South Asian Religions and Cultures RFG

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South Asian Religions and Cultures RFG

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Research Focus Group Talk: The Highway, Automobility, and New Promises in 1960s Bombay Cinema

2135 Social Sciences and Media Studies SSMS UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

A fascination for color in the 1960s led to Bombay cinema’s mobilization of the hinterland as the site for a new future. With the development of Indian highways and an increase in automobility, a new map of India now occupied the cinematic imagination. This talk will explore the links between the infrastructure of automobile culture, the highway, industrial development outside the city, and 1960s Bombay Cinema. Ranjani Mazumdar is Professor of Cinema Studies at the ...

Research Focus Group Talk: The Ritual Music Culture of Bangladesh

3001E HSSB HSSB UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

Saymon Zakaria will reflect on the rich array of musical forms and cultural performances that have developed around religious rituals in Bangladesh. He will explore the intersecting networks of religious sentiments evoked by Bangladeshi musical performers from diverse religious communities, including Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian performers. Dr. Saymon Zakaria is Assistant Director of the Folklore Department in the Bangla Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A scholar of Bangladeshi folklore, his publications include Pronomohi Bongomata: Indigenous ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Buddhism and Sexuality: A Primer

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Although an ascetic religion that touts celibacy as the norm (at least for the clergy), Buddhism has a lot to say about sexuality. José Cabezón’s talk will focus on ancient South Asian sources and will present an overview of what classical Buddhist authors have had to say about sex. Based on his recently published book, Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2017), the talk will explore the themes of sexuality in Buddhist cosmological ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Reforming the Centralised State: Decentralization Paradigms in the Drinking Water Sector in India and the Philippines

2135 Social Sciences and Media Studies SSMS UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

This talk will examine decentralized reforms in the drinking water sector in India and the Philippines from a policy perspective focused on institutional design and implementation at the local level. It has been argued that institutional architecture for decentralized reforms is contested and requires better understanding of power and politics in shaping decentralization designs and outcomes. The paradigm of Indian decentralization is endogenous, and from this one can suggest that greater devolution in the water ...

Research Focus Group Talk: State Highway 31: A Road Trip through the Heart of Modern India

2001A HSSB Santa Barbara, CA

This talk will follow the route of State Highway 31 through western Madhya Pradesh, central India. The research is part of a larger project looking at the ideas behind the production of infrastructure in South Asia. This journey takes us through landscapes of sex work and opium, some of the oldest nationalist networks in the country, and along the fault-lines of long-running tensions between local communities. The road was one of a series built as ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Follow the Family: Kin Targeting in Counterinsurgencies

Lane Room, Ellison 3824 UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Why are counterinsurgency campaigns able to overpower some insurgencies and not others? Amit Ahuja’s lecture will compare two counterinsurgency campaigns in India with divergent outcomes: the counterinsurgency in the Punjab was able to subdue the insurgency, whereas the counterinsurgency in Kashmir has had limited success. Drawing on 105 interviews—54 with security force personnel and 51 with family members of insurgents—Ahuja will highlight the ability of the security forces to target a key vulnerability of an ...

Research Focus Group Talk: The Raw and the Husky: Vocal Qualia and Gender Politics in Post-Millennium Tamil Cinema

Music Room 1145

This talk will examine the reorganization of singing voices and vocal aesthetics in the music of Tamil cinema, contrasting the ideals for male and female voices from the 1960s and 1970s with new ideals that have emerged since the 1990s in the wake of India’s economic and cultural liberalization. Based on ethnographic research among playback singers, music directors, and sound engineers in the Tamil film industry, the talk will show how two now salient aesthetics ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Photography as Embodiment? Questions of Representation and Duplication in the Cult of Sai Baba of Shirdi

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Portraits of Sai Baba of Shirdi (late 1830s–1918) are everywhere to be seen in public space in Mumbai. Are these images sacred? According to the saint himself, historical exponents of his teachings, and many ordinary Mumbai residents, the answer is “Yes.” What does it mean to encounter divine power in a mass-reproduced image? Drawing on material from his just-released book, The Neighborhood of Gods: The Sacred and the Visible at the Margins of Mumbai (University ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Land, Lineage, Embodied Practices, and the Khora of Migration: Himalayan Lives Between Nepal and New York

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

This presentation will explore what it means for people from Mustang, Nepal, including those who have migrated to New York, to care for each other, steward a homeland across time and space, remake home elsewhere, and confront distinct forms of happiness and suffering through these movements. How do people honor and alter their shared responsibilities and senses of connection to people and place through migration? How do different generations abide with each other, even when ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Homes for Gods and Mortals: Film Screening and Discussion with the Director

Multicultural Center Theater 494 UCen Road, Isla Vista, CA

Homes for Gods and Mortals is a 2018 documentary by the acclaimed Indian film scholar Gayatri Chatterjee. It follows life in two small settlements neighboring the temple complex of Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh, India, that is famous for its ornate medieval architecture. The film focuses on the present-day residents of the villages—the nature of their embodied modes of worship and ritual performances—and the interaction of individual lives in a dynamic ...

Research Focus Group Talk: The Color of Belonging: Skin Tone and Attitudes towards Ethnic Voting in India

Lane Room, Ellison 3824 UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Ethnic voting is a feature of many multiethnic democracies the world over. The existence of an identity group does not guarantee the electoral solidarity of group members. Besides the desire to corner state resources, relations of fear and prejudice between groups are identified as prominent motivations for ethnic voting. But how members of a group treat each other, how they exercise their preferences and prejudices towards fellow group members also matter to group solidarity in ...

Research Focus Group Talk: The Politics of Eros and Ecofeminism in India

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979), the German-American philosopher and political theorist who was a prominent member of the Frankfurt School of critical social theory, envisioned a new form of feminist socialism in which Eros, desire, the domain of the body and the passions, would be restored to its proper place as equal to Logos, reason. In this talk Savita Singh will explore the politics of Eros articulated by Marcuse through an analysis of the politics of ecofeminism ...

Research Focus Group Symposium: Celebration of Guru Nanak: 550th Birth Anniversary

Orfalea Center Conference Room, Girvetz Hall

This South Asia symposium celebrates the life of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh tradition, on the 550th anniversary of his birth. The symposium will feature talks by two UCSB faculty members: Anshu Malhotra, Professor and Kundun Kaur Kapany Chair of Sikh and Punjabi Studies, will give a talk on “Guru Nanak in Popular Imagination,” and Mark Juergensmeyer, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Global Studies, will share his reflections on “Global Sikhism.” Cosponsored by ...

Research Focus Group Talk: For He Gladdens the Earth: Consent and Conjugality in the Astral State

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Traditional discussions of gender in Hindu traditions often begin with a critique of patriarchy in orthodox Brahmanical Dharmaśāstras, followed by a turn to potential feminist resources—for example, in goddess worship, Śākta traditions, and Tantra. One effect of this line of thinking has been a relative absence within Hindu studies of reflections on gender in relation to state power, a thematic hallmark of feminist postcolonial histories of South Asia. Geslani’s talk reframes the question of gender ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Amritlal Thakkar: A Gandhian “Intervention” in the “Tribal Question”

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Debates on the “tribal question” constituted an important part of intellectual politics during the late colonial period in South Asia, especially during the decades leading to the Partition and Independence in 1947. Present-day "reservation" (affirmative action) policies for the "Scheduled Tribes" owe much to these debates. The “tribal question” was framed as a question that attempted to resolve how the British colonial government, and later the post-colonial Indian government, should engage groups of tribal communities ...

Research Focus Group Symposium: India “Right”: Making and Unmaking Indian Citizenship

Zoom

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by the Indian Parliament on December 11, 2019. It amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 and creates an easier path for acquiring Indian citizenship for persecuted religious minorities—Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, and Parsi—from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who entered India before or on December 13, 2014. The Act does not encompass other (non-Islamic) neighboring countries, nor does it consider other persecuted minorities—for example, the Rohingya Muslims of ...

Research Focus Group Discussion with Amanda Lucia about Her Book Reflections of Amma

Zoom

ATTEND DISCUSSION The meeting will be hosted by our South Asia RFG colleague William Elison, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at UCSB, as part of his seminar on Religion and Ideology in Modern India: Current Approaches. This seminar session will feature a discussion with Amanda Lucia about her book, Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace (2014), which provides an ethnographic analysis of transnationalism and gender in a global movement centered around Amritanandamayi, who ...

Research Focus Group Discussion with Radhika Govindrajan about Her Book Animal Intimacies

Zoom

ATTEND DISCUSSION This seminar session will feature a discussion with Radhika Govindrajan about her book Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India’s Central Himalayas (2018), which is an ethnographic study of the interspecies relationships between human and nonhuman animals in the mountain villages of the Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in India. Following is the University of Chicago Press’s description of the book: "What does it mean to live and die in relation to other animals? ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Cybercrime in Digital India: Jamtara’s Youth and OTT Production Cultures

Zoom

ATTEND DISCUSSION Continuing a trend set by Bollywood cinema since the mid-2000s, small towns and villages in India are being mined for their performative excess, comic potential, and cultures of violence by platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Mukherjee traced this trend to Jamtara: Sabka Number Aayega (Jan 2020–), an over-the-top (OTT) crime drama from Netflix/Tipping Point that portrays real-life mobile phone phishing scams conducted by teenagers in the state of Jharkhand. The reliance ...

Research Focus Group Talk: The Blood Files: Epidemic, Medium, Milieu

Zoom

ATTEND DISCUSSION Epidemics make us keenly aware of our multispecies distributions: of changes to our microbial makeup, of the mediums (body fluids to the elements) that enable transmission. While our body makes us aware of fevers and aches, we need technical mediation beyond the everyday thermometer to track and understand changing microbial-human relations. Epidemic media—a range of technologies, microscopes to PCR machines—are the subject of Bishnupriya Ghosh’s book, The Virus Touch: Theorizing Epidemic Media. Drawing ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Sri Sabhapati Swami and the “Translocalization” of Sivarajayoga

Zoom

Keith Cantú’s talk will center on the life and yogic literature of the Tamil yogi Sri Sabhapati Swami (Capāpati Cuvāmikaḷ, 1828–1923/4). The first part of the talk will consist of an overview of Sabhapati’s life and historical context, including his interactions and falling out with the founders of the Theosophical Society, his literature and visual diagrams in numerous prestige and Indian vernacular languages, his Śaiva yogic cosmology and perspectives on Hindu traditions and other religions, ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Willing Ethnic-Nationalists, Diffusion, and Resentment: A Micro-Foundational Account

Zoom

ATTEND DISCUSSION Using evidence concerning the consolidation of Hindu nationalism in India, Aseema Sinha presents new ethnographic data about the variety of popular support for the Hindutva project and proposes an interactive theory of social identity. This framework helps us understand how Hindu nationalism becomes embedded in society. She argues that Hindu nationalism in India could be fruitfully analyzed by focusing on the processes through which ideas of exclusive nationalism spread among middle classes and ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Race, Caste, Hierarchy, Difference: Reflections on Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste

Zoom

ATTEND DISCUSSION In Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson brings together the freighted categories of “race” and “caste” and argues that, while the two are not synonymous, they “can and do coexi st in the same culture and serve to reinforce each other.” Wilkerson suggests that racism is the visible manifestation of a hidden and insidious caste system, a system of social domination that uses human differences in order to construct a ranking ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Making Sense of Melothesia: Embodying the Zodiac in Ancient Rome and India

4080 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

In this talk Tejas Aralere will present a comparative analysis of the zodiacal melothesia as it appears in Manilius’s Astronomica, a Latin astrological epic poem (ca. 20–40 CE), and in Sphujidhvaja’s Yavana Jātaka ( “Greek Horoscopy”), a Sanskrit astrological treatise (ca. second century CE). Melothesia refers to the mapping of the twelve signs of the Babylonian zodiac on twelve regions of the human body over which they possess particular influence. In a brief discussion of ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Post and the Shell: The Sacrificability of Animals in the Vedic Village

Zoom

Zoom attendance link: https://ucsb.zoom.us/j/87209704725 In this talk, Jonathan Dickstein will discuss anatomical and residential animal taxonomies as represented in canonical Vedic texts of the second and first millennia BCE. The Brāhmaṇas (900-650 BCE) in particular emphasize a residence-based categorization of animals into two main categories: “village animals” (grāmya) and “wilderness animals” (āraṇya). Following a discussion of the complexities of these two classes, Dickstein will pivot to the relationship between residence and the concept of medha, ...

Research Focus Group Talk: The Work of War: Gender and Care in Kabul, Afghanistan

Zoom

Zoom attendance link: https://ucsb.zoom.us/j/84686450683 Following widows and their families in the aftermath of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, this talk centers the lives and aspirations of widows amidst serial war and serial humanitarianism. As white sentimentality structures landscapes of care in Kabul, refusal is what remains. This research is based on more than four years of fieldwork between 2006 and 2013. Dr. Anila Daulatzai is a sociocultural anthropologist and the Chancellor’s Fellow at UC ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Self-Formation and Selflessness in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Tradition

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

The sixteenth-century Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition proposes a unique model of grace that decenters the paradigm of atonement and forgiveness and instead centers on forgetting and remembrance. In this Kṛṣṇa bhakti tradition, jīvas, embodied beings, occupy a unique intermediary position that identifies them both in relationship to Kṛṣṇa, the supreme Godhead, and to the material world of prakṛti. Jīvas can therefore choose to either turn toward or away from Kṛṣṇa. A person turns away from or ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Hungry Ghosts and the Karma of Meanness

4080 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

The realm of hungry ghosts is one of the unfortunate realms of rebirth in the Buddhist cycle of existence, and those reborn there are said to have led lives consumed by greed and spite. But hungry ghosts know the error of their ways, and they sometimes appear among humans, like the ghosts that haunt Ebenezer Scrooge, as augurs of what may await. Hungry ghosts are like modern felons who participate in “scared straight” programs. In ...

Research Focus Group Talk: The Indian Ramayana and Its Regional Performance Traditions

2135 Social Sciences and Media Studies SSMS UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

In this talk, Paula Richman will provide a brief survey of the major performance traditions in which the Ramayana narrative is enacted in different regions of India, including Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Assam. She will then provide analyses of two examples of how specific sets of theatrical conventions shape the representation of familiar characters. The 1954 Tamil mythological drama, “The King of Lanka,” starring Manohar, begins and ends as a conventional ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Saving the Dead: Conceptions of Agency in Tibetan Buddhist Funerary Rituals

4080 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

In this talk, Rory Lindsay will share with us insights from his forthcoming book, Saving the Dead: Tibetan Funerary Rituals in the Tradition of the Sarvadurgatipariśodhana Tantra (2022). He will discuss the history of one of the first Buddhist funerary traditions to be adopted in Tibet and the intersecting forms of agency—human, nonhuman, and material—that are described in this tradition's ritual manuals. He will also examine polemical exchanges about these practices and Tibetan innovations concerning ...

Conference: Satyajit Ray and the Sense of Wonder

Wallis Annenberg Conference Room 4315 SSMS, Santa Barbara, CA

This three-day conference and accompanying film series have been organized to celebrate the birth centenary of the renowned Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray (1921-1992). Most critical evaluations of Ray, which tend to focus on his films while overlooking his considerable literary and design output, have consecrated him as a modernist master or a postcolonial auteur. Such discussions are often couched in terms of modernity and tradition, Orientalism and nativism, objectivity and irrationality, skepticism and enchantment, art ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Rethinking Non-Violence: The Spiritual and Emotional Lives of Animals in Jain Literature

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Why are Jains committed to non-violence (ahiṃsā)? Is it out of a compassion for animals? Is it because of the consequences of violent action on the soul? This talk argues that the answer to these questions depends in part on whether one is reading Jain doctrinal texts or Jain literature. Jain literature in Kannada and Sanskrit offers a rationale for non-violence that is based on an affective materiality that karmically binds souls together across transmigration ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Engaging Religious Difference: The Case of Haribhadrasūri

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

The philosophical corpus attributed to the preeminent eighth-century Śvetāmbara scholar-monk Haribhadrasūri presents one of the most sustained, systematic, and multifaceted engagements with religious difference in all of medieval South Asian literature. This talk will examine his various modes of engaging difference and how they fit together: his doxographies surveying the varieties of belief; polemics that advocate critical interrogation of partisan allegiances; rules for debate that seek common ground in the face of divergent identity-based presuppositions; ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Trust Issues: Debating Medicine and Authority in Medieval India

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

When it came to medicine in medieval India, it was hard to know who to trust. Physicians and philosophers employed in royal courts disputed the competing claims to medical authority, using debates initiated around religious scriptures to assess the authority of canonical Sanskrit medical texts. This talk will focus on arguments made by Ugrāditya, a physician who was one of many Jain scholars working in the court at Mānyakheṭa of the Rāṣṭrakūṭa king Amoghavarṣa Nṛpatuṅga ...

Research Focus Group Colloquium: Agents of Ishq and the Radical Possibilities of Love

2135 Social Sciences and Media Studies SSMS UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

This colloquium will explore with Paramita Vohra the experience of co-creating a digital space about sex, love, and desire in India. Paromita Vohra is an Indian media artist and writer who works with a range of forms, including film, comic books, digital media, installation art, and writing, to explore themes of feminism, desire, urban life, and popular culture. Her filmography as director includes the documentary Partners in Crime, which will be screened on April 27 ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Tape Letters: Migration on Tape

2406 Music UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

The Tape Letters project shines light on the practice of recording and sending messages on cassette tape as a mode of communication by Pakistanis who migrated and settled in the UK between 1960 and 1980. Drawing directly both from first-hand interviews and from the informal and intimate conversations on the cassettes themselves, the project seeks to unearth, archive, and represent a portrait of this method of communication, as practiced mainly by Pothwari-speaking members of the ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Worship Space Acoustics: Exploring Its Application in Hindu Temples

3041 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Acoustically important aspects of Hindu worship include chants, bells, conch-shells, and gongs. Every Hindu temple is fitted with bells that worshipers ring. Conch-shells and gongs are used at various times during pūjā rituals, during which texts from the Vedas and other Sanskrit scriptures are chanted. These Vedic chants have phonetic characteristics such as pitch, duration, emphasis, uniformity, and juxtaposition. In this talk, Shashank Aswathanarayana will discuss his postdoctoral research on the acoustics of Hindu temples ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Diving Into the Lake: On the Necessity, Joy, and Anxiety of (Re)Translating Tulsidas’s Rāmcaritmānas

4080 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

The epic retelling of the Rāmāyaṇa, composed in ca. 1574 CE by the saintly poet Tulsidas, in the dialect of Hindi known as Avadhi, has long been considered one of the most sacred and beloved texts of the North Indian Hindu tradition. It has also, through ten complete English renderings, become one of the most translated works of premodern Indian vernacular literature. In this talk, Philip Lutgendorf will first briefly introduce the epic and some ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Thanatofuturism: Making Space for the Marginal at a Tomb Shrine in Bangalore

4080 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

In the middle of Bangalore, India, a small dargah (Sufi tomb shrine) is a space of possibility for multiple marginalized groups, facilitating imagined futures that include Muslims, subaltern Hindus, Dalits, and hijras as full citizens of the Indian polity. At a time when powerful actors seek to limit national belonging to certain Hindu Indians, Anna Bigelow argues that we have much to learn from such shrines and the people who intersect through them as they ...