SACPAN 2023 Schedule with Abstracts
South Asia Conference of the Pacific Northwest 2023
DAY ONE | FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2023
12:30-1:00 PM REGISTRATION AND WELCOME ADDRESS |Anand Yang, University of Washington
1:00-2:30PM PANEL 1 | LABOR AND PRECARITY: GENDERED VOICES FROM A NEW GENERATION
Meghna Mohandas, University of British Columbia, “Private Space as Political ‘genderscape’: How Social and Political Contexts Shape the Rental Housing Experiences of Indigenous Migrant Women in Bengaluru, India”
For migrant communities, rental housing is an important infrastructure to establish themselves in new cities (Naik, 2015). However, for Indigenous migrant women from the Northeast Indian borderlands and Himalayan foothills who are employed as beauty parlour and spa workers in metropolitan cities in the mainland, their private rental houses are spaces where they experience racial harassment, sexual violence, and increased surveillance by landlords and neighbours (McDuie-Ra, 2013). Moral anxieties pertaining to their bodies have subjected them to ‘othering’ in urban India, which stems from abstract ideas of ‘citizenship’ and ‘belonging’ pertaining to racial identities in the mainland (Bora, 2019). This paper focuses specifically on how racialised and sexualised violence manifests inside their rental houses in Bengaluru. In addition to an asymmetric tenant-landlord relationship, hegemonic influence of Hindu nationalism has emboldened Hindu landlords and neighbours to perpetrate violence against people characterised as ‘threatening their culture’ (Das, 2006; Bernroider, 2018).
Meghna Amin, University of Washington, Seattle, Fulbright Visiting Scholar, “What Constitutes a Mogaveera Generation?”
This paper examines the intergenerational occupational shift among young Mogaveeras, who constitute the fishing community of coastal Karnataka in India. To this day, the older Mogaveeras continue to assert their identity in public by engaging in their caste-prescribed occupation of fishing. Despite the challenges involved, fishing remains a matter of pride and a source of sustenance for many of the older caste members. However, the younger Mogaveeras have been attempting to disassociate themselves from fishing. Stories of hardship narrated by their mother are pivotal in moulding newer aspirations. Long hours of work under the sun, unstable income, inconsistent fishing catches, and social stigma make recurring appearances in the life histories of the older Mogaveera women. But, despite an English education, the younger Mogaveeras are only sometimes successful in moving up the occupational ranks. Patriarchal gatekeeping reinforces traditional gender roles on them, compelling the young Mogaveera man back to the harbour to engage in fishing or allied activities. In the remote chance of a young Mogaveera woman returning to the fishing trade, she prefers to be employed in canning factories or fish processing units, away from the public eye. Based primarily on fieldwork and ethnographic narratives, the focus is on understanding how different generations of Mogaveeras are negotiating their relationships with fishing, which is their caste occupation.
Malvya Chintakindi, University of Oregon, “Informal Labor Blues: Gender, Caste and Development”
Focusing on gendered inequalities and development aspirations of marginalized women in the informal labor economy, this paper inquires at the intersection of gender, caste and class in the urban slum of Hyderabad, South India. This ethnographic research (2020-22) with Dalit (lowest caste) women engaged as domestic help, cleaners, cooks, and garland makers highlights the fragility of the informal sector and the coping mechanisms of Dalit women navigating multiple vulnerabilities. It also employs an interdisciplinary lens to viewing caste and labor-based inequalities from the vantage of anthropology and public policy. Through women’s unfulfilled dietary needs, their increased contribution to the household, and varied experiences of domestic violence, Chintakindi discusses the gendered effects of the pandemic and map the positively deviant narratives of resistance. Furthermore, their research delves into post-pandemic realities and development aspirations of Dalit women, the next generation within these settlements and contrasting notions of “progress” that are shaped by civil societies about them.
Moderator Anand Yang, University of Washington
2:45-4:15PM PANEL 2 | SOCIAL MEDIA, NETWORKING, AND DISSENT IN SOUTH ASIA
Nishat Parvez, University of Oregon, “Social Media and Political Influence: Analyzing the Use of Facebook by Political Parties in Bangladesh”
The study examines how political parties in Bangladesh utilize Facebook to influence public opinion. It focuses on the three major political parties in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL), Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP), and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and investigates how they engage with their followers on the platform. The research employs content analysis to evaluate the parties’ Facebook pages from December 2022 to January 2023, utilizing the agenda setting theory to understand the public agenda of these parties. Additionally, the study explores how the parties’ use of Facebook in terms of scale, information, and participation. The research establishes hypotheses on how content characteristics and frequencies impact user engagement and tests them through a quantitative content analysis. The study predicts a significant correlation between post frequency, tone, and engagement with followers.
Panch Sharma, University of Victoria, “Federal Emergency in South Asia: A Comparative Constitutional and Theoretical Investigation of Constitutional Machinery Failure in States/Provinces (Emergency) CMFE in South Asia”
Generally, constitutions contain explicit provisions for emergencies; however federal constitutions in South Asia have a unique and additional emergency provision namely Constitutional Machinery Failure in state(s) Emergency. CMFE is expressed under the head of emergency provisions in South Asian (federal) constitutions (India, Pakistan and Nepal) , which empowers the central executive to suspend the executive and legislative powers of the state(s) on the report of the Governor or otherwise. This power has been used quite frequently and arbitrarily; India and Pakistan have declared 145 CMFE proclamations since their independence, and Nepal has used it three times since its federal constitution in 2015. This essay conducts a comparative constitutional and theoretical investigation of CMFE to identify a definition of federal emergency and the principle of legality as a restraint on federal emergency powers in South Asia.
Anubha Anushree, Stanford University, “Between the Students and the States: JP Movement in 1974-1975”
This presentation examines the anti-corruption movement (Movement) in India in 1974-1975 to reflect on the various discourses of corruption, authenticity, and dissent that shaped the democratic evolution of the country. The 1974-75 Movement was critical in Indian history. Not only the Movement culminated in the imposition of Emergency, but the Movement also inaugurated the emergence of various orthogonal political energies in the subcontinent such as the right wing and lower caste groups. Scholars writing on the Movement often conflate the student-led Movement and the Jayaprakash Narayan Movement (JPM). This presentation disaggregates the two to reveal the generational and provisional shifts that conditioned the Movement. Examining the tensions that undergirded the transition of Bihar student movement into the international JPM, this presentation will uniquely situate the JPM within two distinct but intersecting trajectories of internationalism— the “non-state internationalism” and the “student internationalism” to understand the politics of internationalism in the 1970s.
Wajiha Mehdi, University of British Columbia, “Placed Beyond the Modern: The Production of Indian Muslim Women as Non-Citizens”
Against the backdrop of the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act which threatens to render Indian Muslims stateless, in March 2022, Karnataka High Court in India banned hijab. This paper argues that violence against Muslim women is ingrained in how they are placed outside the national landscape through political, legal and academic terrains that cast them as unlocatable subjects, and thus, as non-citizens. The field of the visible is sexually and racially contested terrain (McKittrick 2006), through analyzing the High Court verdict on hijab along with the work on one of the renowned historians on Muslims in South Asia, Gail Minault (2007), this paper explores the centrality of ‘epistemic violence’ in these texts of very different nature to show how Muslim women’s subjectivity is constantly effaced through Orientalist discourse construction (Said 1978) across a spectrum of ideologies in academic and sociopolitical processes that intersect with knowledge making practices.
Moderator Anis Rahman, University of Washington
4:15-4:30 PM BREAK
4:30-6:00 PM KEYNOTE | Ravinder Kaur, University of Copenhagen, “Who Owns the Memory of Partition?”
In this paper, Associate Professor Kaur returns to the concept of the political to unpack the public life of Partition memory. In the past quarter century, the bid to document and archive the experiences of human suffering has produced a variety of rich accounts of Partition violence and expulsion. The 1947 Partition is now the subject of several virtual archives as well as museums that serve as public memorials to the human tragedy that unfolded. Drawing attention to the art and aesthetics of the popular history of Partition, Kaur asks – whose wounds can be preserved, exhibited, and recognized in the public domain? What kinds of antagonisms are remembered or forgotten in the public performance of Partition memorialization? And finally, who precisely inhabits the category of “human” in this human tragedy? These questions allow us to critically reflect on the long history of silences as well as the increasingly de-politicized human subject of suffering that has come to occupy centre stage in the popular history of Partition.
6:30-8:30 PM DINNER
DAY TWO | SATURDAY, MAY 6, 2023
8:30-9:00 AM COFFEE AND TEA
9:00-10:15 AM PANEL 3 | ETHICS, URBANITY, AND CITIZENSHIP
Manas Murthy, University of Oregon, “‘Undivided Share’ – Reframing Land Property Relationships in Delhi”
Ever since Clarence Perry’s ideal ‘neighborhood unit’ has been applied en-masse to Delhi’s post-independence urban expansion, and New Delhi’s Bungalows have come to be associated with an aspiration for private living, ‘middle-class’ residents of Delhi have normalized plotted houses. However, just as it seemed that plotted neighborhoods were enduring, densification, real-estate speculation, and automobility, have given rise to a new model for ownership; the ‘undivided share’, often as individually owned floors. Catalyzed by legal instruments such as freehold conversion, sale of General Powers of Attorney, and the registration of individual floors, Delhi’s neighborhoods have seen an unprecedented boom, one impact of which is the emergence of builders’ floors. These movements have also produced new forms of conflict between different actors including owners, tenants, neighbors, builders, municipal bodies, etc. Set in the context of these historical movements, this paper discusses the emergence and implications of the term ‘undivided share of land’ and the conflicts it signals.
Gayatri Gopalan, University of British Columbia, “Critical Citizenship in the shadow of Delicate Democracies and Narrow Nationalisms”
I am for, of, by those
who stir rapacious mobs
And hide in rhetoric
I must be for, of, by those
whose homes are razed
And whose Bodies burnt
Since “practices of democratic politics are … always embedded in historically specific but also changing “cultural constructions of politics” and public culture” (Hansen, 1999, p. 9), this paper seeks to explore the socio-political imaginary made possible in the increasing conflation of an already neoliberal understanding of democracy with rising religious nationalism in India, and its implications for educating for democracy and critical citizenship. Whereas education has always been implicated in the task of nation-building, and the nation has a normative place in liberal democratic theory, it is imperative to interrogate the invocation, articulation, and legitimation of these intersections of nation, state, democracy, and education in the current socio-political context of India to formulate any critical, educational and ethical response.
Md Mizanur Rahman, University of California, Santa Cruz, “Ethical Harmony: Fitra as a Critique of Modern Individualism”
This article presents an interpretation of Abul Hashim’s critique of individualism based on a feature of his thought: fitra (human nature), as imagined in Islam, embodies a perfect harmony between the individual’s psychological account and ethical capacities. For Hashim, the disruption of this harmony produces a complete moral breakdown that contributes to the birth of an alienated being, individualism. Framing fitra’s ethical harmony as a critique of individualism, Hashim envisions an ethical self produced by its interaction with inner desire, relationship with God, and community ethos. Departing from an abstract Islamic conception of the self and modern individualism, Hashim’s ethical self reconstructs the self by neither uncritically imposing Islam’s moral teleology nor entirely deriving a moral force from communities, nor even prioritizing an individual’s rights over values. This reconstruction of the self departs from the conceptualization of the concept by South Asian Islamic thinkers and its liberal and communitarian theorization.
Moderator Radhika Govindarajan, University of Washington
10:25-11:55 AM PANEL 4 | REMAKING A LITERARY WORLD: PERIODICALS, NATIONALISM, AND AGENCY IN SOUTH ASIA
Anna Learn, University of Washington, “South Asian Periodical History through the Fiction of R.K. Narayan”
R.K. Narayan’s 1949 novel Mr. Sampath: The Printer of Malgudi offers an unexpected source of information on southern Indian periodical culture of the 1930s. Given that scholars regularly lament the paucity of archival texts documenting the production, distribution, and consumption of periodicals in colonial India, there may be value in expanding our “archival imaginaries,” (El-Shakry, 2015, 921) to include non-traditional data sources, such as fiction, to round out that particular chapter of South Asian book history. Mr. Sampath reflects the ‘imprint’ of actors previously not considered to be part of the “circuit of transmission [of a text],” (Darnton, 1982, 69) such as the wives of editors and publishers, who contributed indirectly to what is usually seen as the near-exclusively male social space of early 20th century periodical culture. This paper will use Narayan’s Mr. Sampath as a way of offering reconsiderations of book historical accounts of South Asian print culture in colonial India.
Sanjana Ramesh, University of Washington, “Kannagi: Anklets and Agendas”
Ownership of goddess stories have often been transferred unwillingly to cultural hegemony for the purposes of propaganda. In this presentation, Ramesh would like to think about how this is revealed through Kannagi, a Sangam literary figure adopted into South Indian and Sri Lankan goddess canon, and explore how her story has been distilled into parts in order to support an agenda. Their argument hinges on a literary examination of Kannagi’s story, particularly her movement through the second book of the Silappatikaram, in conjunction with the anti-Hindi movement that swelled in the 60s in Tamil Nadu. Through these lenses, an examination may be possible of the Tamil nationalist flattening of the consciousness of this goddess from a multifaceted representation of the divine feminine to a singular, manipulatable form. Further, an examination of the multicultural resistance to this flattening is necessary to understand the extent of the attempts at Dravidian homogenization.
Amaal Akhtar, University of Washington, “Recovering Nigam’s Zamana [World]: Kayastha-Urdu Affinity in the Era of Hindi Nationalism (1920s–1940s)”
Between the 1920s and 1940s, the construction of Urdu as the Muslim other in Hindi nationalist rhetoric prompted many upper-caste Hindus across north India to discard traditions, practices, and entire pasts that indicated Muslim influence or cultural assimilation. In this paper Akhtar delves into the relationship of Hindu communities to Urdu in the fraught twentieth century by examining Zamana, an Urdu literary periodical from Kanpur (UP) published by a Hindu Kayastha, which at the peak of language debates fostered a space where Hindu claimants of Urdu countered efforts to define the language in terms of religion. Editor Daya Narayan Nigam and other like-minded contributors used Zamana to claim cultural ownership of Urdu and to articulate alternate conceptions of qaum (community) that de-emphasized its religious valence and instead linked the language to networks of caste and livelihood. Where recent scholarship has characterized the twentieth century Urdu public as essentially Muslim, Zamana shows that even at the mid-twentieth century juncture, the Urdu public was not a settled but a contested domain that continued to reflect multiple voices, perspectives, and ideological positions on language, community, and belonging.
Sanjit Bhakta Pradhananga, University of Washington, “Bringing Authors Home: ‘Foreignizing’ Translation as a Praxis for Minority Language Revitalization”
In the 1970s, a series of translations of short stories from the Indigenous Newar community from Nepal sought to bring Newar literature to the world by translating with the foreign, western reader as its intended audience. During this renaissance period when Newar literature and readership was in its heyday, these translation projects that sought to “send abroad” Newar literary works were important and timely. Since then, however, the Newar language has seen a massive language shift and is now listed as an endangered language. Pradhananga proposes that it has now become necessary to create a new Newar-centered translation praxis better attuned to the community’s present and future needs. Leaning on Lawrence Venuti’s domestication versus foreignization translation paradigm, Pradhananga posits that in translating with fluency and readability in the target language in mind, the 1970s translations (and other ensuing translations that used them as models) created texts that were “domesticated” to cater to western sensibilities and market demands, erasing many important Newar contexts and nuances. This conscious choice, while creating an eminently readable text that might have perfectly served its intended goal, they argue, creates a sterile, decontextualized reading experience for a present-day and future Newar reader who can neither see herself in the text nor appraise why writings by translated authors were central to the Newar cultural renaissance. As a recourse, Pradhananga proposes a new ‘foreignizing’ translation praxis that forgoes fluency in the target English language in order to preserve linguistically encoded knowledges and cultural identifications, to recontextualize historical and socio-cultural nuances, and to retranslate aesthetics implicit in the original text. In doing so, Pradhananga asks if English translations might be commandeered to create texts that induce a full cultural immersion for multilingual speakers of endangered source languages, instead of seeking just to jump the cultural barrier between a source culture and a target culture.
Moderator Jennifer Dubrow, University of Washington
12:30-1:00 PM BOOK DISCUSSION | Anne Murphy, University of British Columbia, “A Possible Punjabi? Decolonization and a Political Theory of the Creative”
1:00-2:15 PM PANEL 5 | MEDIA, REPRESENTATION, AND THE AFTERLIFE OF TRAUMA
Anika Saba, University of British Columbia Okanagan, “Autobiographical Memoirs as Archives: Voices from the Global South”
Stories from the Edge: Personal Narratives of the Liberation War (2017), edited by Razia Sultana Khan and Niaz Zaman, contains 14 personal stories from the perspectives of women addressing the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. Taking this anthology as a genre, this paper examines the archival qualities of autobiographical memoirs. Saba asks, if, and to what extent, autobiographical memoirs can be treated as authoritative historical sources. To answer this, the paper will evaluate the intersections of war and gender and argue that these memoirs, as records of common people’s struggles, challenge the traditional positivist method of history popularized by German historian Leopold van Ranke in the 19th century. Moreover, the selected texts are retrospective and thus they invite consideration of their relation to memory studies; here Saba contends these memoirs are closer to oral traditions. Finally, the paper will expand our understanding of what counts as a historical record by addressing eclipsed voices from the Global South.
Ruhail Andrabi, University of California – San Diego, “Where Do Kashmiri’s Dead Bodies Go: Secret Burial, Seditious Mourning, and the Politics of War on Terror in Kashmir”
Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States of America developed a new vocabulary to define the war on terror, which eventually designated certain specific geographic regions as the epicenters of terrorism. Most importantly, religion’s role over time has become a permanent marker in such framings. The repercussions of such framing on indigenous social movements, particularly in global contexts that demanded their sovereign states, were subsumed, and their political aspirations were erased by invoking tropes of “war on terror.” Dominant states such as Israel and India have exported this vocabulary to portray resistance in Palestine and Kashmir, primarily motivated by Islamic Global Jihad. In this paper, Andrabi examines how the Indian state used lethal counter-insurgency laws in conjunction with the language of the “war on terror” to intensify its brutal crackdown on the local population in Kashmir. Andrabi argues that such language offers the Indian state an opportunity to deny the legitimacy of the self-determination movement in Kashmir. Since the revocation of Article 370, the war on terror has not only been extended to the detention of activists, journalists, and intellectuals but also to deny the proper funerals of those who were eliminated in military encounters. As a result, their dead bodies were secretly buried far away from their homes. This article draws from ethnographic material and secondary data sources to show how the war on terror in Kashmir is not only limited to the bio political management of life but also extends to the extent that it possesses the dead bodies of insurgents to enact the process of re-signification.
Sarfraz Khan, University of Washington, Fulbright Visiting Scholar, “Experiences of Exclusion and Emotions among Repatriated Irregular Gujrati Migrants”
Pakistan stands at top in terms of irregular/undocumented migrant sending regions. The current study is based on ethnographic research conducted with the repatriated irregular migrants living in the Gujrat District in Pakistan. The main purpose was to take the perspectives of the irregular/undocumented migrants with reference to their lived experiences about social exclusion and emotions in post repatriation period. The migratory link between this region and Europe is decades old. This region is well known for the prevalence of migrant smugglers who facilitate the young aspirants in reaching Europe through land, seas and by air routes. The hyperboles made by the migrant smuggler, and sometimes by the close relatives (rishtadar) of the aspirants, make it more ambitious for the young people to move abroad in no time. The aspirants arrange money, in most cases by selling a part of their land, gold assets and cattle, for the transportation to the desired destinations while consulting migrant smugglers.
Moderator Alka Kurian, University of Washington – Bothell
2:15-2:25 PM BREAK
2:25-3:40 PM PANEL 6 | MULTIPLE FRAMEWORKS: SOLIDARITY, AFFINITY, AND ETHICS IN POSTCOLONIAL CULTURES
Shekha Kotak, University of Michigan, “Translating the Language of Love: Romance and Intimacy in Contemporary Hindi Dalit Short Stories”
In her book, Writing Resistance: The Rhetorical Imagination of Hindi Dalit Literature, Laura Brueck has called our attention to the centrality of literature and aesthetics in the construction of a modern, Dalit identity. One of the writers she explores – Ajay Navaria – heralds a change in Dalit literature with his purposeful attention to language use, formal innovations, and literary creativity. While these have been explored in some length by Brueck, Kotak will be focusing on Navaria’s use of romance and physical intimacy as themes employed towards a social and cultural critique of the Indian, urban, caste-conscious, middle-class life in his short stories. Scant attention has been paid to the theme of love and erotic attraction in Dalit literature, primarily because Dalit literary theory itself has looked down upon it either as a privilege of upper-caste writers or as a frivolity that dilutes the larger message of caste inequalities. But Navaria’s work newly interrogates the relationship between love, intimacy, and the socio-political outlook of his Dalit characters. What is the place of love in Dalit literature, and more broadly, within protest literature in India, especially at a time when love itself is policed by a Hindu nationalist rhetoric? How are literary aesthetics deployed towards a theme of romance in contemporary Dalit literature? How does the language of love in a subaltern text get translated from an Indian regional language to English? These are among some questions Kotak will be reflecting on their paper.
Hamza Ahmad, University of Washington, “Manto’s Afro-Asian Solidarities”
Saadat Hasan Manto’s post-Partition works have not received the scholarly attention they deserve and Urdu scholars have not been as attentive to parallels between Urdu literature and Black Marxist thought. Ahmad explores how in his “Letters to Uncle Sam,” Manto conceptualizes Third World solidarities between Black and brown people as a form of resistance to what Frances Saunders has called the Cultural Cold War. Pushing on the accepted historiography of Afro-Asian solidarity movements in Urdu, Ahmad argues that Manto recognizes the potential of racial solidarity as a form of resistance against neocolonialism through close reading of these letters. Reading Manto’s “Letters to Uncle Sam” along with Black thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, and James Baldwin, Ahmad will showcase the radical nature of Manto’s racial solidarity.
Prerna Choubey, University of Washington, “Many Draupadis of the Popular Culture”
The character of Draupadi has been relevant for hundreds of centuries. The treatment of the character, however, has evolved with time. The feminist narratives of Draupadi over the years open several avenues of understanding her agency in Mahabharata. In this paper, ‘Many Draupadis of pop-culture’, Choubey explores the varied dimensions given to Draupadi in popular culture and develops a synthesis from comparatively analyzing her contemporary interpretations. The study tries to excavate the complicated layers that compromised and underplayed the iconic character of Draupadi. This study, while bypassing the Brahmanical, nationalist narratives of Draupadi, would also discuss the disguised role patriarchy and caste hierarchy play in contextualizing the contemporary conditioning of her character. By way of case studies for different interpretations, this paper sheds light on the diverse interpretations of Draupadi. Choubey chose the book, ‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Devakaruni and the Mahabharata series by Swastik Productions (Star Plus, 2013) to bring out the shift in storytelling and contrasting elements in the portrayal of contemporary Draupadis. In the process, Choubey analyzes the understanding of the audiences, especially women pre-conditioned by patriarchy, and the comparisons drawn out between female mythological figures. This paper thus tries to recover the agency of Draupadi from contemporary sources that have been downplayed by the right-wing extremists in Indian society while reflecting modern society’s perception of her.
Moderator Heidi Pauwels, University of Washington
3:40-3:50 PM BREAK
3:50-5:10 PM PANEL 7 | WHOSE “TRADITION?”: MEANING MAKING IN CONTEMPORARY AND PAST NETWORKS
Alex Yu, University of Toronto, “The Magic Mountain: Entanglement of Mountaineering, Ecology, and Medicine in Nepali Himalayas”
As a new medical domain emerged from the mountaineering community in the 1980s, mountain medicine draws our attention to think of mountaineering as a conjunction between medical and ecological imaginations, knowledge, and relations. This research ethnographically attends to recent local engagement in mountain medicine in Nepal, and examines the changes to Nepal’s mountaineering landscape brought about by the development of this medicine. Going beyond the mere political-ecological focus in previous studies and turning to medical and multispecies anthropology, this project offers a novel perspective on the entangled relations between people, medicines, and their living environments.
Anjali Yadav, University of Washington, “A Saint of One’s Own: Religious Appropriation of Kabīr between 1600–1800 CE.”
This paper explores the works of the 15th-century saint-poet, Kabīr as received by different religious and sectarian institutions between the 17th and 19th centuries. The dates of Kabīr are contested but the current scholarship favors 1398–1448 as the dates of his birth and death. The oldest (yet) dated manuscript of Kabīr is from 1582 which was prepared in Fatehpur, Rajasthan. Therefore, nobody was writing Kabīr’s verses during his lifetime. Hence, it is fair to say that nearly 150 years later, Kabīr verses aren’t written but – remembered. In this paper, Yadav wants to analyze how the memory of Kabīr has been appropriated by two religious institutions between 1600 and 1800 – Sikhism and Ramānandi Sampradaya. And Yadav also argues that Kabīr has been selectively appropriated by these institutions as none of them could soak an iconoclastic figure like Kabir in its entirety. For Sikhism, Yadav will be examining Kabīr verses from Guru Granth Sāhib (1650–1680s). And to grasp Ramanandis’ motivations for incorporating Kabīr in their sect, Yadav will be looking at Priyādās’ commentary on Bhaktmāl (1712), Bhaktirasabodhinī.
Mir Salar Razavi, Princeton University, “Nawruz Celebration in Mughal India: Politics of A Persian Legacy”
Nawrūz (the Persian New Year) is a festival that marks the vernal equinox and is celebrated in a wide geography. During his 27th year of reign, the Mughal emperor Akbar began to celebrate this festival more frequently than he had previously. Based on a close reading of primary sources of Akbar’s time, the paper argues that Akbar’s decision to celebrate Nawrūz was under the influence of an anti-Islamic discourse in his court, engagement with Zoroastrian festivals (including Nawrūz), and his religious ideas such as Dīn-i ilāhī (Devine Faith) and sulh-i kull (Universal Civility). In contrast, in the Safavid empire, the religious authorities attempted to justify the celebration of Nawrūz in the context of Shi’i orthodoxy. This opposite understanding of Nawrūz is the reason why Aurangzeb decided to abolish this festival due to his extremist Islamic doctrine. The paper takes the example of Nawrūz to problematize the idea of “the Persianate world” as a unified shared culture and would suggest thinking about various dimensions of “the Persianate world”.
Hamad A. Nazar, University of British Columbia, “Madhhab-e-ishq, in Heer Ranjha and other Punjabi Texts”
Shahab Ahmed argued how central madhhab-e-ishq has been as a way of living Islam for centuries in the geographies spanning from Balkan to Bengal. This paper is part of a larger research project about exploring the ideas of ishq in well known works of Punjabi language. For the purposes of this paper, Nazar wants to focus on the well known Punjabi Qissa text Heer Ranjha. Madhhab-e-ishq is valorized as a supreme way of knowing and living at various points in the text. In particular, the idea of Madhhab-e-ishq is invoked by Heer to justify and valorize her relationship with her lover Ranjha when she is confronted by a “religious”, authoritarian figure of Qazi who is bent on using a prescribing definition of Islam to convince her of getting married to Kheṛas. This presentation is a close reading of this particular interaction between Heer and Qazi, which comprises of over 44 verses and 13 pages of the text, in an attempt to understand the idea of Madhhab-e-ishq.
Moderator Purnima Dhavan, University of Washington
5:10-5:25 PM PRESENTATION | Kuldeep Singh, University of Washington, “Ecology in Indian Dance: An Immersive Performance”
This is an immersive performance on a recorded Hindustani classical music. Through abhinaya (expressive gestural movements) in Odissi dance, it explores the 12th century “Gitagovind poems” for their nuanced portrayal of ecology [flora] and [fauna] in mutual relationship with the human protagonists. And building a sacred-sensual experience. Dressed in a rehearsal attire, the dancer embodies the physiognomy of the flora and the natural elements, through mimetic expression and hand gestures, bringing alive the expression through an experience that is the heart of the 2200 year old and continuously evolving tradition of Odissi dance. This decolonial and layered experience is very much the alignment of our current times. And hence this performance experience. The performance occurs through a visual slide show (comprising 17th-19th century Indian miniature paintings of Gitagovind) with sound inbuilt.
5:25-5:30PM CLOSING REMARKS | Purnima Dhavan, University of Washington