institutions. With 40% of all South Asians under 25, and competition for entry into institutions notoriously fierce, papers will interrogate the politics of ‘elite’ education, and consider their consequences for regional landscapes.


Long panel abstract This panel seeks to bring together the growing body of work on educational institutions, interrogating more specifically the politics and practices of ‘elite’ education in South Asia in a context of growing enrolment. While the uneven quality of South Asian education is well-documented at the primary and secondary levels, (Jeffrey and Chopra 2005; Tilak 2013; Thapan 2014) less work has been done on the practice and consequences of so-called ‘elite’ education and the institutions that provide it.
Located in deeply unequal societies, elite institutions are both arenas of upward social mobility and social reproduction. Our ambition is to understand educational practices and their aftermaths in a context of increasingly privatised higher education alongside growing political surveillance, the uneven and contested implementation of positive discrimination policies, and social norms governing aspiration, achievement, and perceptions of the nation and its development.
We welcome papers from the social sciences and humanities that attend to any dimension of ‘power, politics, and practice’ in elite educational institutions. Themes might include, but are not limited to: reservations and the discourse of ‘merit’; examinations and pedagogy; gender; class mobility; mental health; political and financial patronage networks; language; nationalism.








Infrastructures: Labour and Nature in South Asia


V. Raveendranathan1, A. Ramesh2, M. Schutzter3, M. Jha4

1University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, 2SOAS University of London, London, United Kingdom, 3New York University, New York, United States, 4Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India


Short panel abstract This panel seeks to nuance existing histories of infrastructure by focusing on labour and the environment. This allows us to connect South Asia’s distinctive ecological, agrarian, and laboring regimes with broader considerations of how infrastructures shape historical trajectories.


Long panel abstract The history of infrastructure in South Asia has often been taken to mean the making of modern built-environments. Communication, transport and trading infrastructure – specifically the histories of roads, rail, and telegraph lines – have represented infrastructure primarily in terms of its capacity to homogenize or make uniform preexisting space. Infrastructures such as public works projects contain live and decaying histories, connecting spaces beyond the sites of their physical presence to their intended and unintended effects, their chains of financing and logics of expertise, their distinctive ecological relations, their coordination of peoples and objects, and their instantiation through ideologies of property and control.
This panel seeks to nuance existing ideas of infrastructure by focusing on two axes: labour and environment. Pivoting the analyses of infrastructure on labour and the environment allows for conceptual innovation on localized, regional, and global accounts of spatial transformation in South Asia. Such accounts situate histories of infrastructures within South Asia’s distinctive ecological, agrarian and laboring regimes thereby complicating any singular account of state or empire making.
We welcome proposals that would engage with some of these questions: How are infrastructures built? How do they transform agrarian and ecological landscapes? In what ways do infrastructures make and unmake nature? How does infrastructure rupture local economies and create new circulatory practices? In what ways do infrastructures produce laboring bodies and new notions of work? How did contingent events such as famines coincide with major infrastructural expansion/contraction?







Visual Anthropology of Performance: Roles, forms and limits of audio-visual analysis in the South Asian performing arts


V. Johan1, I. Le Gargasson2

1EFEO, Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, Paris, France , 2CREM, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre, Nanterre, France


Short panel abstract This panel examines the epistemological role of audio-visual materials in the anthropological and aesthetic study of performing arts (music, dance, theater) in South Asia. It addresses the stakes and limitations of images as a support for artistic transmission and as an analytical tool for scholars.


Long panel abstract Among the various subjects of anthropological research investigated and shaped via the use of filmic media, the performing arts, which are "to be listened and seen" (as mentioned in the Natyashastra), call for the use of audio-visual materials. As tools for performance analysis, the multimedia realizations can take forms whose complexity echoes the subtlety of the Asian arts under consideration. The presentations will examine the place of images in the transmission and creation processes, as well as in the performance analysis and its presentation through audio-visual means.
What are the issues involved in the use of visual corpus, by researchers, on the one hand, and by artists, on the other (knowing that these two statuses can be combined)? How does the film help, if not permit, the analysis of highly codified aesthetics? Which are the difficulties implied by the audio-visual tangible traces of ephemeral arts?
Each contributor presents his research through images by addressing one or several of the following subjects:
1) the multimedia recordings available or to be created to trace the historical and stylistic development of a given form;
2) the epistemological, analytical and pedagogical contributions of images for researchers;
3) the scientific, technical and ethical problems arising from the use of images;
4) the contribution of multimedia writings to scientific argumentation or as a scientific statement.







Religious Flows and Ruptures in South Asia


M. Vandenhelsken1, M. Barkataki-Ruscheweyh2

1Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Documentation of Inner and South-Asian Cultural History (CIRDIS), University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, 2Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit (VU), Amsterdam, Netherlands


Short panel abstract This panel considers the circulation of bodies and ideas as well as of the processes and discourses of differentiation as entry points to understand current religious dynamics in South Asia.


Long panel abstract Recent social scientific research has highlighted the centrality of movements, mobility, migrations, and even disconnections to locality of people and goods in social dynamics. These processes are grouped here under the word ‘flow’. In the field of religious studies, connections, relations, linkages, exchanges and routes taken by religious traditions and teachings have produced the religious forms as we know them today.
This new interest on fluidity, exchanges, etc. reflect a context of increasing globalisation and mobility of bodies and minds; but this context also underlines endeavours to produce higher degrees of differentiation between religious traditions and teachings led mainly by religious and ethnic activities. This tendency has been largely witnessed in the eastern Himalayas and Northeast India, which are the focus areas of both the panel convenors.
This panel considers the connections the connections and networks created within religious traditions, of the circulation of ritual objects and money, of the mobility of ritual specialists, as well as of processes and discourses of differentiation in the shaping of religious and ritual forms. It aims at understanding, for example, the production of new religious forms intended to represent indigeneity and cultural specificity through borrowing markers from the ‘Great Traditions’ such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. The panel will give equal place to historical and present-day case studies, and is intended to compare situations is various places of South Asia. All papers should be based on empirical data (field or archival studies).







Mediating South Asian diasporic experience in the 21st century: narratives across borders


C. Clini1, D. Valanciunas2

1University College London, London, United Kingdom, 2Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania


Short panel abstract This panel will explore narratives of diaspora originating from both South Asia and the diaspora. The panel will open up a dialogue between different practices of representation (cinema, literature, new media) and perspectives and discuss them in relation to the South Asian political context.


Long panel abstract Vijay Mishra famously argued (2005) that “the nation-state needs diaspora to remind it of what the idea of homeland really is”. Indeed, considering that the history of the Subcontinent is marked by centuries of movement, migration and resettlement, diasporas are not only symbols of vibrant cosmopolitan cultures (Mannur and Sahni 2011) – they are also repositories of past national memories of pre-migration patterns. The diasporic space has been explored extensively in films and literature - narratives of diaspora stemming from diasporic authors as well as from South Asian-based authors. In the first case diasporas have been often analysed using the Bhabhian concepts of liminality, third space and the (very much contested, see Shackleton 2008) celebration of hybridity. On the other hand, narratives of diaspora from the subcontinent, especially those offered by Hindi popular cinema, tell a very different story and generally relate back to the internal social and political vicissitudes of India. In this panel we propose to open up a dialogue between these representations and to analyse how they are constructed, disseminated and/or challenged in relation to recent political developments in South Asia. We propose to explore how different authors narrate the diasporic experience through different representational practices (films, photography, literature, media etc.) and to explore their reception: how people engage with and craft (with the Internet, social networks, etc.) new ways to communicate the diasporic experience.







Maritime Crossroads: Social Histories of South Indian Port Cities


S. Prange1, O. Gamliel2

1University of British Columbia, Department of History, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 2Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Center for Religious Studies, Bochum, Germany


Short panel abstract This panel takes the port city as a lens through which to examine the communities and networks that constituted Indian Ocean trade. Its particular concern is with the social history of the diverse mobile groups of merchants who resided in the port cities of the Malabar Coast.


Long panel abstract This panel takes the port city as a lens through which to examine the communities and networks that constituted Indian Ocean trade. Its particular concern is with the social history of mobile groups in the port cities of the Malabar Coast, which attracted diverse merchant groups from across maritime Asia. In the pre-modern Indian Ocean world, India was “on the way to everywhere” and the Malabar Coast in particular was a crossroads of trans-oceanic trade and traffic. Through a focus on different port cities in this region, this panel pursues three interrelated fields of enquiry. The first is intra-communal, asking about the institutional organization these trading groups formulated in response to the challenges of diaspora. For example, how was social or religious authority defined and articulated within highly mobile merchant societies? The second theme is inter-communal, looking at the arrangements expatriate trading groups made with local societies and polities. Finally, the panel seeks to probe into the ways in which religion and culture on the one hand, and trade and society on the other, interacted in processing the social formations of the diverse communities inhabiting the Malabar Coast in the past and in the present. These questions are key to the study of the history of inter-religious and trans-regional relations in other regions as well, and their answers may contribute to the development of a shared vocabulary for the social history of trade.







Oral-Written-Performed. The Rāmāyaṇa in Indian Literature and Arts


D. Stasik, B. Śliwczyńska

Chair of South Asian Studies, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland


Short panel abstract This panel seeks to examine the various forms in which the Rāmāyaṇa has functioned in Indian literature and arts in the past and present. The panel will focus on the narrative strategies adopted in Sanskrit and vernacular tellings, texts and performances.


Long panel abstract This panel seeks to examine the various forms in which the Rāmāyaṇa has functioned in Indian literature and arts in the past and present. The panel will focus on the narrative strategies adopted in local, supra-regional and pan-Indian tellings, texts and performances, taking into consideration their particular socio-cultural milieu understood as an interpretive framework for further analysis. Papers might adopt synchronic or diachronic perspective, concentrate on one work/genre or compare different works/genres in order to investigate issues such as: What is the core narrative? What are the techniques transforming narratives? How do diverse narratives become vehicles for different ideologies that are expressive of sectarian concerns, literary conventions or trends, cultural values etc.? What is the interrelation between the narrative of tellings, texts and performances and their surroundings? To what extent they influence each other and what is their mutual dependence?
We invite papers that present original scholarship based on written, oral or visual Rāmāyaṇas composed in South Asian languages, offering new inputs into the Rāmāyaṇa scholarship.







Political systems and their influence on foreign policy making in South Asia


A. Jaskólska1, A. Michael2

1Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland, 2University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany


Short panel abstract The focus of the panel: as to if and to which extent the political systems have influenced foreign policy-making in South Asia. The panel seeks to address this question by evaluating various political systems in South Asia. The objective is to compare the process of change among South Asian states.


Long panel abstract The panel will look at various case studies: Internal dynamics of the Indian politics, in connection with the rising significance of regional/state parties and their respective relationship with mainstream national parties (ranging from outright political rivalry to cautious alliance) at regional and national levels have important implications for policy-making structures of India, including foreign policy making. Pakistan, on the other hand, is facing constant challenges of a further militarization of its political system The Maldives are facing problem of radical Islam which has already a great impact on internal politics and will see an increase in foreign policy making. Bhutan is still going through transformation. Sri Lanka is recovering from a decades old civil war, and Nepal is in the process of readjusting its foreign policy orientation, as is Bangladesh. Afghanistan is completely dependent upon outside support and cannot conduct a genuine independent foreign policy any longer. All of these developments and systemic exigencies will come into play when looking at how political systems have influenced foreign policy making in South Asia.







Dalit and Adivasi Narratives and the Contestation of Space


N. Thiara1, M. Matta2, J. Chairez3, G. Jadeja4, D. Bilton1

1English, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 2Sapienza, University of Rome, Rome, Italy, 3University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, 4University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore


Short panel abstract This panel addresses the link between untouchability and space in fictional and historical narratives and discusses the spatiality of Dalit and Adivasi texts. It explores how different spaces change individual and collective experiences of caste and social organisation in South Asia.


Long panel abstract This panel addresses the under-researched link between untouchability and space in fictional, visual and historical narratives and seeks to discuss the spatiality of Dalit, Adivasi and other subaltern texts. In particular, it explores how different spaces change individual and collective experiences of caste and social organisation in South Asia from an interdisciplinary and intersectional perspective. Through an analysis of a wide range of genres of Dalit, Adivasi and subaltern texts, this panel presents space not only as a receptacle of caste relations in South Asian society but as a crucial factor in the social production and maintenance of identities such as Indian, Brahmin, Dalit or Adivasi. The panel addresses important questions such as: How do Dalit and subaltern authors, filmmakers, theatre artists, painters and photographers conceptualise and construct space? What type of spaces are privileged or shunned? To what extent are domestic, rural, urban and regional spaces represented as contested? How are abstract spaces such as the nation, modernity or the world conceptualised?







Bouquets of Poetry and Garlands of Poets: The Anthology in South Asia


T. Williams1, M. Kaur2, A. Dudney3

1University of Chicago, Chicago, United States, 2Columbia University, New York, United States, 3University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom


Short panel abstract This panel takes a comparative look at the anthology as a genre in pre-modern South Asia by investigating examples from multiple linguistic, literary, regional, and religious traditions. Papers will examine issues of authorship, form, structure, genre, transmission, and performance.


Long panel abstract The poetic anthology is ubiquitous in South Asia, but remains relatively neglected as an object of study. Anthologies can be found in all major languages of the region, representing multiple periods and literary and devotional traditions. Some contain works by a single author while others contain many; some contain works in a single language while others contain multiple tongues; still others are themselves sites of translation between languages. Importantly, some forms of anthology developed as genres in their own right (e.g. the Sanskrit subhasita and the Persian tazkira) responding to a variety of pedagogical, didactic, literary, historical, and religious needs.
This panel will pose questions about the form and content of anthologies: what does it mean to ‘author’ an anthology as a composer, collator, editor, commentator or translator? What logics-aesthetic, historical, theological, linguistic-inform its structure? Does an anthology reflect an author or tradition, or rather bring them into being? What literary, intellectual, political or theological roles does an anthology serve? Papers will address these questions in the context of anthologies taken from multiple languages, periods, and traditions.
We invite papers that address the multilingual literary and intellectual contexts in which anthologies were produced and enjoyed, questions of form and genre, and issues of circulation and reception, so as to provide the foundation for a comparative discussion on the anthology across regional, linguistic, and religious boundaries.







Towards a Digital Encyclopaedic Dictionary of South Asian Literatures: The French DELI Project.


N. Dejenne1, A. Castaing2, C. Le Blanc1

1Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3, Paris, France, 2CNRS, Paris, France


Short panel abstract The panel aims both at providing a general presentation of the collaborative French project of digital Encyclopaedic Dictionary of South Asian Literatures (acronym DELI), launched in 2015, and at highlighting the epistemological, methodological and technical questions raised by such an undertaking.


Long panel abstract Since 2015, under the coordination of the convenors of the panel, a large group of around 70 French and international scholars have been working on the conception and redaction of an Encyclopaedic Dictionary of South Asian Literatures (French DELI: Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Littératures de l’Inde) designed to be freely available on an online digital platform, besides the publication of a “companion book”.
The scope of the dictionary is quite wide as it intends to deal with all kinds of literature produced in the Indian subcontinent from the Vedic hymns onwards and to acquaint the general reader with literary cultures, authors, works, genres, notions and institutions of the area. However in addition to its sheer size, the conception and the preparation of this dictionary raise a number of important epistemological, methodological and practical questions. The foremost aim of this panel is to highlight and discuss these questions with the academic South Asianist community after an initial presentation by the convenors of the general framework and stage of advancement of the DELI project. The main questions we want to engage with are:
- the importance of interdisciplinarity in such a dictionary;
- the delimitation of “South Asian” literatures;
- the challenge of writing the literary history of a multilingual area;
- the difficulties in establishing the definite list of entries of the dictionary;
- the ways to use digital humanities to circulate reliable information on South Asian literatures for a wide audience.