Wednesday, 29 June 2016

@SouthAsia71: Bringing Oral Histories to a New Audience

Since my previous post, which explained how @SouthAsia71 tweets archival documents related to the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971,  I've been busy working with material from the oral history project at the archives of the Cambridge South Asian Studies Centre (CSAS). This post will showcase the tweets, discuss their success in reaching a new and wider audience, and lay out plans to incorporate them into analytical narratives within @SouthAsia71's twitter feed.

In terms of the material available at CSAS, I've first turned my attention to a series of interviews carried out by Professor Ian Stephens in 1973. The meetings brought together a number of different scholars to discuss their perspective on the events of 1971 from various geographical locations. In order to convert the material into tweets, I've applied the same principles that I have to the government documents that I'm used to- condense the material into an engage-able format, whilst maintaining proper context. Given the conversational nature of Ian Stephen's interviews, this can be easier said than done, but a challenge I've relished.

The inclusion of oral histories has added a new dimension to the twitter feed. The above tweet, quoting Dr Rashid Amjad, was the first time that @SouthAsia71 had considered the reaction of the West Pakistani people toward the crisis in East Pakistan. Previously focus had been almost entirely upon the actions of the military government and Zulfikur Ali Bhutto.

The Oral History-based tweets have been successful in reaching a new and wider audience. The tweet above, featuring Atta-ur-Rahman, was retweeted 16 times throughout the course of a day (each tweet is sent 3 times per day) and was seen by 2.913 people. Whereas the tweet below, a highlighted screenshot from a transcript of the interviews, attracted 27 retweets and reached 3,084 people. As @SouthAsia71 continues to gain followers, these numbers are certain to rise in future. Of the account's 2,800 followers, 65% reside in South Asia, and are interacting with this material for the first time.

The material from CSAS has also sparked debate and discussion about the events of 1971. In the above exchange I made the point that Dr Amjad is explicitly separating consideration of the West Pakistani leadership from the people themselves in West Pakistan.

In future, the material from CSAS will be incorporated into the wider analytical narratives that @SouthAsia71 creates. As in the example above, the integration of diplomatic and oral histories can provide a rich and more nuanced picture for @SouthAsia71's followers. There is also great potential to use the material on other mediums such as Storify and Buzzfeed, this will be the focus of my next post.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

95th conference now fully booked - final programme below

We regret we cannot accept any more bookings for this event. 
June 21, 2016. 


Thursday 30 June 2016, 10.30-17.00
SOAS University of London, Main College Buildings, 1st Floor, Room 116,
10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG


10.3011.00     Arrival, networking and coffee

11.0011.10     SAALG chair’s welcome

11.1511.50     Christine van Ruymbeke, University of Cambridge
Sir William Jones and the Anvare Sohayli: Containing a fortuitous but nevertheless essential note on the Orient Pearls

12.0012.35     Ursula SimsWilliams, The British Library
Everlasting Flame’ at SOAS and in New Delhi: an exhibition case study

12.5014.00     Lunch and networking

14.0014.30     Dave Riley, University of Cardiff
@SouthAsia71: Archival Material finds a New Audience on Twitter

14.4015.15    Nilanjan Sarkar, The London School of Economics and Political Science
Ordering the Archive: Examining a ‘fatwa’ from medieval India

15.2516.00     Saqib Baburi, The British Library
Histories of Shāh Jahān: Reconstructing the Corpus of Royal Manuscripts

16.1016.20     Coffee

16.2517.00     SAALG business meeting

Burzine Waghmar,
Farzana Whitfield,

Friday, 10 June 2016

New Open Archives initiative for South Asian studies seeks Program Coordinator

The newly established SAMP Open Archives initiative creates and maintains a collection of open access materials for the study of South Asia. This major collaborative initiative is aimed at addressing the current scarcity of digital resources pertinent to South Asian studies and at making collections more widely accessible both to North American scholars and to researchers elsewhere in the world.

The Open Archives initiative (OAi) will address needs in all academic disciplines, from the humanities through the sciences.  With an initial emphasis on colonial-era materials from South Asia, a carefully curated collection of resources will fill gaps in available online collections.  Several criteria will be used to select and prioritize resources for digitization, including:

  • Value to research;
  • Utility for a broad population of users;
  • Uniqueness (not available through other credible, sustainable sources);
  • At risk – due to condition, environmental or sociopolitical factors, or other threats;
  • Complementarity to other resources.

The SAMP OAi currently has twenty-three members from North America and South Asia.  Institutions interested in becoming members can find additional information about the initiative and membership here.

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is seeking a creative and self-directed professional to coordinate the “South Asia Material Project’s Open Archives initiative.” In addition to developing, implementing and administering the program, the Program Coordinator will be responsible for outreach and participating in initiatives that leverage program results for the purpose of expanding the Open Archives initiative and sources of program funding.

Qualified candidates will have (among other requirements) proven experience in developing and implementing digital projects, program management and teambuilding skills, a successful track record in developing funding proposals, communication and web authoring experience, and demonstrated foreign language capability and knowledge of South Asia, South Asian languages, culture, history, and geography.

Full position posting may be found at:

June 9, 2016

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

95th SAALG conference at SOAS, 30 June 2016

I do hope you will be able to join the SAALG community at our next summer conference in London on Thursday 30 June.  Please note it is on a Thursday this year rather than the normal Friday. 

We are delighted to be at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to celebrate their centennial with a programme in honour of Sir Edward Denison Ross, Orientalist, linguist and their first Director from 1916 to 1937.

Please circulate details of the conference among South Asianists but note that there will only be 38 places, so it is advisable to book early!    For the full programme of speakers and how to book,  please read on.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, 30 JUNE 2016
School of Oriental and African Studies, Philips (main) building, 1st floor, Room 116
10 Thornhaugh St., Russell Sq., London WC1H 0XG


1030-1100                   Arrival, networking and coffee

1100-1110                   SAALG chair’s welcome

1115-1150                   Christine van Ruymbeke, University of Cambridge
Sir William Jones and the Anvar‐e Sohayli: Containing a fortuitous but nevertheless essential note on the Orient Pearls.

1200-1235                   Ursula Sims-Williams, The British Library
Everlasting Flame’ at SOAS and in New Delhi: an exhibition case study

1250-1400                   Lunch and networking

1400-1430                   Tour of Brunei Gallery’s Treasures of SOAS permanent exhibits

1440-1515                   Nilanjan Sarkar, The London School of Economics and Pol. Science
                                    Ordering the Archive: Examining a ‘fatwa’ from medieval India

1525-1600                   Saqib Baburi, The British Library
Histories of Shāh Jahān: Reconstructing the Corpus of Royal Manuscripts

1610-1620                   Coffee

1625-1700                   SAALG business meeting

Note: The venue accommodates only 38 seated individuals. Standing room capacity is not permitted in consonance with School-wide policies on health and safety. Your forbearance is sought. Bookings in advance are possible. Kindly e-mail both SOAS staff members to reserve your place, as it would be appreciated for organizing catering and conference packages (£30 to be paid on the day of the conference to the SAALG treasurer; claimants will subsequently receive electronic receipts for reimbursement from their institutions).

e-mail:   (Burzine Waghmar) and
               (Farzana Whitfield)