September 1st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink


This one-day workshop at the University of Chicago brings together scholars to discuss issues broadly relating to historical writing, memory, myth and oral traditions, the construction of intellectual and cultural narratives of origin and belonging, and the making of ‘useable pasts’ for purposes that are political or otherwise in twentieth-century South Asia.

The question of historical appropriations and misappropriations is ever-timely in contemporary South Asia. On the one hand the political stakes of contested narratives have never been higher, and on the other, the sites of contestation have never been so varied. Over the course of this workshop the organizers hope to stimulate a discussion that particularly foregrounds the ways that non-state actors have negotiated and pluralized the past over the span of the last century.

The focus of discussion will be on two interrelated methodological problems: the first, how do we think critically about the transmission of ideas and histories in the South Asian context? This workshop brings together scholars from fields that have traditionally taken texts as central to an evidential methodology with those whose work draws on oral or remembered tradition, relies upon the use of ethnographic tools, or whose work occupies the spaces in-between. The second but closely related question that motivates us is one of reflexivity; how do we address our own positions as scholars working on understanding the (re)constructed past(s) of twentieth-century South Asia? And how can we be both rigorous and sensitive to the world-views and motivations of those doing doing the constructive labor of history-making?

To help address these questions, this event brings together 13 papers from scholars working in diverse disciplinary areas, including anthropology, history, religious studies, Near Eastern studies, and South Asian studies. Please refer to our Program for a schedule of panels. Information on individual papers  can be found under Abstracts.

Attendance for this event is free and open to all.


Faridah Zaman (Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of Chicago)

Daniel Morgan (PhD candidate, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago)

Inhabiting the Past poster

Poster image: Aurangzeb holds court, as painted by (perhaps) Bichitr. Source: see here

Workshop funded by the Committee of Southern Asian Studies at the University of Chicago.


  • Join Us

    4 November 2016

    University of Chicago - Social Science Research Building, Room 401