Sunday, 11 October 2015

The annual seminar series ‘Visual Constructions of South Asia’, launched in 2014 at the University of Cambridge and hosted by the Centre of South Asian Studies, continues in Michaelmas Term 2015 with talks by Anshul Avijit, Xavier Guégan and Abhimanyu Pandey.  
The series is part of the ‘Visual Language and South Asian History Program’ convened by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes (Clare Hall College) and aims to introduce Cambridge under-/postgraduate students, academic staff, researchers at different career stages and visiting scholars to the ways in which visual research methods allow for new perspectives on South Asian history and culture. 
Seminars take place fortnightly on alternate Thursdays, 4:00p.m. - 6:00p.m, in S2 seminar room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge (unless otherwise stated).  Please see below the program for Michaelmas Term 2015 and poster:
15 October:  ‘Savages’ in Sketchbooks: Tribal Portraits of Colonial India (Anshul Avijit)
29 October: The Imperial Aesthetic: Photography, Samuel Bourne and the Indian Peoples in the post-Mutiny era (Xavier Guégan)
12 November (at 3p.m.!): In the shadow of Mt Kailash: The politics of visual constructions in a trans-boundary cultural landscapes (Abhimanyu Pandey). 
For further information about the seminar series please see
All welcome.

Friday, 9 October 2015

"It's an archival problem": Simon Schaffer in conversation with Sujit Sivasundaram

Do read in full this fascinating conversation about the history of science at - the University of Cambridge Research Bulletin. I have pasted some highlights below.

One conundrum the researchers debated was how global narratives of science could have been missed by scholars for so long. It largely stems from the use of source materials says Schaffer: “It’s an archival problem: as far as the production and preservation of sources is concerned, those connected with Europe far outweigh those from other parts of the world.”

“If we are to de-centre from Europe, we need to use radically new kinds of sources – monuments, sailing charts, courtly narratives, and so on,” explains Sivasundaram. He gives an example of Sri Lankan palm-leaf manuscripts: “The Mahavamsa
is a Buddhist chronicle of the history of Sri Lanka spanning 25 centuries. Among the deeds of the last kings of Kandy, I noticed seemingly inconsequential references to temple gardens. This led me back to the colonial archive documenting the creation of a botanic garden in 1821, and I realised that the British had ‘recycled’ a Kandyan tradition of gardening, by building their colonial garden on the site of a temple garden.”

Moreover, says Sivasundaram, the mechanisms of knowledge assimilation are often overlooked. Europeans often accumulated knowledge in India by engaging with pandits, or learned men. “The Europeans did not have a monopoly over the combination of science and empire – the pioneering work of Chris Bayly shows how they fought to take over information networks and scientific patronage systems that were already in place. For Europeans to practice astronomy in India, for instance, it meant translating Sanskrit texts and engaging with pandits.”

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Call for papers for 2016 conference on South Asian manuscripts


New approaches to manuscript variations in South Asia

A panel at the European Conference on South Asian Studies, Warsaw, Poland, 27-30 July 2016


Convenors: Neeraja Poddar (Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Arthur Dudney (University of Cambridge)

The papers in this panel will explore the themes of copying, repetition and reproduction in the context of early-modern South Asian manuscripts in order to understand how such books were valued, used and disseminated. We hope to include manuscripts in both pothi and codex format—with and without illustrations—ranging from literature and religious treatises to dictionaries and indexes. Common to them is the fact that multiple versions and editions of each were made through copying by hand. The result of such non-mechanical reproduction is that copies might not be "perfect" with variations introduced by artists and scribes, either deliberately or inadvertently. The purpose of this panel is to explore the significance of such variations. Rather than thinking of them as merely discrepancies or mistakes, we regard them as junctures where the authors' or artists' engagement with contemporary sectarian concerns, literary trends, artistic strategies and popular culture may be manifest.

Papers might compare different editions or versions in order to investigate issues such as: What is the core of a text? Which viewpoint is preferred at a particular historical moment? How are narratives transformed as they are copied? What is the impact of scribal error when such an error becomes sanctified by usage? We invite proposals from scholars who work in a variety of disciplines including Art History, Literature, and Religious Studies, especially welcoming proposals that draw upon methodologies from Digital Humanities.

To submit a proposal, go to Our panel is number P33. Please contact either of the convenors at the links above if you have any questions. Please note that in order to attend the conference you have to be a paid up member of the European Association for South Asian Studies (you can join here: 

Arthur Dudney / University of Cambridge
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (2015-18)
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Phone (UK): +44 (0) 7508832935
Voicemail (US): +1 831 320 0935

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in collaboration with the National Museum and Archaeological Survey of India will be presenting the exhibition "Imaging the Isle Across: Vintage Photography from Ceylon" (see poster attached).  The exhibition will be inaugurated on Saturday, 26 September 2015 at 5pm at the National Museum Auditorium. The exhibition is a partner event of the Delhi Photo Festival, 2015.

The Exhibition: The history of photography in South Asia is a story of itinerant practitioners, seeking to expand the eye of the lens by exposure to the farthest corners of the world. Though Ceylon came under British rule only in 1815, it followed the maritime expansion of the Portuguese, the Dutch, Danes and the French – the first of which identified it in their sea-charts as Zeilon, from which the modern name Ceylon was derived and maintained till 1972.  Featuring vintage photographs drawn primarily from the Alkazi Collection of Photography, this exhibition takes its viewers through a mapping of sites as well as visual tropes and themes emerging from early photography via diverse mediums of production such as albums, illustrated books and postcards. These traces remain foundational in generating a imagistic canon that etched the life of a swiftly transforming country, as did the coming of a modern, pictorial language instituted by Lionel Wendt, the art photographer and patron. 

We are extendedly grateful to the contributions and support of the University of Cambridge, Centre of South Asian Studies; the India-Sri Lanka Foundation, Ismeth Raheem, Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, Dominic Sansoni and Anoli Perera.

Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Sanskrit Librarian, University of Oxford: closing date: 18 Sept 2015

Applications are invited for a one-year fixed-term Sanskrit post at the Bodleian Library in Oxford - the
John Clay Sanskrit Librarian (Job Ref: 119208) 

Full details are available online at:

Please note the closing date is this week, 18th September 2015.

Posted on behalf of Dr Gillian Evison and
Emma Mathieson
Modern South Asian Studies Librarian
Bodleian Libraries
The Weston Library
Broad Street
Tel: (01865) 277206

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Make Muslim Heritage More Accessible

Why Don’t We Just Talk to Each Other? – Building Cross-Sector Connections to Make Muslim Heritage More Accessible.

Saturday 26th September, 10:30 am – 2pm at Bishopsgate Institute.

Are you collecting materials or carrying out research on Muslim history or heritage? Do you want to develop a manifesto of cross-sector collaboration with others working in this expanding field? If yes, join us for an event aimed at artists, journalists, academics, curators, librarians, archivists and activists. This informal event explores issues such as funding, accessibility and engagement through group discussions, short presentations and networking opportunities. 

Based on the feedback from the delegates of our successful inaugural symposium earlier this year, the Everyday Muslim team has organised a half-day session for you to network, share and discuss the issues you face regarding cross-sector collaboration in the context of Muslim heritage in the UK.

Free admission; advance booking required:


About the Everyday Muslim Project:

Highlights from the Symposium 2015:!symposium-online-2015/cv3a

Topics for discussion


To what extent is your sector accessible and who is it accessible to in reality?
How do you evaluate the level of accessibility?
What steps are being taken to increase accessibility within your sectors? What else can be done?

Community Engagement

Does your organisation engage with the Muslim community?
Who is responsible for community engagement in your organisation?
Do you feel your organisation is accessible to your local community?
How useful is community engagement to your organisation?
How is the success of community engagement evaluated?


Does your organisation collaborate with organisations within and outside of your sector? With individuals, local groups, wider community? If not, why?
What are the motivations to collaborate?
What barriers do you face, if any, from within your sector when embarking on possible collaborations?
What conditions are needed to make collaboration effective?
What practical measures are there in your sector that promotes collaboration?


What methods and approaches have you found to be most successful/effective in securing funding?
Do present funders reflect your sector’s needs?
How do you make the most of funding opportunities in your sector?
Which funding organisations are you aware of?

(Draft) Programme Schedule

10:30 - 11:00 Networking with refreshments

11:00 - 11:15 Intro by Everyday Muslim Team and news of new Collaboration tools

11:15 – 11:45 Open mic style 5 min presentations
This will be your chance to talk in more detail about your organisation’s experience of collaboration. The presentation can reflect issues or solutions you would like to share.
(Sign-up on the day)

11:45 - 12:45 Small group topic discussions

12:45 - 1: 15 Feedback from group discussions

1:15 – 1:45   Funders Presentations (TBC)

1:45 – 2:00   Feedback and Close.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Our next conference is in Paris, 3rd-4th July 2015. All welcome!

We are delighted to announce that on Friday July 3rd and Saturday July 4th 2015 SAALG will be holding a joint conference with the Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG) in Paris.

The conference will give participants the chance to explore France's collections and connections with South and Southeast Asia.

On Friday we will be based at École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO), Maison de l'Asie, 22, avenue du President Wilson, 75116, Paris - when we will have a selection of talks and a tour of the EFEO as well as a chance to view items from their collections.

Talks include:

Rachel Guidoni - Major South Asia Collections in French Libraries

Arundhati Virmani -  South Asia Collections at the Marseille's Chamber of Commerce

Mrs J. Filliozat  - The odyssey of the Pali manuscript EFEO collection

Holger Warnk - The Nachlass of Maurice Durand in the Library of Southeast Asian Studies in Frankfurt
Cécile Capot  - The history of the EFEO library

Isabelle Dion and Olivia Pelletier  - Archives about Indochina in the national overseas archives (ANOM)

Jérôme Petit  - Missionaries, travelers and scholars: the building of an Indian manuscripts collection at the National Library of France

On Friday evening there will be the chance to meet socially at the conference dinner (not included in the fee, venue to be confirmed).

On Saturday at 10am there will be a visit to the Musée Guimet, 6, Place d'Iéna- 75116, Paris: including a guided tour of selected collections and a visit to the library.

On Saturday afternoon SEALG will hold another session of talks which you are welcome to attend also held at Musée Guimet.

Participants are welcome to book for Friday only, Friday and Saturday morning, or Friday and Saturday all day.   The fee for the whole conference is £30 and includes talks, lunch and refreshments on Friday plus the visit to Musee Guimet on Saturday morning and additional SEALG talks on the Saturday afternoon.  

This year to help with planning we will be asking participants to pay the conference fee in advance but at this stage if you would like to book a place simply email, specifying which sessions you plan to attend, and whether you would like to attend the Saturday evening dinner (excluded from the conference fee).  The final day for booking will be 22nd June and payment will be required by Friday 26th June.

To book a place or for further information about recommended accommodation email:

Images of the Library at the École française d'Extrême-Orient, courtesy of Maïté Hurel.

The SAALG steering committee looks forward to welcoming you to our Paris conference.

Helen Porter (SAALG Chair, and Digital Services Support Officer, SOAS, University of London)
and Maïté Hurel (Head of South Asian collections, École française d'Extrême-Orient)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Parallel publics: an Indian history of democracy

You are warmly invited to attend the 2015 Smuts Memorial Fund Lecture, this year is being given by Dr Ramnarayan Rawat, Smuts Research Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. His lecture 'Parallel publics: an Indian history of democracy' will take place on Thursday, 21 May 2015, at 5 pm in The Old Combination Room, Trinity College, Cambridge, with a reception afterwards.

Dalit (former untouchable) groups in early twentieth century North India gave democracy an Indic genealogy by drawing from existing devotional and collective forms of practice to fashion a set of new ideological and spatial interventions. Through print and public activism, Dalit activists utilized the fifteenth century saints Raidas and Kabir, key figures of the heterodox Nirgun Bhakti tradition, as spokespersons for ‘human equality’, offering a spiritual critique of caste inequality. These initiatives enabled Dalit activists to engage creatively with liberal ideologies of representation to create novel forms of political practice at the turn of the twentieth century. Counter-demonstrations by Dalit groups from 1922 onwards sought to intervene in debates on democracy by parading with untouchable bodies and capturing public spaces in prominent towns of North India. The term ‘parallel publics’ registers the absence of evidence of these struggles and narratives within dominant Indian archives and academic discourse and recognizes the continued circulation of these histories, discursive forms and practices within Dalit neighbourhoods.

Ramnarayan Rawat is currently Smuts Visiting Fellow in Commonwealth Studies based at the Centre of South Asian Studies.  Dr Rawat is also Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Delaware.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Next SAALG Conference - Friday 30th January 2015 - Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

We are pleased to announce that the next South Asia Archive and Library Group conference will take place on Friday 30th January at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre  in South London. 

Some of you may remember Hari Jonkers' talk at our February 2014 conference which introduced us to South Asia related material held in the Salvation Army's archives. 

Image copyright: The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

The conference will include the following talks plus a chance to view such items from the Salvation Army's archive collection and museum displays, as well as the SAALG Business Meeting. 

Cataloguing the Michael Stokes Indian postcard collection’ Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (Archivist, Royal Society for Asian Affairs)

Searching for Mahabharatas: An inquiry into the modern adaptations of an Indian 'national epic' in Hindi and English cultural spheres’ Chimnay Sharma (PhD Candidate, SOAS University of London)

Three books about South India in the days of the Raj.  Discovering the life and work of the photographer A. T. W. Penn’ - Christopher Penn (Independent Researcher, Author)

Digitising with volunteers: the experience of the Centre of South Asian Studies’ – Dr. Kevin Greenbank (Archivist, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge).

The conference fee is £20 including lunch and refreshments and is payable on the day. If you would like to attend please simply fill in our online booking form at the following link

For a full programme or further information please don't hesitate to contact Helen Porter at or 

We hope to see you there in January!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Stein-Arnold Exploration Fund: Call for Proposals
Application forms for this special fund scheme are now available on e-GAP.

Intending applicants need to register themselves in the system, if not already registered, and should access full details by following the links to 'funding schemes' from the personal welcome page.

Stein-Arnold Exploration Fund
The Fund was established according to the terms of the Will of Sir Aurel Stein, FBA, to commemorate his friendship with Sir Thomas Arnold, FBA, for 'the encouragement of research on the antiquities or historical geography or early history or arts of those parts of Asia which come within the sphere of the ancient civilisations of India, China, and Iran, including Central Asia, or of one or more of these and so that special consideration shall be paid, if possible, to research of this character bearing upon the territories comprised in the present Kingdom of Afghanistan including the region of ancient Bactria and in the north-western frontier region of India'.

Research should be 'so far as possible by means of exploratory work', and applicants must be British or Hungarian subjects.

Level of grant: Awards do not normally exceed £2,500.
Deadline for submission of applications: 3 December 2014.
Results expected: end March 2015.
Earliest Start Date for Research: 1 April 2015.
The first two ‘Visual Constructions of South Asia’ seminars are now available as podcasts:

The Iconography of Alterity: Simla and the Visualisation of ‘British’ Enclaves in Indian Highlands (Siddharth Pandey)

‘For a little amusement’: A Brutal Look at Leisure in Early Modern Indo-Danish Relations (Josefine Baark)

For further information about this seminar series see Also, please circulate to others who may be interested.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture

The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture
Special Lecture to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of Jawaharlal Nehru in November 1889

Tuesday 25th November 2014

Shivshankar Menon
Formerly National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of India

‘Jawaharlal Nehru and World Order’

Edmond J Safra Memorial Theatre at King's College London WC2R 2LS (entrance in the Strand) at 6.30pm

Kindly sponsored by
India Advisory Partners Limited

The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Trust

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Kollam in Cambridge: a ninth century Indian document and its nineteenth century rediscovery

In pre-modern South Asia, important legal documents were inscribed onto copper sheets; known as copper plate grants, these are one of the main sources for medieval Indian history. The Kollam plates record endowments and privileges awarded in 849 CE to an Eastern (Syrian) Christian church at the port of the same name in Kerala and are among the most fascinating medieval grant documents from South Asia.

Europeans had known of the existence of the Kollam plates since the sixteenth century, but for a few centuries their whereabouts remained unknown, until they were rediscovered in the Cochin Fort in 1806. It is in this context that Claudius Buchanan, a Cambridge alumnus and Vice-Provost of Fort William College in Calcutta, commissioned a set of copper printing plates to produce prints of what he termed “the Christian tablets of Malabar”. In the pre-photographic era prints were one of the main means of disseminating epigraphic records or other historical documents. While the Kollam plates have recently been studied within an Indian Ocean context, in the nineteenth century missionaries and scholars like Buchanan sought in them evidence for the history of Indian Christianity and the potential for expanded missionary activity in the sub-continent.

Buchanan’s are the earliest reproductions of this important document and sets of prints were circulated to Indian ‘pandits’ and “learned societies in Asia and Europe” in an effort to decipher the main text of the grant.

You can view these incredible copper plates in a free exhibition, Kollam in Cambridge, in the entrance hall of Cambridge University Library until 8th November 2014, where Buchanan's plates are complemented by informative banners produced by De Montfort University and the British Museum.

More information about the copper plates from Kollam, and their value to historians of early and medieval Indian history, is available on the project website: .   The project was led by De Montfort University in collaboration with The British Museum and was funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number AH/I025948/1).

Monday, 13 October 2014

Visual Rhetoric and Modern South Asian history seminar series, University of Cambridge, Michaelmas 2014

Please find below the schedule for the ‘Visual Rhetoric and Modern South Asian history’ seminar series organised as part of the ‘Visual Language and South Asian History’ Programme led by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, University of Cambridge. Seminars will take place in Michaelmas Term 2014 on Tuesdays between 4:30 - 6:00p.m. in S3 Seminar Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP. 

This seminar series introduces postgraduate students and researchers to media research skills required when exploring the visual dimension of modern South Asian history. For details see

14th October 
Colonial South Asia: cultural conflicts and racial hierarchies

21st October   
Visual anthropological perspectives on South Asian society

28th October  
Gendered politics in the visual representation of South Asia

4th November  
The Indian National Movement

11th November  
Partition: politics, memory and experience

18th November 
After Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

25th November     
Sri Lanka on film: Ceylon tea and Tamil Tigers

2nd December      
Contemporary South Asian visual constructions of Self & Nation

Contact: Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, amm230[at]

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Visual Constructions of South Asia new seminar series, University of Cambridge, 2014-15

'Visual Constructions of South Asia' is an annual seminar series launched in 2014 as part of the Visual Language and South Asian History Program led by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes at the University of Cambridge. The series is supported by the Thriplow Charitable Trust and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).  For further information see 

Please see below the programme and poster for the Michaelmas term. 
Location and Time: Mondays, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., S2 Seminar Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road. CB3 9DT.

13th October:  The Iconography of Alterity: Simla and the Visualisation of ‘British’Enclaves in Indian Highlands (Siddharth Pandey)
27th October:  ‘For a little amusement’: A Brutal Look at Leisure in Early Modern Indo-Danish Relations (Josefine Baark)
10th November:  Death and sanitation: Imperial representations of The Ganges (Cleo Roberts)
24th November:  Before East was East: British Pakistani Cinema in the 1980s (Hamza Beg)