Fall 2012 Lecture Series
India House is located at 825 E. 8th Street (corner of 8th and Woodlawn). Contact us at India@indiana.edu or 812.855.5798
As always, the Dhar India Studies Program's Fall 2012 Lecture Series events are free, and open to the public.
Davesh Soneji, McGill University
Thursday, September 13, 5:00-6:30 pm
The Powers of Polyglossia: The Memory of Marathi Kirtan in Tamil Brahmin Bhajana Practices
Marathi Varkari and Ramdasi kirtan was brought to Tamil-speaking South India during the earliest phases of the establishment of Maratha power in Thanjavur at the end of the seventeenth century. These practices survived largely through institutions known as Ramdasi maths in Thanjavur city and nearby Mannargudi, which received patronage from Brahmin Marathas in the region and also from the Thanjavur court itself. In this presentation, I consider the process by which Marathi kirtan was “indigenized” by the Tamil smarta Brahmin community in Thanjavur by focusing on the development of a uniquely cosmopolitan practice that today is known as “bhajana sampradaya.” The codification of this multilingual, hybrid musical practice was no doubt a mirroring of the Thanjavur court’s own culture of literary polyglossia, and indeed Sadguru Svami of Marudanallur (1776-1817), a founding figure of the Tamil smarta Brahmin bhajana tradition, is popularly believed to have initiated King Serfoji II into this practice. This paper focuses on how Tamil Brahmin music traditions mediate the presence and meaning of Varkari and Ramdasi kirtan in modern South India. The songs of Namdev, Chokhamela, Tukaram, Janabai, Samarth Ramdas and others are brought into a world of not only uniquely “South Indian” ragas and singing-styles, but also into a the distinct ritual and mnemonic culture of Tamil Brahmins that includes life-cycle events, temple-style domestic puja, purity laws, and contemporary identity politics. Today, the memory of Marathi kirtan is put to the service of the public identity of segments of the Tamil Brahmin community, largely through one of the community’s most cherished expressive forms, namely “classical Karnatak” music, fully inflected with all its nationalist socio-historical resonances. I argue that the making of modern Karnatak music and the caste-based aesthetic it engenders cannot be disassociated from its Marathi kirtan and bhajana roots. I propose a complex genealogy for Karnatak music that foregrounds the co-opting of Marathi musical and literary traditions and takes seriously the powers of polyglossia in the world of Brahmin music.
Lisa Trivedi, Hamilton College
Thursday, September 20, 5:00-6:30 pm
In 1934, Mridula Sarabhai, the daughter of one of Ahmedabad's mill owning families and only 24 at the time, founded a women's organization called the Jyoti Sangh. While inaugurating the Sangh, Gandhi expressed his hope that the organization might "...spread light into the homes of the poor." The Jyoti Sangh devoted significant attention to creating educational and vocational opportunities for women, and sponsored a weekly magazine that took up issues of a more radical nature. In 1937, the Jyoti Sangh commissioned an Ahmedabad-based photographer, Pranlal Patel, to take photos of 'women working'. This remarkable collection of nearly seventy photos is the focus of a paper which seeks to understand how the Jyoti Sangh and Pranlal Patel saw women at work. Aside from the way Patel captured very ordinary aspects of their lives--the enterprises through which working women survived--the photographs themselves are an important as a material product both of philanthropy and photography in the period. They are also an important material artifact unto themselves: one conceived, shaped, and created by women philanthropists, a photographer, and the working women who participated in the photographic process which we may view today.
Shalini Ayyagari, American University
Thursday, September 27, 5:00-6:30 pm
Performing Tradition and Selling Seduction: The Staging and Performance of Heredity Musician Community from Rajasthan, India
This talk seeks to explore the relationships between music, place, and seduction through the analysis of one staged performance of Manganiyar musicians. The Manganiyar are a community of hereditary musicians hailing from the Thar Desert region of Rajasthan, India. Members of the Manganiyar community are considered bearers of tradition through their mastery of a large repository of customary musical repertoire. They are now performing outside of their more ceremonial contexts on concert stages worldwide. One such performance, “Manganiyar Seduction,” is an internationally touring performance featuring fifty musicians seated in stacked cubicles adorned with red curtains framed by naked light bulbs. The director describes the show as the commingling of Manganiyar traditional music with the Red Light District of Amsterdam. What then do seduction, gendering, place, and Indian musical tradition have to do with each other? Through ethnographic interviews, analysis of staging, and readings of concert reviews, this talk engages performance as a method of analysis, calling into question notions of both tradition and seduction and what messages are conveyed through their performances.
Pika Ghosh, University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill
Thursday, October 4, 5:00-6:30 pm
Rasa, Reveries, and Revelations: Imagery and Devotional Practice in the Courtyards of Seventeenth-Century Bengali Temples
Rasa, the emotional response evoked by a work of art undergirds a complex devotional aesthetic formulated in sixteenth century north India to experience the beloved god Krishna, intensely, intimately, and viscerally. At this time, the Gaudiya Vaishnava movement, led by the charismatic Bengali saint Chaitanya (1486-1533), swept north India and Bengal to the east, in a frenzy of passionate song, dance, and worship. These practices centered on Krishna as the supreme reality, and explored the nuances and complexities of his relationship with his beloved, Radha. These expressions thereby also created the conditions by which the divine love affair could be rekindled by the worshipper, potentially transforming him or her into a participant in the love play of the gods. Through such roles, devotees imaginatively experienced particular emotional states as pathways to union with the divine. My paper seeks to locate the lavish sculptural surfaces of seventeenth-century Bengali temples in this performative environment. I explore the processes whereby imagery could have served as triggers to stimulate the charged experiences described in contemporary texts.
Rashed Uz Zaman, Dhaka University/Vanderbilt University
Thursday, October 18, 5:00-6:30 pm
Peacekeeping Missions and Civil-Military Relations: A Case Study of Bangladesh
It has been nearly a quarter of a century since Bangladesh Armed Forces first embarked on peacekeeping missions. Since then, Bangladesh, a country usually known for natural disasters, political instability and economic woes have played a consistent and important role in maintaining international peace and stability under the auspices of the United Nations. Indeed, today Bangladesh is identified as one of the top troop-contributing countries. Bangladesh’s participation in UN peace missions has been brought about by economic, political and normative reasons. However, the benefits accrued from such missions have also raised important questions about the nature of civil-military relations in the country, the orientation of the armed forces and governance issues. While Bangladesh deservedly basks in the glory of its achievement it should not ignore the important challenges brought on by its participation in peace missions.
One such challenge is the issue of Bangladesh Army’s participation in UN peace missions and its implication for civil-military relations in Bangladesh. The issue is a critical one for it was the perceived fear of UN peace missions “drying up” which was used as a rationale for the military-supported interim government’s hiatus in Bangladesh’s politics during 2007-2009. Since then the country has seen the restoration of democracy but critical questions remain about the role of the military in Bangladesh’s domestic politics. Moreover, the issue of civilian control over the military still remains problematic. Traditional theories of civil-military relations as espoused by Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz nearly sixty years ago still influence the way Bangladeshi scholars contemplate civil-military relations in the country.
This paper argues that challenges thrown up by Bangladesh Army’s participation in UN missions calls for a different theoretical premise for explaining civil-military relations in Bangladesh.
Mina Rajagopalan, University of Pittsburgh
Thursday, October 25, 5:00-6:30 pm
co-sponsored by The Indiana University Islamic Studies Program
Stones, Stories, and Science: The Modern Excavations of Delhi's Ancient Origins
In the mid-nineteenth century, Delhi’s past received much publicity through the modern practices of urban history and archaeology. Imperial organizations such as the Royal Asiatic Society, inspired resident scholars of Delhi to offer new urban histories that combined scientific data with long-standing traditions of historical narration. For instance, an 1847 Urdu publication titled Asar-us-Sanadid, submitted a history of Delhi that was part imperial geneaology and part architectural survey. Authored by Syed Ahmad Khan, the Asar-us-Sanadid was praised by several members of the Royal Asiatic Society for its wealth of epigraphic information and scientific data culled from the monuments of the city. The positive response to the first edition of the book led Syed Ahmad Khan to publish another edition in 1854, which simplified the ornate language of the first edition and reinforced the scientific nature of the history through citations. One of Khan’s central claims was that the origins of Delhi stretched several centuries before the beginning of the Common Era and that the city had served as the capital for Hindu empires long before the arrival of the Sultanate rulers in the 12th century.
The establishment of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1861, and the efforts by colonial authorities to preserve India’s architectural heritage was an additional process by which Delhi’s history was calcified through its monuments. Colonial archaeologists like Alexander Cunningham pressed the urgent need for institutionalized archaeology in India, on the basis that Indian histories were largely unreliable and monuments were the only stable texts that offered factual data regarding the past. The fetishization of the monument as the purveyor of historical truths, has endured in the postcolonial era where archaeology continues to service particular imaginations of the past in contemporary India.
This presentation offers a history of the processes through which the Purana Qila—a sixteenth-century fort in Delhi—has deliberately as well as unexpectedly been appropriated to service various origin myths of the city as well as the larger nation of India. I will trace the modern history of the Purana Qila from its representation in the Asar-us-Sanadid as the capital of a mythical Hindu empire, to Cunningham’s pleas to preserve the structure as an important example of early Mughal history, to its unexpected use as a refugee camp in 1947, and finally to archaeological efforts in the 1960s to uncover a mythical Hindu city at the same site. This investigation of the Purana Qila reveals the multiple fabrications of Delhi’s antiquated past and the crucial role that monuments have played in establishing and maintaining particular regimes of historical truths.
Steve Raymer, IUB School of Journalism
Thursday, November 1, 5:00-6:30 pm
Presentation and Book Release Party for Redeeming Calcutta
Redeeming Calcutta: A Portrait of India's Imperial Capital takes an original look at one of
Asia's great cities, a metropolis of hope and decay that was once the Second City of the
British Empire after London. In this storied colonial metropolis, National Geographic
photographer and educator Steve Raymer discovers a city of high culture, leftist politics,
and ambitions to reclaim its past grandeur. Raymer's compelling photographs, coupled
with a timely and detailed text, paint an inclusive and nuanced portrait of Calcutta, a
city long neglected by Western journalists except for its poverty and sorrow.
In the popular imagination, Calcutta is a city of filth, disease, and misery. But there is
more to Calcutta than its destitute millions, a theme reinforced by Raymer's choice of
title. Over six reporting trips, Raymer has discovered the many faces of Calcutta— the
decrepit colonial relic and a modernizing Indian metropolis, a place where poverty and
inequality coexist with increasing prosperity and an expanding middle class, a city that
takes pride in its architecture, public spaces, and exceptional character, as well as its
artistic and intellectual achievements, including five Nobel prize winners. Capital of the
British Raj until 1911, the Calcutta of Raymer's text and photographs is a place of
considerable beauty, charm, and intrigue, whose citizens today possess an infectious joie de vivre for high culture, political debate, and, increasingly, making money.
Stuart Corbridge, London School of Economics-UK
Thursday, November 8, 5:00-6:30 pm
Can the poor demand and control their own schools, and does it matter? Evidence from Madhya Pradesh, India
Using panchayat and Block-level data from three field sites in Madhya Pradesh, India, we observe that Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) schools perform about as well as local government schools in most respects. The mechanisms which lead to these outcomes, however, are far removed from those advanced by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, or by proponents of 'effective decentralization'. Information about the EGS is incomplete and asymmetrical and school oversight institutions are dominated by local 'big men'. Civil society is far less developed than political society. Local gurujis [para teachers] work hard mainly in the hope of winning permanent government jobs and to satisfy local patrons. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation
to institutionalist theories and public policy.
Sadanand Dhume, American Enterprise Institute
Thursday, November 29, 5:00-6:30 pm
Is India an Anglosphere Power?
Trade, people to people ties, the spread of English and shared challenges from authoritarian China and Islamist terrorism mean India's future lies in a close partnership with the "Anglosphere" in general and the US in particular. This does not mean abandoning the traditional Indian foreign policy concept of "strategic autonomy," but, rather, reinterpreting it. At the same time, it will require India to desist from reinventing the failed doctrine of nonalignment under the rubric of BRICS. (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa.)