Romila Thapar: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Santhosh Suradkar's picture
December 15, 2019 to December 16, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Ancient History, Social History / Studies, Social Sciences, South Asian History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

What we are currently witnessing is the growing interdisciplinary perspective in higher studies. In order to understand in a comprehensive manner a particular issue and present it coherently, it is proper to take into account its various facets.No theory and conceptual framework evolved in a particular discipline can be limited to that domain as it can be relevant in other domains as well. Drawing upon various methodologies, social sciences and humanities can be enriched. Keeping in mind this objective, the said Congress has been proposed. The intellectual contribution and conceptual categories of Romila Thapar, a preeminent historian, certainly transcend the disciplinary boundaries. Going beyond the established historical meanings, the nature of her oeuvre equally includes a variety of disciplines. Along with History, Thapar’s approach is instrumental in comprehending Anthropology, Sociology, Indology, Archeology, language, culture, polity and economy. Thus, Thapar’s historical work is characterised by a broad context of interdisciplinarity. And it is from this interdisciplinary perspective that the proposed congress seeks to comprehend her historical writings.

Romila Thapar is regarded to be one of the preeminent and internationally acclaimed historian of India. She has offered new ways of writing the history of ancient India. For her contribution in the domain of history, she was honoured in 2008 with Kluge Prize, which is considered to be equivalent to Nobel Prize in social sciences. Moreover, she has been honoured with honorary doctorates by many universities to celebrate her writings in history with a new methodology in Indian historiography,

D.D. Kosambi offered its new understanding. Following the perspective evolved by Kosambi, Thapar developed a new historiographical perspective on ancient India. She put into practice Marxist framework in her historical writings while innovating it rather than following it mechanically. Kosambi devised what is called ‘combined methods’ in order to understand Indian history. Romila Thapar developed a new methodology in the field of Indian religious, cultural and historical studies. This methodology consists in combining important insights in sociology, anthropology, archaeology, Indology and other social sciences. Thus, she established a scientific and rational approach to historiography by taking into account contemporary political contexts. This comprehensive /holistic methodology to history characteristic of her writings has been the vanguard since last few decades in understanding the history of the oppressed and marginalised in Ancient India.

In her works on ancient India, Romila Thapar foregrounded the questions of caste and gender. She also underscored the instrumentality of culture and religion in the processes of exploitation, and their socio-economic inter-relations. She has critiqued colonial, national and Marxist historiographies. Thus, we come across in her historical writings an insightful analysis of the making of modern social consciousness with respect to history. For instance, she brought forth a nuanced study of how the colonisers shaped an epistemology in India while undertaking their colonial/oriental project of hegemonic knowledge, and how they played a role in reinforcing the hegemonic culture in India. The manner in which she established a co- relation/interrelation between the historiography of ancient India and the evolution of the notions of nation and nationalism is insightful/profound. Through her numerous historical projects, she highlighted the politics of collective consciousness which result from the above mentioned historiography. 

The hegemonic socio-economic structure in history and its philosophical critique have been the central concern of Romila Thapar. Therefore, her writing is instrumental in understanding systematically the historical relations of ancient India. Some of the important topics that she covered are Indus civilisation, arya-anarya debate, varna, gana society, vedic-late vedic society, caste, gender, religion, race, philosophy, history of Somnath, Asoka and Maurya empire, Buddhism, Shakuntala, language, shramana- brahmana traditions, social conflict in ancient India, modern nationalism etc. From the point of view of research, it is necessary to take into account these issues that she broached in her writings. In order to understand the position of public intellectuals, she situates the consciousness of the contemporary intellectuals within the historical ambit. Thus, she offers a historical standpoint necessary for the comprehension of the contemporary reality. Her central objective has been to posit a rational and scientific society for the future.


Call for Papers

Scholars, academicians, researchers, teachers from universities and colleges, social scientists, students from various discipline and activist are invited to participate and present a paper on the topics related to Romila Thapar’s overall contribution in the field of history and Indology. Some of the themes could be as follows:

  • Critique of different trends of historiography, theories and methods of history writing.

  • Interpreting Early India

  • Writing ancient Indian social history

  • Aryan debate

  • Ancient Indian Religion and Society

  • History of Buddhism, Asoka and Mouryan empire.

  •  History of Hindu religion, Varna, Caste, Untouchability, Feudalism and Slavery.

  • Critique of patriarchy and women enslavement.

  •  Nation and Nationalism

  • Against communalism and distortion of history

  • Historian and the role of public intellectual.

  • Romila Thapar’s writings and her contributions to historical methodology.

  •  Social, religious and cultural conflict and processes of assimilation in Indian history.

Note: Other Related themes and topics on Romila Thapar’s work are also welcome.

Submission of abstract: 30 Novemeber 2019


Conference Date - 15–16 December, 2019

- Venue -

Hislop College
Temple Road, Civil Line, Nagpur



Contact Info: 

Pragatik Itihas Sanstha and Hislop College, Nagpur

Contact -

Dr. Dhanraj Mane

Organizing Secretary,

Nagpur Mb. No. 7757057414

Dr. Santosh Suradkar

Conference coordinator,

Mb. 9953516144