South Asia Graduate Student Conference XV
The University of Chicago
March 1st-2nd 2018
South Asia and the Limits of Humanistic Inquiry
Lorraine Daston (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, The University of Chicago)
Mahesh Rangarajan (Ashoka University)
Humanistic inquiry has played an important role in shaping South Asia, and South Asia has played an important role in shaping humanistic inquiry. But how far back into the past and how far into the future does this hold true? The fifteenth annual South Asia Graduate Student Conference at the University of Chicago invites papers that address the limits—whether temporal, institutional or conceptual—of humanistic inquiry. The question we pose is a simple one: Why should scholarship on South Asia lead academic discussions that invest new agency in the environment and other non-human entities?
Often unacknowledged in discussions of humanistic practices, South Asia has been the site of disciplinary regimes where distinctions of the human and non-human were instituted for the first time or at an unprecedented scale. The conference hopes to foreground South Asia as the site of a double exclusion: certain practices of knowledge were excluded from scholarly inquiry at the same time as animals, mountains, rivers and other non-human agents were written out of humanistic concerns. By bringing this double exclusion into view, we can see how the limiting of inquiry and the limitations of inquiry are distinct, yet related phenomena.
Practices such as philological close-reading, the collection of big data, and ethnographic fieldwork have determined the scales and working objects of scholarship in subtle, yet powerful ways, and we solicit papers that explore the limits of such practices. How might we learn from different epistemologies of precolonial South Asia and how they divide the phenomena of the world? What can we gain by returning to moments when current divisions were not presumed to be inevitable or obvious? How have institutional changes in South Asia—whether enacted by political interests or techno-developmentalist visions—enforced disciplinary divisions and values?
These questions are urgent as South Asia today also serves as a reminder that we can no longer afford to leave the agency of nonhumans out from our analyses. Catastrophes that have been put off by massive investments in engineering projects in the Global North have a much more immediate presence in South Asia.
We invite contributions that are at the intersection of but not limited to literature, media studies, ecocriticism, history, religious studies, science studies, philosophy, anthropology, sound and visual studies. Please send 200 word abstracts to http://tiny.cc/SAGSC by December 31st, 2017.
The conference will assist with travel and lodging for all graduate student participants. If you have any questions please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Lee White, Divinity School
Eric Gurevitch, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Joya John, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Faculty Advisor: Constantine V. Nakassis, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology