Lecture Summaries

Naresh Fernandes
Christian Lee Novetzke

Filipe Themudo Barata and João Magalhães Rocha
Arindam Dutta

Architectural Exchanges
Aruna D'Souza
Inderpal Grewal
Mohsin Hamid
Bina Agarwal
Jyoti Puri
Vijay Prashad
Corey Creekmur
Soli Sorabjee
Paromita Vohra
Sugata Bose

Lecture Faculty and Staff Coordinators

Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria
South Asian Studies Program Chair
Brown 209

Alyssa Ring
Academic Administrator
Shiffman 116

Soli Sorabjee Lectures in South Asian Studies

We are excited to offer two Soli Sorabjee Lectures in Spring 2017. Details of the first lecture are available below. Details of the second lecture are forthcoming.

Soli Sorabjee Lecture featuring Professor Raka Ray

Header image source: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Spring 2017 Lecture (1 of 2)

"Aspiring Femininity and Precarious Masculinity: Gender and Risk in India's New Economy"

Featuring Raka Ray, Professor of Sociology and South and Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
11:00 a.m.
Mandel G03
Mandel Center for the Humanities

Rural to urban migrants and other non-elite seeking to be upwardly mobile are caught between two dominant narratives: that of the celebration of aspiration and entrepreneurship, on the one hand, and of women's empowerment, on the other. Women and girls have become discursively the preferred subjects within global discourses of development and neoliberalism. In the meantime, young men who do not have class advantage are increasingly seen as the losers in the new global order. Through this study of lower-middle-class young men and women in urban India, Professor Raka Ray will explore the gendered subjects caught between these two global narratives as they seek to take their place in an increasingly privatized, unorganized sector in a precarious, global, neoliberal economy.

Raka Ray (AB Bryn Mawr 1985, PhD University of Wisconsin-Madison 1993) is Professor of Sociology and South and Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the former Chair of the Institute of South Asia Studies and the Department of Sociology. Professor Ray's areas of specialization are gender and feminist theory, inequality, emerging middle classes, cultures of servitude, social movements and postcolonial sociology. Publications include Fields of Protest: Women's Movements in India (University of Minnesota, 1999; and in India, Kali for Women, 2000), Social Movements in India: Poverty, Power, and Politics, co-edited with Mary Katzenstein (Rowman and Littlefeld, 2005), Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity and Class in India with Seemin Qayum (Stanford 2009), Both Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, co-edited with Amita Baviskar (Routledge, 2011), The Handbook of Gender (OUP, India 2011) and many articles.

About the Soli Sorabjee Lecture Series

This lecture series engages with themes of "justice" -- broadly defined to include the interrogation of human rights, historical narratives, literary and political representations, gender and social justice, citizenship and democracy, and cross-border connections between the nations of South Asia. Our goal is to expose students at Brandeis (and the larger public) to the scholarship being conducted in the multidisciplinary fields of South Asian Studies, both in the United States and in South Asia itself, as well as to the vast range of South Asian intellectual and artistic traditions. The series is sponsored by the South Asian Studies Program. It was named after the honorable Soli J. Sorabjee, former attorney general of India and a friend of Brandeis University.

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Past Soli Sorabjee Lectures

Fall 2015

The Political Theology of Modern Yoga

Christian Lee NovetzkeFeaturing Christian Lee Novetzke, Professor of Comparative Religion, South Asia Studies, and International Studies at the University of Washington

Thursday, November 12, 2015
5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
Presentation Room, Shapiro Admissions Center

Yoga represents far more than a set of healthy stretches or mind-calming exercises. Yoga is a civilizational force that reshapes the societies that embrace it. Our studies of yoga have investigated the history, literature, and practice of yoga, and many commentators have studied the formation of yoga as a cultural commodity in the modern world. Yet a key aspect of yoga as a civilizational force has eluded critique. This is an understanding of the politics of yoga, and in particular, of the politics at its core. 

In his talk, Professor Christian Lee Novetzke discussed yoga as a political ideology and, in particular, as counterpoint to the current resurgence of debates about “political theology,” the secularization of formerly religious concepts. As yoga moves ever closer to the center of American life, he seeks to understand how this growth may influence far more than our physical or mental health, but might alter our shared political life as well.

Christian Lee Novetzke is Professor of Comparative Religion, South Asia Studies, and International Studies at the University of Washington. His scholarly work includes the books Religion and Public Memory (Columbia University Press 2008), The Quotidian Revolution (Columbia University Press 2017), and Amar Akbar Anthony:  Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation, with William Elison and Andy Rotman (Harvard University Press 2016).

Spring 2015

Portuguese Cultural Heritage in South Asia

Featuring Filipe Themudo Barata, Associate Professor of History at the University of Évora, and João Magalhães Rocha, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Évora

Thursday, April 30, 2015
5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Presentation Room, Shapiro Admissions Center
Brandeis University

Filipe Themudo BarataSpeaker: Filipe Themudo Barata, Associate Professor of History at the University of Évora
Topic: "When the World was a Place of the Unknown and Vasco da Gama United the East and the West"

The first voyage of Vasco da Gama to East Africa and India took place in 1497-99. At this time, knowledge about the world was still unclear and the quest for Christians beyond the boundaries of Christendom was one of the main goals of the expedition. Another goal was to create a new Spice Route, which could withdraw the commerce monopoly that the Italian cities of Venice and Genova had at the time. The seaborne empire which was created took time to build and to settle, as this lecture will try to critically illustrate.

João Magalhães RochaSpeaker: João Magalhães Rocha, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Évora
Topic: "A Heritage Memory: the Portuguese Architectural Settlements on the Indian West Coast"

The accomplishment of Vasco da Gama enterprise was possible also due to the vision carried out by Afonso de Albuquerque, who became governor of Portuguese India between 1509-1515 and is the author of the real Portuguese settlement program in Indian Ocean. The lecture will present an overview of these major architectural works, many located in the cities of Goa, Damão and Diu. Moreover it will try to illustrate how these buildings represent an architectural continuity and variation from previous Portuguese constructions also in Morocco representing an advanced knowledge in engineering and constructive systems.

Fall 2014

Peer Review / Censorship

Featuring Arindam Dutta, Associate Professor of Architectural History and Director of the History, Theory, Criticism Program in Art and Architecture, and the SMArchS Program at MIT

Monday, November 17, 2014
5:30 - 7 p.m.
Presentation Room, Shapiro Admissions Center
Brandeis University

Debates regarding censorship tend to paint the censor in the form of a supervening power (the state, a bureaucracy, the demotic mob, corporate media, etc.) producing a barrier between something called “free speech” and its untrammelled, unmediated reception by the public sphere. A world without censorship, one would thus assume, would be a world without communicational turbulence, where speech impeccably mirrors certain truths that are then received by their audiences sans noise or interference. This talk contests such a conception of free speech, one whose rights would seem to stem from outside precinct of “nature” and natural right: censorship is not so much an obstruction in some linear passage of self-evident, pre-political truths from addressor to addressee but reflects a contest over the political domain as such, a battle over the composition of the state rather than against it. The talk takes up a string of recent examples of censorship in India, pertaining to works of art or scholarship, particularly those driven by the religious (Hindu) right. It argues that the liberal critique of censorious cultural nationalisms – however necessary – nonetheless occludes a more robust questioning of the inherent complicities between free speech and censorship. Rather than proclaim, yet again, an end to censorship, the talk invites us to think of democratic politics as necessarily mediated by various forms of censorships to which various groups willingly subscribe. Censorship, simply put, must be seen as inherent in any kind of social contract. Academic peer review, where a “community” of “qualified” scholars/censors hides behind the veil of anonymity to pronounce on the verifiability of scholarly propositions, is an example in point. It also instantiates precisely the problem in question.
Spring 2014

Architectural Exchanges in South Asia: Medieval to Contemporary Period

Soli Sorabjee Lecture in South Asian Studies and The Richard Saivetz '69 Annual Memorial Architectural Symposium
Presented by the South Asian Studies Program and the Department of Fine Arts
Chair: Prof. Talinn Grigor, Department of Fine Arts, Brandeis University

Friday, April 4, 2014
4 - 8 p.m.
Presentation Room, Shapiro Admissions Center, Brandeis University

On April 4, 2014, a merging of two lecture series—The Soli Sorabjee Lectures in South Asian Studies and the Richard Saivetz ’69 Annual Memorial Architectural Symposium, sponsored by the South Asian Studies program and the Department of Fine Arts—was presented to a group of eager Brandeis students and scholars of South Asia and fine arts.

Fall 2013

Ingesting Culture: Cooking, Colonialism, and the Construction of Indian-nessAruna D'Souza

Dr. Aruna D'Souza

Thursday, October 10, 5 p.m.
Shapiro Admissions Center

Our Fall 2013 lecture featured Professor Aruna D'Souza, a writer, critic, historian of modern and contemporary art, and a cultural critic who writes on food’s relation to memory and trauma. Professor D'Souza's research interests include issues of feminism, post colonialism, and globalization. She is currently finishing two projects: a book titled Open Secrets: Intimacy Between Street and Home, and a memoir-slash-cookbook, Kitchen Stories: Essays on Food, Love, and Loss. She is the author of Cézanne’s Bathers: Biography and the Erotics of Paint, and co-editor of the 2013 volume Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn. Her criticism has been published in Art in America, Bookforum, Time Out New York, and Art Margins.

videoVideo of the Lecture

Spring 2013

Bureaucracy and Masculinity in India after IndependenceInderpal Grewal

Prof. Inderpal Grewal from Yale University

Thursday, February 28, 5 p.m.
Shapiro Admissions Center, Presentation Room

Our Spring 2013 lecture featured Professor Inderpal Grewal from the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at Yale University. Her research interests include transnational feminist theory; gender and globalization, human rights; NGO’s and theories of civil society; theories of travel and mobility; South Asian cultural studies, and postcolonial feminism.  She is the author of Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire and the Cultures of Travel (Duke University Press, 1996) and Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms (Duke University Press, 2005). Currently she is working on a book length project on the relation between feminist practices and security discourses.

video Video of the Lecture

Fall 2012

Constructing Fictions: Prose, Politics, and PakistanAuthor, Mohsin Hamid

Author, Mohsin Hamid

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 5:00pm
Mandel Center Forum

Our Fall 2012 lecture featured Mohsin Hamid, author of the novels Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and the forthcoming How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. His fiction has been translated into over 30 languages, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, featured on bestseller lists, and adapted for the cinema. His short stories have appeared in Granta and the Paris Review, and his essays in the Guardian, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. Born in 1971, he has lived about half his life, on and off, in Lahore.

video  Video of the Lecture

Spring 2012

Gender and Forest Governance: A History of Absence, the Impact of Presence

Bina Agarwal Prof. Bina Agarwal from The Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi

March 19, 2012

Our Spring 2012 lecture featured prize-winning economist Bina Agarwal, Director and Professor of Economics at the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, India. Ms. Agarwal gave an inspiring lecture in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library, drawing upon her most recent book, Gender and Green Governance. She spoke of the historical absence of women from forest governance and in particular the impact of women's presence in making a significant change in environmental preservation. 

We regret that streaming video is not available for this lecture.

Fall 2011

Racialized Communalisms, Criminalized Queers, and the Police in Contemporary India

Jyoti PuriProf. Jyoti Puri from Simmons College 

November 2, 2011

Our Fall 2011 Lecture featured Professor Jyoti Puri, sociology professor at Simmons College. She lectured to a packed atrium in the Mandel Center for the Humanities, on her fieldwork among police in New Delhi. Her presentation explored the enforcement of sodomy law, or Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. She analyzed the discourses through which Delhi police name some groups as consistently queer and criminal even while allowing for the possibility of the decriminalization of homosexuality. 

videoVideo of the lecture

Spring 2011

PrashadThe Day Our Probation Ended

Prof. Vijay Prashad from Trinity College 

March 3, 2011

Our Spring 2011 lecture featured acclaimed author Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford. Professor Prashad gave a rousing lecture at Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library on the desi communities reaction to 9/11 and subsequent events.

PrashadVideo of the lecture

Fall 2010

Corey CreekmurExperiments with Truth: Confronting Colonial History in Popular Indian Cinema

Prof. Corey Creekmur from the University of Iowa

October 28, 2010

Our Fall 2010 lecture featured Professor Corey Creekmur, head of Film Studies at the University of Iowa, and an expert in international popular cinema. Professor Creekmur lectured in front of a crowd of over 100 in the Mandel Center for the Humanities on the recent portrayal of colonial history in Indian cinema.

videoVideo of the lecture

Spring 2010

Soli SorabjeeRule of Law: A Moral Imperative for South Asia and the World

Delivered by Soli Sorabjee

April 14, 2010

Our Spring 2010 lecture featured a special visit by Mr. Sorabjee to Brandeis. Mr. Sorabjee delivered an inspiring speech to a packed crowd in Rapaporte Treasure Hall on how the "rule of law" has been applied across India and elsewhere to moderate the forces of extremism and tyranny.

videoAn Interview with Soli Sorabjee

videoVideo of the lecture (temporarily unavailable)

pdfFull text of the speech

Spring 2010

Paromita VohraAn Evening with Filmmaker/Writer Paromita Vohra

February 25, 2010

The Spring 2010 lecture was held on February 25, 2010. Our guest was Paromita Vohra, one of India's leading documentary filmmakers. Ms. Vohra screened two of her recent films, met with students, and answered questions from the audience.

The co-sponsors for this event included the Department of English, the South Asian Studies Program, the Program in Women's and Gender Studies and the Program in Cultural Production.

videoAn Interview with Paromita Vohra

Fall 2009

Sugata BoseDifferent Universalisms, Colorful Cosmopolitanisms: The Global Imagination of the Colonized

Prof. Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs, Harvard University

November 16, 2009

The inaugural lecture was held on November 16, 2009.  Prof. Sugata Bose,  Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University, delivered a lecture entitled "Different Universalisms, Colorful Cosmopolitanisms: The Global Imagination of the Colonized."

videoVideo of the lecture