Keynote Speaker

Sheldon Pollock is the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University.  His areas of specialization are Sanskrit philology, Indian intellectual and literary history, and, increasingly, comparative intellectual history. He is General Editor of the Murty Classical Library of India (Harvard U. Press). His publications include The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (2006), which won the Coomaraswamy Prize from the Association of Asian Studies as well as the Lionel Trilling Award, and most recently Kritische Philologie: Essays zu Literatur, Sprache und Macht in Indien und Europa (2015). Reader on Rasa: Classical Indian Aesthetics, the first in a new series of historical sourcebooks on classical Indian thought he is editing for Columbia University Press, will be published in 2015.

Opening Speaker

Richard Davis is Professor of Religion, and Director of the Religion and Asian Studies programs at Bard College. He is the author of four books, including Lives of Indian Images, winner of the 1999 A. K. Coomaraswamy Award, and two other edited volumes. His current writing projects are a cultural history of early India and a study of the afterlives of the Bhagavad Gita.


Conference Presenters

Manan Ahmed is Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University. He is interested in the relationship between text, space and narrative. His work on Islam’s arrival to Sindh in the 8th century traces the longue durée history of contestations among varied communities in South Asia. His areas of specialization include political and cultural history of Islam in South and Southeast Asia, frontier-spaces and the city in medieval South Asia, imperial and colonial historiography, and philology. He is involved in Digital Humanities projects, and is the co-founder of the Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities at Columbia. Ahmed is currently working on a study of the early 13th century account of Uch, Sind.

Allison Busch is Associate Professor of Hindi and Indian literature at Columbia University. Her research centers on early modern Hindi literature and intellectual history, with a special interest in courtly India. She has published several articles on the literary and intellectual life of seventeenth-century sub-imperial courts. Her new book is titled Poetry of Kings, and deals with Mughal-period Hindi literary culture. Her current research is on local histories from the Mughal-period that were recorded in Brajbhasha.

Dipesh Chakrabarty is Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and at the Law School at the University of Chicago. He is also a faculty fellow of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory and an associate faculty of the Department of English. He is the recipient of the 2014 Toynbee Foundation Prize for his contributions to global history. He is a founding member of the editorial collective of Subaltern Studies. His interests include modern South Asian history and historiography; subaltern, indigenous, and minority histories; history in public life and public life; theory and history; and decolonization. Chakrabarty is currently working on two books, provisionally entitled The Climate of History (Chicago) and History and the Time of the Present (Duke)He is also the coeditor, along with Henning Trueper and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, of Historical Teleologies in the Modern World (Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming 2015).

Steven Collins is Chester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. His current research interests include gender in the civilizational history of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia, and Pali Buddhist accounts of madness. He is the author of Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism (1982), Nirvana and other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire (1998), A Pali Grammar for Students (2005), and Nirvana: Concept, Imagery, Narrative (2010). He is Council Member of the Pali Text Society (London).

Manu Goswami is Associate Professor of History at New York University. Her research centers on nationalism and internationalism, political economy and the history of economic thought, social theory and historical methods. She is currently working on an intellectual and political history of colonial internationalisms during the interwar decades. Her longer-run research interests include the place and status of empire in the work of major classical and neo-classical economists during the nineteenth and twentieth century.

David I. Szanton is President of the Ethnic Arts Foundation, a Bay-area non-profit organization working to sustain a distinctive indigenous Indian aesthetic system. Prior to this, he was Executive Director International and Area Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His edited volume, The Politics of Knowledge, documents the distinctive character and internal heterogeneity of various Area Studies programs, as well as the dynamism resulting from their evolving engagements with funders, US and international politics, and domestic constituencies. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago.

Philip Lutgendorf is Professor of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies at the University of Iowa. His book on the performance of the Rāmcaritmānas, The Life of a Text, won the A. K. Coomaraswamy Prize of the Association for Asian Studies.  In 2010 he received a Fulbright-Hays fellowship for research on the cultural history of “chai” in India and also began work on a planned three-volume, dual-language edition and translation of the Rāmcaritmānas for the Murty Classical Library of India/Harvard University Press. He serves as President of the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Patrick Olivelle is Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently Visiting Professor in South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His early work was focused on the ascetic and monastic traditions of India. He published several editions, translations, and studies of ascetic texts and institutions. His current research focuses on the ancient Indian legal tradition of Dharmaśāstra. A new translation based on the critically edited text was published in Spring 2004 in the Oxford World’s Classics series and the critical edition was published in 2005. He has won several prestigious fellowships, including Guggenheim, NEH, and ACLS. He was elected Vice President of the American Oriental Society in 2004 and President in 2005.

Laurie Patton is President of Middlebury College; prior to this, she was Dean of the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion at Duke University. Patton is the editor or author of nine scholarly books on South Asian history, culture, and religion, including Myth as Argument: The Brhaddevata as Canonical Commentary; Bringing the Gods to Mind: Mantra and Ritual in Early Indian Sacrifice;and Jewels of Authority: Women and Text in the Hindu Tradition. From 2008 to 2011, she served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion. In addition to writing two volumes of original poetry, Patton has translated the classical Sanskrit text, The Bhagavad Gita, for the Penguin Classics Series.

Trevor Price is Professor of Biology at the University of Chicago. His current research focuses on the determinants of bird species diversity along the Himalayas, notably the question of why there are twice as many species in the eastern Himalayas as the west. Professor Price’s team is conducting extensive field studies of the ecology, abundance, elevational, and latitudinal distributions of birds and constructing phylogenetic relationships using molecular data. His team works in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, mostly in the months April-July. The combination of phylogenetic and ecological work will be used to distinguish so-called ecological and historical explanations for the gradient in species diversity.

Francis Robinson is Professor of the History of South Asia at Royal Holloway, University of London, Professorial Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. His research interests lie in the history of the Islamic world since the eighteenth century. He has particular interests in religious change, learned and holy men and Islam in South Asia. He has advised government both in the UK and the USA on matters relating to the Islamic world. He was President of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1997-2000 and 2003-2006. He is a DL. In 2006 he was appointed CBE for contributions to Higher Education and the History of Islam.

Arshia Sattar is a noted author and translator, and founder of the Sangam House International Residency Program. She teaches classical Indian literatures at various institutions all over India. Her acclaimed English translations of Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Kathasaritsagara are Penguin Classics. She has a PhD from South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, and her areas of interest are Indian epics, mythology and the story traditions of the subcontinent.

Susan Seizer is Professor of Anthropology and Communication and Culture at Indiana University. Her reserach focuses on humor cross-culturally; management of social stigma; and performance in South Asia (live and mediated). Dr. Seizer’s first ethnographic research project focused on the lives of popular theater artists in Tamilnadu, South India. Her book, Stigmas of the Tamil Stage: An Ethnography of Special Drama artists in South India (Duke University Press 2005) won the prestigious A.K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies in 2007. Her current research turns an anthropological lens on the lives of road comics in the contemporary U.S.

Awadhendra Sharan is Associate Professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, India. He trained as a historian at Delhi University and the University of Chicago, where his doctoral thesis was on ‘The Question of Untouchability in Colonial Bihar, 1860s to 1950s.’ He conducts research on urban and environmental issues.  His book ‘In the City, Out of Place: Nuisance, Pollution and Urban Dwelling in Modern Delhi, c.1850-2000‘ is a study of several such interrelated issues, combining extensive archival research with a study of contemporary sources. Along similar lines, his current research is focused on Economies and Cultures of Waste and Pollution in Colonial India.  In addition, Sharan has initiated a new research project on Urban Infrastructure in India.

David Shulman is the Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies in the Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Additionally, he holds the Indian Ministry of Culture Vivekananda Visiting Professorship at the University of Chicago for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years. His research interests include Indian poetics, south Indian Islam, the living Sanskrit theater tradition of Kudiyattam, the 16th– and 17th-century Renaissance in south India, and classical Carnatic music. An expert on Indian languages and poetics, as well as South Indian religious history, Shulman’s extensive publications include scholarly works, translations, and original poetry in Hebrew. Most recently he published More than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India (Harvard 2012) and co-authored several books with Telugu scholar Velcheru Narayana Rao.


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