Conference Schedule

Thursday, April 21

9:00-9:45 Coffee and Registration
Rm. 1610

9:45-10:00 Opening Remarks
Rm. 1606

10:00-11:15 Plenary Session: Peter Hudis, Loyola University of Chicago
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Marx and Luxemburg on India
The dramatic changes occurring throughout the world, as many make their voice heard for democracy, sustainable development, and economic equality, makes this a vital moment to explore the similarities and differences between Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg’s analyses of social relations in India. Both were intensely critical of the impact of capital accumulation and imperialism upon non-capitalist and developing societies, and both expressed admiration for pre-capitalist, communal formations in India especially. Although many discussions of Marx focus on a handful of articles written by him in the early 1850s, a proper evaluation of his work depends upon assessing his many writings on the subject, especially composed in the last two decades of his life, in which he deepened his understanding of South Asia. And although Luxemburg’s writings on India are rarely examined at all, they contain critical insights regarding the impact of wage labor, commodification, and monetary relations upon non-Western societies. This paper will explore the contemporary importance of these two figures by analyzing their differing estimations of the emancipatory potential found in Indian civilization.

11:30-12:45 Panel Sessions
1) Fiction, Memory and Revolution
Rm. 1604
Moderator: Marian Staats
Donovan Braud, Oakton Community College
Using the Naxalite Movement as a Critical Entry Point: Two Suggestions
This paper will explore two ways in which the Naxalite movement can serve as a critique of the dominant received narrative about India’s place as a growing economic superpower and the “world’s largest democracy.” The combination of these two terms in contemporary western narratives construct an image of India’s citizens as willing participants in the global economic system and totalizes democracy as the only response to social inequality by ignoring the continued significance of the insurgency in India’s so-called “red corridor.” To counter these narratives and complicate students’ received wisdom about the socio-political situation in contemporary India, I will use critical analysis of the Naxalite insurgency’s continuing significance, theoretical underpinnings, and legitimate grievances as a basis for sections of a composition course, and the construction of Naxalism as a political identity in a postcolonial literature course.
Kirsty Montgomery, University of Chicago
Disciplined History vs. Popular Memory: The Writing of History in South Asia 1800 to the present
What is the connection between history and memory in South Asia? This paper will discuss the historical background to this dichotomy: first of all, the institutionalization of history as an Enlightenment project, and the degree to which the discipline of history carried authority in the colonial period; second, the impulses to history and memory - or truth and myth - in the twentieth century; and finally, the convergence of the two from the 1960s onwards. After giving some historical context, this paper will then consider the historical method, and the oral tradition of storytelling specific to India. Does the scientific method of history writing privilege oral traditions prevailing in South Asian societies, and if so, why? By utilizing the work of scholars such as Nandy, Mayaram, Kar, Narayan and Chakrabarty and the memory text by Dalit G. Kalyana Rao, this paper will argue that due to the complex, shifting relationship between the individual and the state in South Asia, it is practically impossible to separate the two.

2) Diaspora and Digital Humanities: Building the South Asian-American Digital Archive
Rm. 1608
Moderator: John Stryker
Samip Mallick, Librarian, University of Chicago
Manan Desai, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
The rise of the digital humanities and the growing presence of digital historical archives provide exciting opportunities for the fields of South Asian and South Asian American studies.This talk will showcase the current collections of the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA;, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and providing access to materials from the South Asian American diaspora.In the spirit of the conference, we will discuss goals and challenges to integrating the archive into the classroom.How might SAADA encourage students to participate in constructing new South Asian American collections?How might a digital archive of this sort bridge links to the community outside of the ivory tower?

12:45 – 2:00 Lunch (ticket required)
Rm. 1610

2:00-3:15 Plenary Session: Shefali Chandra, Washington University, St. Louis
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“India Will Change You Forever”: Whiteness, Exceptionalism and the Affective Front since 9/11
In this talk, I seek to situate India’s relationship to globalization by bridging scholarship on US imperialism with transnational feminism. I argue for an appreciation of the ‘manifest sentimentality’ that coheres the relationship between femininity, whiteness, American exceptionalism and Hindu culture since 9/11. My specific interest here will be to discuss how to use a specific genre for the high-school and undergraduate classroom: the mass produced, female-authored memoirs of the past decade. The works I analyze present ‘India’ as the solution for an uncontainable, metropolitan, misery. I delve into the narrative strategies of individualism and self-control spawned by these neo-imperial, spiritual journeys to India, and the manner by which ‘India’ reforms the white woman and makes her fit to ‘return’ to neo-liberalism. The paper will delve into topics on transnational whiteness, the long history of the American relationship with Hindu India, and the necessarily triangulated relationship between Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.

3:30 – 4:45 Panel Sessions
1) Workshop on “Fiction: A Window on Diversity in South Asia”
Rm. 1604
Moderator: Lynn Woodbury
Basanti Bannerji , Indo-American Heritage Museum
Dorothie Shah, Indo-American Heritage Museum
South Asian and Indian American authors provide insights into the diverse culture of a complex area of the world. Writing in English, a heritage of British colonial rule, these writers offer readers portrayals of wealth and power, abject poverty and middle class struggle, betrayal and revenge, family connections and individual independence, routines of daily life and the impact of world shattering events. An overview of an annotated bibliography of select works will provide an introduction to an abundance of remarkable fiction. Discussion of brief excerpts will illustrate merits of utilizing literature to augment other materials in teaching about South Asia.

2) Dimensions of Pakistani History
Rm. 1608
Moderator: Richard Stacewicz
Umar Riaz, Syracuse University, NY
Six Decades of Pakistan: From Compromise to Ideology
This paper explores the transition of Pakistan, a country that came into being as a compromise between the disparate actors in British India, from a security/bureaucratic state into an ideological one. The ideological drift towards radicalism not only coincides with major international events but seem to be heavily influenced by the role of external powers especially the United States. The shift towards exclusiveness in the last decade has been adopted with enthusiasm by the influential news media and an assertive judiciary, further marginalizing the progressive voices. The paper concludes that external interventions have acted as a catalyst during this transition and resulted in more polarization.
Syed Minhaj ul Hassan, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
Unification of West Pakistan Provinces: A Case Study of the Struggle Between Establishment and the People
Unification of West Pakistan provinces was initiated in 1954 in the First Constituent Assembly. The idea was supposedly conceived by the establishment and the politicians of Punjab. All other provinces opposed the unification, but since the Punjab and establishment wanted it, they unified the provinces and called it West Pakistan Province. The merger had internal and external opposition. Internally the nationalist leaders of East Bengal, Sind, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and Baluchistan vehemently opposed it. Externally Afghanistan strongly reacted which even led to the rupture of diplomatic relations. The Province continued to work till November 1969 when finally President Yahya khan dissolved it.

4:45 – 5:30 Coffee Break
Rm. 1610

Rm. 1606

Manan Ahmed, Freie Universiatat Berlin
Discipline and Pakistan: Pakistan Studies in the U.S.
The post-World War II construction of Area Studies programs and the wide funding of "critical" languages and knowledges in American academia have received significant attention from scholars such as Nicholas Dirks, Bruce Cumings or Timothy Mitchell. The collective decision of the American academy to seek a comfortably cozy role alongside national and state interests has been duly criticized and re-examined since. However, what is less commonly remarked upon is how the very contours of specific knowledges constructed about a specific site were deeply shaped and influenced by geo-strategic goals and national- frameworks. Taking my site of focus as the study of Pakistan, from the 1950s onward, I will show the successive knowledge-paradigms that have dominated the production of dissertations, committees, working groups, and policy recommendations.

Friday, April 22

9:00 – 10:00 Coffee and Registration
Rm. 1610

10:00-11:15 Plenary: Nitasha Sharma, Northwestern University, Chicago
Rm. 1606

Teaching Diasporic Desis Critically: Comparative, Ethnographic, and Ethnic Studies Approaches to the South Asian Diaspora
Desi students often engage their burgeoning ethnic identity by taking South Asian Studies courses rather than those offered in Ethnic Studies. Asian American, Latino/a, Native American, and African American Studies are rooted in the analysis of race and inequality in the U.S. and formed as a result of student-led demands for representation within the university curriculum. Despite their general disinterest, desi students can further understand their politics, location, and experiences through this race-based pedagogical perspective. Further, the growing area of comparative race studies highlights the impacts of inter-group relations while the subfield of South Asian American Studies can bridge traditional Area Studies and U.S.-based Ethnic Studies to highlight theories and practices of diaspora, transnationalism, and globalization. An ethnographic approach to the issues concerning South Asians in the diaspora, in both our research and as part of student learning, provides a particularly effective depiction of the aforementioned histories, processes, and perspectives.

11:30-12:45 Panel Sessions
1) Histories of Place and Space: The Local and the Global in South Asia
Rm. 1604
Moderator: Kirsty Montgomery
Julie Laut, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
Teaching Global South Asias: Re-Conceptualizing a Global History of South Asia Through the Rubric of Mobility
Rather than a geographically bound history, “Global South Asias” takes in a variety of locations around the globe. South Asia in this conceptualization acts not as a solidly geographical, political, or cultural center, but as a point of multiple references—a place left, returned to, or traveled through; an idea, an inspiration, or simply a memory. Drawing on South Asian Studies, women and gender studies, Indian Ocean World, post-colonial studies, and new imperial histories, Global South Asias engages ideas, people, texts, and discourse that traveled along diverse and incomplete global circuits during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though some of these circuits resemble those of empire, Global South Asias begins to reveal multiple circuits that existed before, after, inside, outside, and some times in spite of empire. This approach works to de-center not only the nation-state, but also the empire-state through an acknowledgement of the multiplicities and instabilities that disrupt power structures’ desired hegemony.

Maria Ritzema, University of Illinois—Chicago
Origin Myths and Objective History: Problems in Teaching
Teaching South Asian history as a white female offers challenges. Another challenge to overcome is myths that people hold about South Asia. How to present the material in class without being questioned on its or my own legitimacy sometimes comes up early on in the class. The origin myth is probably the largest myth that people hold about themselves or their ethnic group. I will use the Sinhalese origin myth as an archetype of the South Asian origin myth. The origin myth is often times conflated with ethnic nationalism which “essentializes tradition” according to Chatterjee. It is when myths are written as historical fact that they become a challenge for the teacher of history. Separating myth from fact can be difficult and is sometimes painful for the student. Many do not want these myths disputed. It is my job to present the historical interpretations and then support them with evidence.

2) The Adaptation of Bharatnatyam Pedagogy from Master-Disciple Relationship to University Major
Rm. 1608
Moderator: Kathleen Carot
Mark Kittlaus, Shenandoah Conservatory, Winchester, VA
Krithika Rajagopalan, Natya Dance Theater, Chicago
As a result of fast-paced improvements in technology, the ease of world-wide travel, and global economic and humanitarian interdependency the world is a smaller place. Universities in the United States are keeping pace through a rising commitment to create “global citizens” of their students. Rapidly disappearing from many fields of study are such distinctions as western and non-western traditions. In light of growing and overlapping diasporas, the best suited of these same universities will soon endeavor to develop majors programs in significant performance traditions from around the world. Bharatanatyam from India is ideally positioned to serve as both harbinger and paradigm for this movement. This paper and discussion, based on a current dissertation study, will address and explore necessary participants, resources, international models, and ethical considerations for such an academic appropriation.

1:00-2:00 Lunch (ticket required)
Rm. 1610

2:00-3:15 Invited Speakers
1) Invited from India: P. Thirumal, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India
Rm. 1608
On Constituting Print Areas Heritage: New Approaches to Teaching Media History
This intervention is a brief enquiry on the subject, pedagogy and aesthetics of teaching media history in journalism departments in India. Media history as ‘history of press’ is being taught as political history in state-run journalism departments across the country. The course material for this subject is drawn from textbooks that were commissioned by the Federal State or the Provincial state immediately after Independence. With Said’s intervention and the formation of subaltern Studies Collective in the 1980s, the potential for reading media and literary history as cultural history appeared and has been likewise practiced in a few elite institutions in the last decade or so. More recently, a more nuanced reading of print history and its negotiations with pre-print literary cultures and mnemonic technologies, extending from 1600-1800 has been put forward and this has yet to be made part of media history.

2) Demonstration/Lecture: Ahalya Satkunaratnam, Northeastern Illinois University
Rm. 1606
Questioning the Classical: Examining South Asia critically through dance
This workshop-presentation explores the ways in which South Asian dance, a commonly accepted representation of the “ancient” and “spiritual” identity of South Asia, can be examined critically to offer teachers and students much more. In this workshop, we will explore the contested histories of South Asian dance, specifically Bharata Natyam practice, its gendered and classed significances, and investigate its connection to American dance and identity. We will explore how South Asian dance is ultimately a contemporary practice. We will be talking and moving in this workshop.

3:30-4:45 Panel Sessions

1) Implementing a Critical South Asian History Survey Course: A Roundtable Discussion
Rm. 1604
Moderator: Michael Mundt
Brian Caton, Luther College
Jayanta Sengupta, Nortre Dame University
John Pincince, Loyola University Chicago
In the past ten years, courses in South Asian history have proliferated at higher education institutions of all shapes and sizes, and by far the most common of these courses is the introductory survey. However, for structural or pedagogical reasons, even the survey varies. This roundtable brings together scholars from institutions of different sizes and missions to begin a discussion toward a consensus regarding the South Asian history survey. We will briefly report on the state of the survey at our respective institutions and begin the forward-thinking discussion by raising questions in three areas: audience, institution, and content.
Although teachers do find exceptions often enough, the majority of students in South Asia survey courses enroll for one semester only, and often in order to complete an institution-wide general education requirement or a requirement within a History or Asian Studies major. Given the “one and done” nature of the audience, would a single-semester survey serve this audience better? If a two-semester survey is better, how can we justify a sequence that few students complete? What assumptions can we make about students’ prior knowledge or stereotypes about South Asia before the beginning of the course? How much detail is enough for an adequate education in South Asian history, and how much is too much?
The priorities of institutions (in the form of departments, on the one hand, and of colleges and universities, on the other) tend to place some limits on the staffing and support of South Asian history courses. For example, if one’s position limits two courses per year devoted to South Asian history, does it serve students better for those courses to be a two-semester survey, or a one-semester survey and a one-semester upper-division course? If the survey is shared among staff, how might that staff achieve continuity? Given shrinking library budgets, how might teachers devise a means to point to or share internet-based secondary and primary sources?
Although the organization of course content tends to reflect the personality of the individual teacher, several questions should engage with current scholarship: is there a standard periodization, and are there better viable alternatives? Is it better to organize a course thematically rather than chronologically? How might one incorporate themes into a chronologically-based survey? To what extent can and should we incorporate historiographical debates? How can we avoid reproducing Orientalist and other essentialisms in the structure and content of our surveys? To what extent should we as teachers be explicit about our politics, and to what extent should we use our courses to lead students to our desired political ends? What might be the best balance of secondary and primary sources for assigned readings?

2) Darshan and the Gaze: Visual Culture and India
Rm. 1608
Moderator: Donovan Braud
Anil Lal, Oakton Community College
A prerequisite to the effective use of Indian film for neophytes to Indian culture in the undergraduate American classroom for historical and sociological and allied purposes lies in the specification of the theoretical differentia of the Indian film form from a dominant form of Hollywood film. In my remarks, I attempt to lay out some of the distinguishing features of the Indian film, with particular emphasis on how the notion of darshan can be mobilized to interrogate various theories of the gaze in film.
Hrishikesh Ingle, English and Foreign Language University, Hyderabad
New Independent Cinema of India : Addressing a Changing Ideology
In the last decade several independent films have made their mark in the main-stream Hindi film industry space (Bollywood) through realist films that interrogate and critique certain social spheres. These films have generated an alterity within the mainstream that can be thought of as contiguous on the erstwhile social-realist tendency of the ‘new cinema’ film-makers, and the opening up of the industry to new forms and issues. Marked by angst for contemporary political and social systems and a constant attempt to rework formulaic strategies of representation, this cinema has seen success both at the film festival circuit and the box office.
This cinema needs to be approached from a culturalist perspective. As the New Cinema Movement in the 1970s the current New Independent Cinema is a product of changed modes of production, thus bringing about an ideological change that embeds resistance into mainstream cinematic practices. The alternate space of this cinema generates a potent area of cultural negotiation where social reality, cinematic discourse, the demands of a changed market economy and independent commitment to resistance all come together to suggest a renewed active culturalist critical understanding. This paper concentrates on these aspects and brings to the front ways in which the New Independent Cinema can be accessible in the western classroom.

5:00 – 6:00 Wrap-Up Session
Rm. 1610