Wednesday, October 28, 2020

From Malabar to Coromandel — The Future of Deccan Heritage, Art and Culture 

The pandemic has been brutal, nowhere more than India, but one small benefit has been the number of online meetings that have been available for wider participation. I'm still sad that Madison had to be cancelled, and truly disappointed that the SAH annual conference in Seattle was cancelled in March. But I've been able to listen to a lot of lectures and presentations I would have otherwise missed if all meetings had been held in person.

This is just to say: this webinar series from the Deccan Heritage Foundation looks amazing.

From Malabar to Coromandel — The Future of Deccan Heritage, Art and Culture

Seminars and lectures co-organized by the Deccan Heritage Foundation, the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge, and the HH Sri Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar Foundation, Mysore, presenting the pioneering work of scholars in various cultural fields from both the Northern and Southern Deccan regions of India.


November 13th at 13.00 GMT
Pushkar Sohoni (IISER Pune), The Architecture of a Deccan Sultanate: Courtly Practice and Royal Authority in Late Medieval India. Discussants: Marika Sardar (Aga Khan Museum) and Vivek Gupta (University of Cambridge) (Book Discussion)

November 27th at 13.00 GMT
George Michell (Architectural Historian, DHF) "Art and Architecture of the Badami Chalukyas"

• December 11th at 16.00 GMT
Richard M. Eaton (University of Arizona) India in the Persianate Age: 1000—1765
Discussants: Alka Patel (UC Irvine) and Roy Fischel (SOAS, University of London) (Book Discussion)   

December 18th at 13.00 GMT
Annapurna Garimella (Art, Resources and Teaching Trust) "The Square and the Rectangle: Design Transformations and Architectural Renovation between the 14th-16th Centuries in Vijayanagara"

January 8th at 13.00 GMT
Emma Flatt (UNC Chapel Hill) The Courts of the Deccan Sultanates: Living Well in the Persian Cosmopolis
Discussants: Evrim Binbaş (University of Bonn) and Subah Dayal (NYU Gallatin) (Book Discussion)

January 22nd at 16.00 GMT
Anna Lise Seastrand (University of Minnesota)"Image and Imagination: Wall Paintings in Early Modern Southern India"

MARCH 2021
March 5th at 13.00 GMT
Evrim Binbaş (University of Bonn) "The Idea of Sacral Kingship between Islamic and Turco-Mongol Concepts of Politics"

To learn more, visit the Deccan Heritage Foundation website ( or write to


South Indian Paintings

This is well outside my field of expertise, but this new resource for South Indian paintings seems like a nifty and necessary effort. Created by Anna L. Dallapiccola, John and Fausta Eskenazi, and Mr. C. Ganesan, this project documents South Indian murals (primarily in Tamil Nadu) that are threatened by vandalism and decay.

From the authors' description:

"We would like to share this collection of splendid murals with as many fellow enthusiasts, students, scholars, and travellers, as possible. The aim of this documentation is not only to provide a tool for further research on South Indian painting, but mainly to make the art world aware of this endangered cultural heritage and to encourage not only scholarship, but also restoration and conservation works."

See more at South Indian Paintings (


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Surviving the Pandemic in South Asia

Surviving the Pandemic in South Asia: A Panel Discussion with Anita Patil-Deshmukh, PUKAR; Imran Ahmed, Shakti Foundation, and Usman Javed, Mazdoor Dhaba

On Monday, September 28, at 9 a.m. EDT, the Rutgers South Asian Studies Program is hosting an event on COVID-19 in South Asia, with presentations from NGO leaders working with those most affected by the pandemic. Anita Patil-Deshmukh from PUKAR (Mumbai), Imran Ahmed from the Shakti Foundation (Dhaka), and Usman Jawed from Mazdoor Dhaba (Delhi) will speak, followed by a Q&A session.

For more information, see

To register to attend, see


Partha Chatterjee: A Relativist View of the Indian Nation


Professor Partha Chatterjee will be speaking as part of the Rutgers AMESALL Distinguished Lecture Series, on Friday, October 09, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. EDT.

Talk abstract: Research in the last three decades on the print literatures in the various Indian languages has revealed that the consciousness of the people as constituting a nation was deeply grounded in the emergence in the 19th and 20th centuries of the regional vernaculars as standardized print languages. But the identity of the people-nation in each region had constituent features that were not the same everywhere. At the same time, the identity of a linguistic community as a people was located within a larger identity of belonging to the Indian nation. This paper argues that while there is a real construct of the Indian nation, it looks different when viewed from the perspective of each regional language. There is no language-neutral perspective available. Hence, one must accept a relativist view of the Indian nation.

For more information, see or contact Prof. Preetha Mani (

Friday, July 24, 2020

Affected by Landslides: PhD Research in Kalimpong District

View of Kalimpong hills
Hills of Kalimpong.
Image credit: Anuj Kumar Pradhan

According to an article in the July 22nd issue of India Today, 27 people have lost their lives in landslides in Darjeeling and Kalimpong Districts. Searching for more information took me to Peter McGowran's discussion of his PhD research on the topic. This is an area about which I know little, so I enjoyed reading it (as much as one can enjoy reading about preventable deaths).

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

STS Research, COVID-19, the Global South

This is a bit belated, but I just found this discussion between editors/assistant editors at Backchannels. Gloria Baigorrotegui (Santiago), Amanda Domingues (New York), Joseph Satish Vedanayagam (Hyderabad), María Elissa Torres Carrasco (Cuenca), Olusegun Alonge (Berlin), and Xan Chacko (Meanjin/Brisbane) share their thoughts on the pandemic and scientific research.

"Silence is key to continue breathing."

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A Real Threat to Research and Safety

Any woman* considering dissertation research in India should read Audrey Truschke's recent essay** and take it seriously. As a scholar working in science studies, cultural heritage management, and architectural/landscape history, I've run up against the limits of what can be said without threat of a masculinist Hindutva retaliation. While my personal safety has never been threatened (that I know of), I have certainly done a lot of self-censoring when applying for visas, pursuing certain research topics, and publishing on certain topics. I thought long and hard before publishing my article on Ayodhya, and I had to take multiple deep breaths before publishing an article that undermines the myth of Jaipur as a Hindu city (city plan).

My dissertation research will probably never make it into book form, but that may be just as well, as interpreting Jai Singh's observatories as sites of an exclusively Hindu science is just not possible. Certainly earlier Hindu/Sanskrit texts played a role, especially early in Jai Singh's explorations, but arguably, Islamic and then European texts were more important during the era of design and construction.

I don't know what kind of risk I'd be willing to assume to see my book published. Professionally, I'm not dependent on it for promotion and advancement, so having my book pulped like Wendy Doniger's wouldn't necessarily hurt my career. But it would hurt personally, tremendously, beyond what I could express.

Knowing the problem is the first step: be aware of what's going on. Solving the problem is the second, third, fourth, and fifth step. Men, support your more vulnerable colleagues at home and in the field. Think about how networks that are so valuable to your research may be failing to help your female colleagues. If your voice is being heard, use it for change. Listen to the women with whom you work.

*Really, this warning is for everyone working in South Asian studies, but women, trans, and non-binary people are definitely more at personal risk.

**Thank you to the scholar who shared this essay via the ACSAA network this morning.

Friday, July 3, 2020

AIIS Digital Scholarshipt Grants

Reposted from the American Institute of Indian Studies:

The American Institute of Indian Studies is pleased to announce the launch of its Digital India Learning (DIL) initiative and invites proposals that demonstrate a sustained use of digital methodology and resources in the exploration of a research topic focused on India. AIIS welcomes projects at all stages of development, including pilots at a preliminary stage of conception, that foster the digital production and dissemination of knowledge about India; that promote the creation and use of digital resources and media for the study of India; and that promote digital collaboration across disciplines including, and especially, between the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. Award funds can be used to supplement current projects supported by other grants, but the budget should clearly explain what portion of the project will be supported by the AIIS award.  Award funds may not be used exclusively for hosting a conference or workshop, but convenings that are necessary to help advance a project are allowed if the purpose is explained in the narrative. Anticipated outcomes may include but are not limited to digital material and publications, reports, teaching resources, online exhibits, digital infrastructure, and software.

AIIS is offering two grants, each for $12,500. A proposal for a project can be submitted by one principal investigator applicant or a team of two or more principal investigators in collaboration. Projects do not need to involve travel to India. Eligible applicants include faculty, as well as non-faculty professionals at institutions of higher education in the United States. Applicants from community colleges, Minority Serving Institutions, and institutions which do not have established South Asian studies programs are especially encouraged to apply.

Applicants should submit their application in the form of a single pdf, by email to The application deadline is September 15, 2020.

When COVID-19 Impacts your PhD Fieldwork

Ru-Yin Lu was conducing Ph.D. research in Arunachal Pradesh when the pandemic made itself known. When do you decide to leave a research site? How do you decide to leave?

A brief aside: I was studying Russian at Leningrad (St. Petersburg) State University when the the U.S. shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf. It was an anxiety-ridden time for me--it was difficult to get news or hear any commentary that wasn't drenched in Cold War rhetoric. There was no easy way to contact family or friends in the U.S. I imagine those Soviet days = Stage 1 of what this scholar experienced. No easy thing.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Making of Modern Physics in Colonial India

Here is an exciting new book! Why this book excites me: while these scientists aren't unknown to other physicists, they are not very often the focus of English-medium (Eurocentric) text books, despite the cosmopolitan, transnational practice of science. Having typed that sentence, perhaps we can say that Bose is the exception, though it is more because of the pairing of his name with Einstein's. (How many Americans know who Raman is, despite the Nobel Prize?) I suspect fans of early quantum physics, but I'm more interested in the sustenance of "Indian science" under a colonial government.

The Making of Modern Physics in Colonial India
Somaditya Banerjee
ISBN 9781472465535
Routledge, May 26, 2020
Hardcover, 202 pages

From the publisher:

"This monograph offers a cultural history of the development of physics in India during the first half of the twentieth century, focusing on Indian physicists Satyendranath Bose (1894-1974), Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (1888-1970) and Meghnad Saha (1893-1956). The analytical category "bhadralok physics" is introduced to explore how it became possible for a highly successful brand of modern science to develop in a country that was still under colonial domination. The term Bhadralok refers to the then emerging group of native intelligentsia, who were identified by academic pursuits and manners. Exploring the forms of life of this social group allows a better understanding of the specific character of Indian modernity that, as exemplified by the work of bhadralok physicists, combined modern science with indigenous knowledge in an original program of scientific research.

The three scientists achieved the most significant scientific successes in the new revolutionary field of quantum physics, with such internationally recognized accomplishments as the Saha ionization equation (1921), the famous Bose-Einstein statistics (1924), and the Raman Effect (1928), the latter discovery having led to the first ever Nobel Prize awarded to a scientist from Asia. This book analyzes the responses by Indian scientists to the radical concept of the light quantum, and their further development of this approach outside the purview of European authorities. The outlook of bhadralok physicists is characterized here as "cosmopolitan nationalism," which allows us to analyze how the group pursued modern science in conjunction with, and as an instrument of Indian national liberation."

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

South Asian Newspapers at the Library of Congress

Gujarātī [microform] = The Gujarati
Cover of January 2, 1881 issue. 
Library of Congress Asian Division.

More from the Library of Congress:

The research guide for South Asian Newspapers at the LOC is now live.

The guide contains lists of more than 275 newspapers on microfilm in Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, and other South Asian languages that are available in the Asian Reading Room, as well as English newspapers from South Asia in the Newspaper and Current Periodicals Reading Room.

This guide was produced by the Asian Division's South Asia reference staff, along with Andrew Kerr, a volunteer working with the South Asian collection during the spring of 2019, and Iris Yellum, Library of Congress Junior Fellow during the summer of 2019.