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AWAAZ 2018


Director’s Note


Event Highlights


Annual Lecture

7 Conferences 8

New Faculty


Sangeeta Mediratta Associate Director

Burcak Keskin Kozat

Interim Associate Director

11 Fellows and Visiting Scholars

Yasmin Deosaran

12 Wisch Graduate Fellows

Kendra Gladych

Program Coordinator

13 Student News and Views

Communications Manager

Communications Coordinator

South Asia Studies Minor

14 Student Grant Recipients 16 Community Engagement 18 Upcoming Events 20 Gifts and Support Cover Photo credit: Taj Mahal, Grant Kessler.

Julie Tatsukawa

Anubha Anushree, Ian Miller, Matt Stone

Newsletter Editors

Center for South Asia Stanford University Stanford Global Studies Division 417 Galvez Mall Encina Hall West, Room 104 Stanford, CA 94305-6045 Stanford Center for South Asia

DIRECTOR’S NOTE Dear South Asia Community, As I compose my director’s letter for this inaugural issue of Awaaz, I extend my gratitude to all who contribute to the vitality of South Asian studies at Stanford. In 2017-18, the Center for South Asia (CSA) continued to build on the solid foundation laid by my indefatigable predecessor, Professor Thomas Blom Hansen. We supported a plethora of events that ranged from scholarly lectures and academic conferences to film screenings and performances. The sheer range and breadth of scholarly events on campus manifested the intellectual and creative vibrancy of South Asia research at Stanford. None of this would have been possible without the commitment of our faculty, students, staff, and friends like you who supported these events. The lively hub of activity brought together a wide array of disciplinary dialogues. The sharp increase in our event attendance attests to the ways in which South Asian studies reaches audiences beyond conventional area studies frameworks and inspires comparative and cross-regional dialogues. Our curated series, Urban Ecologies, Transnational Sexualities, South Asia Today, and South Asian Pasts, provided a nexus for conversations that stretched beyond Stanford campus. Our Performative Diasporas Conference, organized by Anna Schultz (Associate Professor of Music) and our Graduate Conference on Subjectivity, led by Amrapalli Maitra, are exemplary instances of bringing innovative voices together around the same table (p.7). Our visiting fellows, Professor Reetika Khera (IIT, Delhi), Dr. Eric Huntington (Stanford), and Maira Hayat (University of Chicago) further enriched intellectual conversations on campus about South Asia (p. 11). We also supported a range of original student research projects through our Wisch Graduate Fellowships and Summer Student Fellowships (p.12-15). We are fortunate to have secured the talents of new faculty members who have enhanced and diversified the study of South Asia. In the following pages, you will meet three of our new faculty, Elaine Fisher (Religious Studies), Saad Gulzar (Political Science,) and Usha Iyer (Art and Art History) (p.8). In the coming year, we will welcome Roanne Kantor (English,) Soledad Prillaman (Political Science), Hayden Kantor (Program in Writing and Rhetoric), and Padma D. Maitland (Cantor) to our community. We are also excited that Amita Baviskar (Institute of Economic Growth) and Madhav Prasad (CSDS) will hold residential faculty fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center. In the coming year, we will continue our mission of becoming a leader in the study of South Asia by promoting research, convening events, building Stanford’s library collections, and providing student internships and fellowships. The increased visibility of South Asian studies has generated a wonderful sense of excitement on campus, and we hope to boost faculty recruitment in the future. We will host lectures by distinguished scholars including Gyan Prakash (Princeton), Mahesh Rangarajan (Ashoka), Rohini Pande (Harvard), and Mrinalini Sinha (Michigan), and also bring innovative artists such as Nitin Sawnhey and Shuddhabrata Sengupta from RAQS Media Collective. To bring you these events, we have collaborated closely with the Cantor, Stanford Live, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Urban Studies, the Law School, Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Woods Institute, Humanities Center in addition to Departments of History, Anthropology, Art and Art History, Political Science. We are in the thick of planning our annual conference, this time on the theme of Fluid Ecologies. The upcoming year promises to be an intellectually stimulating one, and we look forward to your continued participation and support in promoting South Asian studies at Stanford.

Jisha Menon Director, Center for South Asia Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Stanford University 3

EVENT HIGHLIGHTS South Asian Pasts Over 2017-18, we welcomed a host of scholars to campus for the lecture series “South Asian Pasts,” which brought scholars together to reflect on the history of the political landscape of the region. Traversing the histories of South Asia, this lecture series shed new light on the political and social histories that have shaped the region from early modernity to present day. The series began in November 2017 with a lecture by Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam (UCLA), whose talk “Jesuit Advice for a Mughal Emperor: A Seventeenth-Century Exchange of Ideas” examined translations of Christian tracts into Persian. In Winter 2018, Peter Flügel (University of London) discussed problems of coding Jain names and identification in the context of prosopographical research on Jaina literary and social history with particular reference to the names of Mahāvīra. Professor Archana Venkatesan (UC Davis) focused on translation while exploring the implications of working within the religo-aesthetic imperatives of the commentarial traditions of the Śrīvaiṣṇava sapradāyas. In Spring 2018, Elaine Fisher (Stanford) discussed early Vīraśaiva textuality and earlier forms of transregional, Sanskritic Śaivism. Professor Teena Purohit (Boston University) concluded the series with her “The “Protestant” Impulse in Modern Islamic Thought”, and traced the attempts within Islam to reconcile with modern values such as secularism, modern science, democracy, and women’s rights.

The Annunciation from The ‘Miratal-Quds’

Urban Ecologies Our “Urban Ecologies” series brought a rich array of speakers to reflect on the complex relations of cities to the environment. The series began in November with filmmakers Avijit Mukul Kishore and Rohan Shivkumar, whose documentary Nostalgia for the Future examines domestic spaces in urban centers. Professor Ranjani Mazumdar (Jawaharlal Nehru University) gave a talk on the links between the 1960s Bombay Cinema and the infrastructure of automobile culture, the highway, industrial development outside the city. In the Winter Quarter, Professor Anne Rademacher (NYU) spoke about environmental fragility in Mumbai and gave an ethnographic account of the practice of “green design” in the city. Professor Sunil Amrith (Harvard University) visited in April to deliver a lecture, titled “Work, Mobility, and Risk in a Changing Monsoon,” and challenged recent historical scholarship about South Asia for its inattention to issues of landscape and climate. In May, Akhil Gupta and Purnima Mankekar (UCLA) delivered a provocative talk on contemporary call centers entitled “Disjunctive Temporalities, Discrepant Futures: An Ethnography of Call Centres in Bangalore,” which drew from their decade-long ethnographic research in Indian call centers to reflect on global capitalism. Our visiting scholar Maira Hayat (University of Chicago) discussed water management policy in Pakistan. Together, these talks reflected on the potentials and challenges of the rapidlyMaira Hayat presents her research on water changing landscapes and cityscapes across South Asia. usage in Pakistan.


South Asia Today Our “South Asia Today” series sought to chart social changes across South Asia in response to contemporary global politics. Reetika Khera (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi) started off the series with her thorough overview of several policy debates around India’s public services (such as child-care centers, school meals, public health services). Her talk also discussed the impact of government programs across states and time. In the Winter Quarter, Professor Saumitra Jha (Stanford Graduate School of Business) discussed non-violent civil disobedience as a means for peaceful political reform and its implication for the economic and political development of South Asia. Focusing on South Asian arts, Usha Iyer (Stanford) discussed Bombay film industry in her “Dance Musicalization: A Choreomusicological Approach to Hindi Film Dance and Music,” and Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh) discussed the links between anthropology and cinema. The series also welcomed influential figures from South Asia, such as Naeem Zamindar (Chairman of the Pakistan Board of Investments), who outlined the roadmap for transforming Pakistan’s economy, and Nirupama Rao (India’s former ambassador to the U.S. and China), who discussed the highly misunderstood diplomatic relationship between China and India. Richard Verma (former U.S. Ambassador to India) discussed the past, present, and future of the relationship between the United States and India with a special focus on peace, economic growth, and democratic values in Asia. The series concluded with a panel discussion, featuring David Cohen (Stanford) and Brad Adams (Human Rights Watch) on the Rohingya crisis and global and local responses to it.

Transnational Sexualities Our “Transnational Sexualities” series featured scholarly discussions of non-Western perspectives on gender and sexuality and the evolving dynamics of sexual relations in a global context. The lecture series began in October with Professor Inderpal Grewal (Yale University), whose talk “Rethinking Masculinity in Punjab” traced changing notions of gender within the Sikh community in Punjab after 1984. The series continued with Professor Gayatri Gopinath (NYU), who spoke about visual art practices and queer aesthetics in her talk, “Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora.” Together, these lectures traced the shifting meanings of gender and the socio-political forces that have reshaped sexual and gender relations in South Asia, both in decades past and the present day.

Professor Gayatri Gopinath presents “Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora.”



On April 26, 2018, Professor Leela Gandhi delivered the center’s 2018 annual lecture. Leela Gandhi is the John Hawkes Professor of Humanities and English at Brown University, and is a literary and cultural theorist who works on transnational cultural production and the intellectual history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her provocative and forward-thinking talk was entitled “If This Were a Manifesto for Postcolonial Theory.” Professor Gandhi discussed how postcolonial approaches offer a new way of life and a renewed understanding of political community. Reflecting on recent postcolonial writings, she discussed political possibilities offered by this rich scholarly tradition. She proposed that postcolonial studies constitutes a “modern

philosophy of renunciation” and a model for living an ethical and non-violent life. Her discussion provided great insights into recent trends in postcolonial thought and a glimpse of where it is headed next. The center was delighted to have such a singular voice in postcolonial studies deliver the 2018 annual lecture. Professor Gandhi is at the cutting edge of contemporary research in postcolonial theory and ethics, and she serves as founding co-editor of the journal Postcolonial Studies and an editorial board member of Postcolonial Text. A second edition of her 1998 book, Postcolonial Theory, is also forthcoming from Columbia University Press in 2019.

Siddharth Vardarajan is Recognized In April, journalist Siddharth Varadarajan was honored as the recipient of the 2017 Shorenstein Journalism Award. The award, given annually by Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC), is conferred upon a journalist who has produced outstanding reporting on Asia and has contributed significantly to Western understanding of the region. Varadarajan was recognized for his insightful reporting work as a leading journalist, commentator, and the founding editor of The Wire, a digital publication committed to serving the public interest. Varadarajan also headlined a panel discussion on campus on April 16, 2018 in conjunction with his award ceremony.


CONFERENCES Performative Diaspora Conference “Performative Diasporas” was a one-day conference showcasing new research on South Asian music and diaspora. Organized by Professor Anna Schultz (Stanford Department of Music), the conference brought together scholars and practitioners for interdisciplinary conversations on music, religion, race, identity, and performance. Sessions explored various themes including domesticating the Raj through Indian Jewish music, and issues of race, religion, and identity in Indo-Caribbean Encounters. Speakers included Joan Roland (Pace University), Barbara Johnson (Ithaca College), Kavita Singh (University of Houston), Aisha Khan (New York University), and Stephanie Jackson (City University of New York). Talk abstracts and the full conference program is available on the CSA website.

Subjectivity: Graduate Student Conference Organized by recent Ph.D. and M.D. Amrapali Maitra (Stanford Anthropology and Medicine), the 2018 graduate student conference highlighted cutting-edge research on subjectivity. Stanford graduate students Madidah Akhtar, Ashveer Pal Singh, Samil Can, Nethra Samarawickrema, Amrapali Maitra, Vivek Narayan, and Anubha Anushree presented their original work on sovereignty, power, violence, and care. The conference also featured a screening of Iram Gufran’s documentary, There is Something in the Air, and a keynote lecture by Professor Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University). Professor Das’ lecture, entitled “Ordinary Realism, Skepticism, and the Making of Legal Subjects,” explored the ways certain incidents are brought before the court and when sexual violence is publicly or privately acknowledged in the neighborhoods she has studied in South Asia. The graduate conference is an annual event sponsored by CSA and organized by advanced graduate students conducting doctoral research in various academic fields at Stanford. It aims to provide a lively forum to engage deeply with the upcoming research in South Asian Studies, foster a tight network of graduate students and faculty members, and provide constructive critique of graduate student work.


NEW FACULTY Elaine Fisher, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

How did you become interested in studying religion in South Asia? I first chanced upon the field of South Asian religions, and Religious Studies as a whole, as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. The academic study of religion, as I first discovered as an enthusiastic and impressionable first-year student, addressed many of the foundational questions that had inspired my pursuit of an academic career. For instance: how do cultures generate worldviews that give meaning to human life? I was fortunate to encounter the religions of South Asia early on in my studies through the mentorship of faculty members specializing in Hindu and Buddhist Studies, and Sanskrit. I first traveled to south India as part of my undergraduate research to read Sanskrit with a classically trained scholar in Mysore, and the rest is history. What are your current research interests? My research to date focuses on the history of the Śaiva traditions (worshippers of the god Śiva) of south India, particularly in the early modern period. Compared with the intellectual and religious traditions of Europe, many chapters of the history of Hinduism remain almost completely unstudied to date. Śaivism in particular is one of those fields, having experienced something of a renaissance over the past two decades through the recovery and editing of a number of foundational scriptural and philosophical works. 8

In addition to the recovery of endangered Śaiva texts, issues that have proven particularly central to my recent work include the public performance and embodiment of religious identity, polemical conflict between competing Hindu communities, and multilingualism and the politics of language in South Asian intellectual history. Because much of our documentary evidence from early modern south Indian religion takes the form of religious and philosophical texts, I am interested in what these texts can tell us about the life of ideas beyond the palm leaf or printed book—how religious discourse can illuminate the tensions present in the intellectual and social world in which their authors were engaged. What courses are you teaching at Stanford? My current courses in include The Divine Feminine in India (Religst/Femgen 166), which looks at the practice of gendering divinity in South Asian traditions, The Hindu Epics and the Ethics of Dharma (Religst 123), which focuses on the Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇa, and their numerous reverberations in the classical and contemporary world; and Hindu Tantra (Religst 264/364), surveying cutting-edge research on the history of Śaivism and the idea of Tantra as a major current of South Asian religions. This year I am co-teaching Religion Around the Globe (Religst 1) in Spring 2019. I also teach the Majors Seminar (Religst 290) on theories of religion in alternate years. How may your work inform our understanding of the region? As with many regions of the world, religion remains a contentious category in South Asia today, bearing significant implications for our understanding of politics as well conflict based on social, regional, and religious identity. My current book project addresses the history of a religious community that has made news headlines in South India in recent months. The Vīraśaiva or Liṅgāyat tradition, which remains particularly

popular the south Indian state of Karnataka, is typically described in the academic study of Hinduism as a devotional or “bhakti” tradition, characterized as a sort of “Protestant Reformation” within Hinduism that militates against caste discrimination, ritualism, and the Sanskrit language. Indeed, since the summer of 2017, a certain constituency of these communities has launched a campaign to recognize Liṅgāyatism as a minority religion distinct from the umbrella of Hinduism on precisely these grounds. Nevertheless, concerning the early history of Vīraśaivism, the texts speak for themselves: the dynamics of caste, language, and religious practice among these communities were significantly more complex than research to date has shown. Beyond the sheer documentation of new historical evidence, I aim to shed light on how colonial-period narratives have obscured our understanding of the distinctive ways religious communities such as Vīraśaivism/Liṅgāyatism have been organized in South Asia, and how the historical and contemporary diversity of Hinduism can be erased by religious and linguistic nationalism.  What inspires you or motivates you in your work? Working in a field where much of the foundational historiography remains to be written, I find it inspiring, and rather astonishing, the potential that any new research on South Asian religions holds to revise our understanding of the history of the region. With literally hundreds of thousands of South Asian manuscripts unpreserved and unstudied, the preservation of the region’s heritage is a matter of some urgency, and I am honored to be able to contribute even a small fraction of the work that is needed over the upcoming years. Teaching religion, likewise, is a constant source of inspiration. I find that few other fields are quite so effective in allowing us to raise scrutiny to the questions that inform our view of the world—and this is true both for students and for seasoned teachers and researchers alike.

Saad Gulzar, Assistant Professor of Political Science How did you become interested in comparative politics and the political economy of development in South Asia? I’m from Pakistan, so a lot of the questions I think about are informed by having grown up in the region, as well as through the cumulative experience of working on these topics over time. At Lahore University of Management Sciences, I worked for my undergraduate thesis supervisor as a research assistant on one of his projects, which was about the intergenerational mobility of education in rural Punjab. It was this early work that initially got me thinking about these development questions. When I started working after graduate school, my job was basically to connect academics who were working on similar topics with actual policymakers in Pakistan. That got me really interested in how all of these things are put into practice from the very top, and that is very similar to what I do now in my own research. What are your current research interests? The broad area that I’m interested in right now is how to make politics more inclusive, and how to get the voices of the unheard heard through the formal process. Within that, I’m interested in affirmative action in politics, and getting regular people to think about joining politics, so making politics something that’s for everyone. The main projects I’m working on have to do with getting regular people to run for office. There was a big reform in Pakistan in 2015 where they introduced elections at the village level for the first time in the country’s history. To give you a sense of the scale of this reform, the province that I’m working in has a population of about 30 million people, previously, they were only directly electing 125 people to the provincial assembly. Now they have elected more than 40,000 people. It was a huge democratizing reform and I was

interested in thinking about how one might encourage regular people to participate in this reform. One might expect that even if you devolve politics down to the village level, it will likely be elites within the village who are going to run for office. So I was interested in how to make that process even more inclusive. In 2015, I conducted a field experiment canvasing neighborhoods and asking regular people if they would be interested in running for office. The big result was that just asking regular people if they would run for office increases the probability that they will run five-fold. Just having that conversation has a massive effect on people’s willingness to run for office. It’s also the case that they end up winning office, so these are viable candidates who are not running just because nobody asked them. In the summer of 2019, those who were elected in this reform are ending their tenure, and my hope is to trace these people over time, to see which of them run for office again and follow their careers as first-time politicians. For future work, I’m trying to design experiments to engage more women in politics. What do you hope to achieve through your work? In my research, I try to partner with policy counterparts as much as possible. For example, I’m doing some work in India and Nepal, where I’m working specifically with political parties and some government agencies. The hope is that by partnering with these policy counterparts, the work automatically feeds into the policy process. For example, often in South Asia, many or most political parties don’t engage women directly and instead go through the head of the household. So, for some of the work I’m doing with these political parties, if engaging women directly is also politically expedient, then it’s a win-win for the party and for democracy because women are half of the

population, and they are participating more and represented more in the political process and hopefully this creates a positive feedback loop. What courses are you teaching at Stanford? I teach Causal Inference for Social Science, one of the courses for the data science track in the political science major. I also teach a seminar course for Ph.D. students on experiments in political economy research, where students get to read and critique the work of other scholars. The authors are also invited to participate in the class, so the hope is that students are trained in how to be critical, yet respectful colleagues, and that the authors can actually incorporate the feedback into their work. What inspires and motivates you in your work? I really enjoy the intellectual exercise of working with a wide set of colleagues, who share similar interests. Because I’m from South Asia, there’s an extra motivation that hopefully, my work contributes to improving the policymaking processes in the region. In Pakistan in particular there are very few researchers who work in this field, so the idea is also to hopefully further develop that space and increase the pool of researchers interested in Pakistan.


NEW FACULTY Usha Iyer, Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies in cultural studies, followed by a Ph.D. in film and media studies at the University of Pittsburgh. What are your current research interests?

How did you become interested in cinema and performance in South Asia? As an undergraduate student in St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, in the early 1990s, I was an English literature major (after battling parental insistence that I study medicine or engineering!). Amidst all the Chaucer, Donne, Austen, and Hemingway, we happened to watch — in a course on adaptation taught by Sangeeta Datta (now an independent scholar-filmmaker in the UK) — the films of Satyajit Ray: Charulata (“The Broken Nest”), Pather Panchali (“Song of the Little Road”), and Ghare Baire (“The Home and the World”). Until then, I had mostly watched popular Hindi cinema (now often referred to as Bollywood), Hollywood movies, and some social-realist films by New Wave filmmakers like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani. But watching films in an academic context radically changed how we viewed them. Rather than focus only on plot or character, we were encouraged to look closely at stylistic elements, noting how formal aspects such as lighting, cinematography, editing, and sound produced the meaning of the film rather than merely contributing to the “look” of the film. I was hooked! But film studies wasn’t yet an established formal discipline in Indian universities and so I proceeded to do a master’s degree in video production, followed by years of hands-on work in documentary film and commercial television. I couldn’t shake off my academic interest in the study of film as a form though, and so eventually I did another master’s degree 10

I’m just finishing up my first book, tentatively titled The Dancing Heroine: Choreographing Gender in Popular Hindi Cinema (under contract with Oxford University Press) in which I undertake a historical and theoretical study of constructions of gender and sexuality through popular Hindi film dance. Drawing on interdisciplinary work on stardom, gender, and performance theories from the contemporary field of dance studies as well as medieval South Asian texts on performance, I investigate the role of dance in the construction of the stardom of four iconic Indian dancer-actresses from the 1930s to the present: Sadhona Bose, Vyjayanthimala, Waheeda Rehman, and Madhuri Dixit. Current scholarship on Indian and South Asian cinema tends to be primarily focused on narrative and film music. Through this book, I hope to demonstrate how the dynamic figurations of the body wrought by dance produce unique constructions of gender, stardom, and spectacle, and throw light on questions that have long occupied film scholars: How does popular Indian cinema generate spectatorial desire and engagement differently than other cinematic traditions, and what are the specific mobilizations of space, movement, and bodies that create the particular address of Indian cinema? Another research interest that I’ve recently begun expanding on is the distribution and reception of popular Indian cinema in the Caribbean (Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname), Fiji, and Mauritius. From 1838 to 1917, a large number of Indians migrated to these locations as indentured or contracted labor to work on British sugar plantations. Described as the “Plantation Raj” diaspora or the “old Indian diaspora,” these communities as well as other ethnic communities living in these

regions developed an intense and complicated relationship with popular Indian cinema, which influenced music, dance, and other performance traditions in these regions. What courses are you teaching a Stanford? I’ve taught a course on Indian cinema for two years now, providing an overview of commercial and art cinemas from different parts of the country. In winter 2018, I’m offering a course specifically on the art cinema of India — perhaps among the first of its kind in the American academic setting — as many students have expressed a desire to more closely study the films and the writings of filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, John Abraham, Mani Kaul etc. I also teach survey courses on “world cinema,” exploring film cultures in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Introduction to Film Study, as well as graduate seminars such as, The Body in Film and other Media, Gender & Performance, Theories of Melodrama. How may your work inform our understanding of the region? Cinema continues to be South Asia’s most popular cultural form with significant economic and affective investments in its production and reception. Studying popular Indian cinema through a critical lens helps us analyze social, political, and economic transformations in the sub-continent as well as the production of spectator-citizens. In particular, examining film dance, which has featured a syncretic mix of Indian classical and folk dance traditions as well as transnational dance forms since the early 20th century, has the potential to illuminate how the planes of the popular, the national, and the global are constantly negotiated and articulated by popular Indian cinema. A similar impetus to study global, transnational flows through performance traditions of film, music, and dance drives my research interest in the older plantation diaspora in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia.

FELLOWS AND VISITING SCHOLARS Reetika Khera External Faculty Fellow, Stanford Humanities Center Khera’s research has shaped several policy debates around India’s public services. For over fifteen years, she has conducted field studies on India’s public services – child-care centers, school meals, public health services, – with a view to understand the impact of government programs, contrasts across states, and change over time.

Eric Huffington PostDoctoral Fellow in Religious Studies Huntington studies the relationships between visual art, ritual, and philosophy in the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, Nepal, and India. He also works on other topics of religion and material culture, including the role of illustration in Buddhist manuscripts and the nature of embodiment in consecrated images.

Maira Hayat Predoctoral Student, Department of Anthropology, the Woods Institute, and Center for South Asia Hayat joins Stanford as a predoctoral student affiliated with the Department of Anthropology, the Woods Institute, and Center for South Asia. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of Chicago and is currently writing her dissertation, “Ecologies of Water Governance in Pakistan: the Colony, the Corporation and the Contemporary.”



Madihah Akhter

Anubha Anushree

Field: Modern South Asia

Field: Modern South Asia

Dissertation Title: “In Her Own Right: Sovereignty and Gender in Princely Bhopal, 1901-1926”

Dissertation Topic: Colonial Bureaucracy

Madihah’s doctoral dissertation explores the mutual dependencies and contestations of sovereignty between princely rulers and imperial administrators in the twentieth century. Specifically, she excavates the possibilities of princely sovereignty in Bhopal under the direction of its ruler, Sultan Jahan Begum (r. 19011926).

Anubha aims to understand how colonial power came to be rooted in what she calls “moral pedagogy and perfectionism.” She is interested in transnational, international, and global history. She is also interested in examining the emergence and deployment of a racial vocabulary within bureaucratic practice, especially in connection with investigations focused on “corruption” and controversies over “transparency.”

SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES MINOR Want to specialize in South Asian Studies? “The Global Studies minor, South Asia specialization, enabled me to pursue courses so different from my major. It allowed me to dive deeply into one particular area of the world that I have always been curious about and that is a huge part of my own identity, but one that I’ve never actually studied. I was able to culminate my work by researching a topic I grew to be particularly invested in--the politics of higher education in India.” - Amartya Das, B.A. Mathematical & Computational Science ‘17


STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS Japsimran Kaur, Conducts Research on India’s 181 Help line for Women

Student Sofia Singer Presents at the 4th Annual Stanford Global Health Research Convening On February 9, Stanford hosted the 4th Annual Stanford Global Health Research Convening, a one-day conference bringing together students, faculty and researchers across Stanford University who are working in global health. The convening is designed to build a community among researchers, highlight and share the many facets of global health research at Stanford across schools and disciplines, and connect students with researchers and mentors.

Hemangini Raina is featured in Stanford Magazine With support from the Center for South Asia and the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights & International Justice, Japsimran Kaur ‘18 spent her summer working with a team of Stanford researchers in Gujarat, India.

Kyle D’Souza writes about Kerala Catholics in the United States The Syro-Malabar Church, an Eastern Catholic Church of the Chaldean Rite, traces its origins back to St. Thomas’s arrival to the Indian State of Kerala in 50 A.D. Over the past two millennia, the Church has built a distinct set of traditions that uniquely blends both Indian tradition, language and culture with Syrian Catholic theology. With the immigration of Keralan Catholics to the United States in the past 20 years, the church has expanded considerably abroad into the United States, with over 85,000 members and over 11 parishes across the country today. Through ethnographic work in two SyroMalabar churches, I explored the factors that have led to the Syro-Malabar Church’s growth, the challenges of its expansion, and how the Church has influenced Malayalis’ experience, integration, and fulfillment in the United States. Growing up as Indian Catholic, I had always wanted to learn more about South India and Catholicism. Conducting the research has also been a significant milestone for me: The process of writing ~100 pages, getting approval to set up interviews, building a literature review, and becoming an expert of one particular field has a lot of transferable skills to any intense analytical job and has inspired me to pursue future research in academia.

Raina, now a junior and a South Asia studies minor student, credits Stanford with awakening her interest in her Indian roots, a reformation that led her to take Hindi classes, to join the South Asian culture student group, Sanskriti, and to study Indian cinema, history and politics. “I took a political theory class — it changed my life — on Gandhi and his policies and ideologies and how they relate to the politics of India today. I’d never seen myself as the history-class-taking kind of gal; I’m much more of a p-sets and tech kind of gal. I took this class — literally, our reading list was 10 chunky books, one for every week, plus extra reading, plus section, all of this other intimidating political stuff — and I loved it. I have never been in a class where I actively wanted to go to a 9 a.m. lecture. And I went to every single lecture that this man gave.”


STUDENT GRANT RECIPIENTS Anubha Anushree PH.D. Department of History Colonial Bureaucracy

Radhika Koul PH.D. Department of

Comparative Literature

The Turn to the Spectator: France and Kashmir

Suddhaseel Sen PH.D. Department of Music Intimate Strangers: CrossCultural Exchanges between Indian and Western Musicians 1880-1940

Alisha Cherian PH.D. Department of Anthropology Queer Spaces and Queer Spatial Practices in Kerala

Eduard Fanthome PH.D. Department of Anthropology Beyond Brick and Mortar: Spatial Praxis in Medieval Contexts at Maski

(Mohammad) Zuhad Hai PH.D. Department of Political Science Local Political Institutions in the Shadow of World Markets: The Case of British India during the American Civil War

Jenna Forsyth PH.D. Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources

Exploring Lead Chromate Adulteration of Turmeric in Bangladesh


Mashail Malik PH.D. Department of Political Science The Political Incorporation of Rural-to-Urban Migrants in Karachi

Vivek Narayan PH.D. Department of Anthropology The Caste Scripts of Contemporary Kerala

Ashutosh Thakur PH.D. Graduate School of Business Matching Problem of Civil Service

Kyle D’Souza Undergraduate, Math and Computational Science and Sociology

The Syro-Malabar Church in India and America: Seeing the Growth and Challenges Facing the Church’s Intergenerational Community

Minha Khan

Undergraduate, Sociology Internship at The Citizens Foundation

Sofia Singer Undergraduate, Anthropology and International Relations Community Empowerment Lab

Saad Lakhani PH.D. Department of Anthropology The Passions of Muslim Nationalism: Uses of Love, Honor and Sacrifice in Pakistan


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT Until the Lions Over the year, the developed a closer partnership with Stanford Live to bring greater cultural and aesthetic diversity to campus. This collaboration began in October 2017 with a visit from celebrated choreographer Akram Khan whose work fuses Indian kathak and modern dance forms to explore the relationship between culture, diaspora, and community. His “Until the Lions” revisits the ancient epic Mahabharata to tell a tale of justice exacted by a bride abducted on the day of her wedding. Khan also discussed his work with Professor Jisha Menon at a public talk, shedding light on his choreographic practices and artistic perspectives.

Song of Lahore Our partnership with Stanford Live continued in November 2017, when the Sachal Ensemble from Lahore graced Bing Concert Hall as part of their first-ever U.S. tour. Formed as an underground group in the wake of Islamic repressions in late-1970s Pakistan, the Ensemble has been playing and recording jazz with a South Asian twist for four decades. The Golden Era of “Lollywood” in Lahore, Pakistan, peaked in the 1960s and 70s, until the enforcement of Islamic Sharia law in 1977 led to a steep decline in the arts. As work dried up for studio musicians, producer Izzat Majeed secretly gathered these intrepid players at his Sachal Studios, where they recorded a hit version of Dave Brubeck’s iconic “Take Five”—with a South Asian twist. Wynton Marsalis invited the Sachal Ensemble to perform with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, leading to an album, an acclaimed documentary (directed by Stanford alumni Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken), and invitations to perform around the world. “Song of Lahore” tells the story of the Sachal Ensemble’s evolution and expansive musical style, and was featured in a screening during their visit to campus.


Dancing Through the Diaspora In April 2018, we co-sponsored the performance “Dancing through Diaspora” in collaboration with Stanford’s Departments of Art & Art History and Theater & Performance Studies (TAPS). An interactive multimedia duet, the piece brought together the work of choreographer Ramya Harishankar and performance studies scholar Dr. Priya Srinivasan to explore how research can come alive through performance. “Dancing through Diaspora” was based on Dr. Srinivasan’s book Sweating Saris: Indian Dance as Transnational Labor, which examines the history of Indian dance in the U.S. from 1880 to the present. Tackling issues of anti-Asian immigration policies in the U.S. The performance examined historical forms of power through a combination of choreography and multimedia. The performance employed postmodern frameworks and structured improvisation (which is part of both Indian and contemporary dance) to unpack what is often unsaid, unseen, invisible and foreground the “behind the scenes.” Harishankar and Srinivasan questioned the interpretation of dance merely as an aesthetic form and suggested to explore its relationship to socio-political, historical, cultural, racialized, and gendered forms of power.

Ramayana for Children In May 2018, author Arshia Sattar visited Stanford to talk about adapting epics into a children’s book. Sattar authored Ramayana for Children, an illustrated version of the Indian epic Valmiki’s Ramayana. Sattar is the best-known translator of this epic, having published a seminal version of it in 1996. Her Stanford visit featured a conversation with poet Tanu Wakefield and an enthusiastic audience of families, children, and Stanford affiliates, illustrating the enduring appeal of this classic tale and Sattar’s fresh retelling of it.



Professor Manan Ahmed

CSA hosts afternoon lectures feautring a variety of speakers from all over the world. Events start at noon in Encina Hall West, 616 Serra St, Rm 219, Stanford, CA, 94305.

Columbia University November 29, 2018

They are free and open to the public.

Professor Gyan Prakash Princeton University October 18, 2018

Professor Rochona Majumdar University of Chicago January 17, 2019

Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Reflections on Elections

Raqs Media Collective

Spring 2019

November 8, 2018


(Pakistan, Bangladesh, India)

Professor Rohini Pande

Fluid Ecologies Symposium

Harvard University

February 21, 2019

February 28, 2019

Professor Ania Loomba University of Pennsylvania

Humanities Center Boardroom, 424 Santa Teresa St, Stanford, CA 94305 This symposium brings together leading scholars to reflect on pressing issues around water. It asks how water participates in political, social and economic projects and in so doing transform them. How is water measured, managed, feared and worried over, and in the process constituted? How does it undermine or shore up profit-maximization, state-building, infrastructure and human rights regimes? How is water valued, by whom and to what ends? And what elisions and distinctions do these valuation regimes stand on? The symposium takes up the political, economic and social dimensions of water in diverse socio-political locations.

March 7, 2019

Professor Mrinalini Sinha University of Michigan April 11, 2019




The Center for South Asia extends sincere appreciation to our contributing alumni, parents, students, and friends for their generous support. Your support helps strengthen our existing programs and also create new ones to enhance our collaboration with Stanford faculty, students, and other university units. Our activities include teaching courses about South Asia, organizing seminars, symposia, and conferences, hosting prominent visiting scholars, launching novel research initiatives, and supporting our students’ work as the next generation of outstanding leaders, scholars, and policymakers. For more information about working with us to enhance the study of South Asia at Stanford, please contact Scott Sugiura, Associate Director of Development at or (650) 723-1208.