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)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

South Asia @ Cambridge Festival of Ideas 20 Oct-2 Nov 2014
This autumn's Festival of Ideas in Cambridge has several events likely to interest followers of the SAALG blog.  Booking is essential for many and some are already booked up.

FULLY BOOKED - Envoy: the experiences of a diplomat in Asia

Ancient India and Iran Trust, Friday 24th October, 5.00 pm. Event 77.
Fully Booked

Friday 24 October: 5:00pm

Sir Nicholas Barrington served as a career diplomat in five Asian countries, including Afghanistan and Iran, ending as Ambassador to Pakistan. With memoirs now published, he will discuss some of the interesting problems he had to face and the need to build bridges between East and West.

10 seconds of film: colonial identity exhibited in archival footage

Alison Richard Building, SG1/2, Saturday 25 October: 7:00pm - 8:00pm, Event 123

Archives of colonial documents often challenge conventional historical narratives. This joint presentation considers some remarkable examples of written, visual and aural archival records held by the Centre of South Asian Studies.

India-Pakistan: the common ground

Lady Mitchell Hall, Saturday 1st November, 3.00 pm.  Event 222

A panel discussion looking at commonalities between the two countries in the India/Pakistan divide, finding common ground in terms of development, economic growth and research, where a spirit of co-operation brings benefits for all. With Professor Joya Chatterji, Dr Ornit Shani, Dr Bhaskar Vira and Dr Kamal Munir.
Chatterji, Dr Ornit Shani, Dr Bhaskar Vira and Dr Kamal Munir. - See more at:

Sovereignty at sea: identity politics of Asian territorial disputes in East and South China Seas

Alison Richard Building, SG1/2, Saturday 1 November: 3:00pm - 4:00pm, Event 221

The risk of conflict escalating from relatively minor events has increased in the South and East China Seas over the past years with disputes now seemingly less amenable to negotiation or resolution. The panel discusses discourses in China, Japan, and Southeast Asian countries, and suggests implications for issue areas of potential mutual benefits. With additional perspectives on maritime relations of rising powers and post-colonial contests in Europe and the Middle Eastern/North Africa.

Negotiating identities? Cultural encounters in Bend it Like Beckham

Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, CB1 1PT , Wednesday 22 October: 7:00pm - 9:00pm, Event 55

Wednesday 22 October: 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Probably more than most other European countries, contemporary Britain has been shaped by mass immigration, in particular from South Asia, and British-Asian Cinema has joined the often polemic media debate about the country’s ‘multiculturalism’. Be it as a potential mirror of popular attitudes, ideas and preoccupations, or as regards the likely impact on common views and opinions on migration, we cannot afford to ignore the filmic portrayals. In this context, Professor Guido Rings will explore the negotiation of identities in one popular example of British-Asian cinema: Chadha's Bend it like Beckham. Professor Guido Rings will raise questions such as: How does the film express cultural differences and to what extent does this follow traditional concepts of culture? How is the interconnectedness of cultures articulated and how does this relate to current notions of interculturality and transculturality? Professor Guido Rings is Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Director of Research Unit for Intercultural and Transcultural Studies (RUITS), Anglia Ruskin University.
Be it as a potential mirror of popular attitudes, ideas and preoccupations, or as regards the likely impact on common views and opinions on migration, we cannot afford to ignore the filmic portrayals. In this context, Professor Guido Rings will explore the negotiation of identities in one popular example of British-Asian cinema: Chadha's Bend it like Beckham. Professor Guido Rings will raise questions such as: How does the film express cultural differences and to what extent does this follow traditional concepts of culture? How is the interconnectedness of cultures articulated and how does this relate to current notions of interculturality and transculturality? Professor Guido Rings is Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Director of Research Unit for Intercultural and Transcultural Studies (RUITS), Anglia Ruskin University - See more at:
Those interested in Southeast Asia may also wish to attend...

Hidden Hong Kong

Cambridge University Library, Map Room, Saturday 25th October, at 10.00 am, 11.00 am and Noon.  Event 84

An opportunity to study spectacular photographs and maps of Hong Kong in the collections of Cambridge University Library, with Rachel Rowe of the Royal Commonwealth Society Library and Anne Taylor, Map Librarian.

To book an event, click on the relevant link above, and then follow the booking information on the right-hand side of the screen.

For a full listing of Festival events, visit:

Friday, 29 August 2014

Calling all Burmese scholars

Applications are invited for the Charles Wallace Burma Trust Visiting Fellowship which will
be hosted by the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, in partnership with
the Charles Wallace Burma Trust and the British Council in Burma.

The Fellowship is intended to enable a Burmese scholar to conduct research on any aspect of
modern Burmese history and society, and is open to scholars working in all disciplines
related to this field.

The Fellowship is for a period of three months during the Lent Term, 2015 (13 January to 13

The aim of the Fellowship is to advance the scholarly achievements of the visiting fellow,
and thereby establish productive academic links between Cambridge and Burma.

Candidates who have had financial support from the Charles Wallace Burma Trust in the past
five years will not be eligible.

Provided they are qualified in other respects, candidates with little or no prior international
experience are strongly encouraged to apply.

At the conclusion of the Fellowship period, the Fellow will be required to submit a report to
the Committee of Management of the Centre of South Asian Studies and to the Secretary of
the Charles Wallace Burma Trust outlining what he or she has achieved.

An all-inclusive monthly stipend of £1,400 is offered by the Trust to cover costs at
Cambridge, together with a contribution towards a return economy air fare from Burma, and
the cost of the candidate’s UK visa. The Fellow is expected to make his/her own travel

The British Council in Burma will offer advice to the Fellow about securing a UK visa, and
provide some pre-departure briefing.

If you know of anyone from Myanmar (Burma) who might be interested in applying, please direct them to the relevant part of the Centre's website:

Deadline for applications is 31 October 2014

Candidates are invited to submit the following by email to:
  • a letter of application setting out as precisely and as clearly as possible the programme of research to be undertaken
  • the names of scholars already in Cambridge working in a similar or adjacent/related subject and with whom the fellow would hope to work
  •  a full CV with a list of publications; and
  •  ask not more than two academic referees to email directly in support of his or her application by the closing date of 31 October 2014.
Please note that, in order to comply with work permit regulations, the successful applicant
will be asked to submit a signed, original copy of his/her application and original, signed

The selection will follow the Centre of South Asian Studies’ policy and procedure for
Academic Visitors and is subject to the approval of the Charles Wallace Burma Trust and the
British Council in Burma.

The closing date for applications is 31 October, 2014. The Fellow is expected to take up the
post at the beginning of the Lent Term 2015 (13 January 2015).

Applications and enquiries should be sent to:
The Administrator, Centre of South Asian Studies, Alison Richard Building, 7 West
Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT, UK

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Archives of art curator Donald Bowen

RCMS 360_4_1 Indian quarters, 1943
Cambridge University Library's Royal Commonwealth Society Collection has published an on-line catalogue of an important recent acquisition, the archives of Donald Bowen (1917-), artist and Curator of the Commonwealth Institute’s Art Gallery. The collection includes memoirs and correspondence documenting Bowen’s early training at the Chelsea School of Art, the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting, and tuition with the artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare. Bowen describes his military training and service during the Second World War, including the Battle of Arras and evacuation at Dunkirk, and his commissioning into the Royal Engineers. Bowen served in India between 1943 and 1947, travelling widely. One of the treasures of the collection is an album of drawings in pencil and related media depicting India’s people, landscapes, architecture, plants and animals.

RCMS 360_3 Exhibition of Oshogbo and West Nigeria artists, 1974
In 1953, Bowen joined the Imperial Institute (later the Commonwealth Institute), initially as Exhibitions Officer, and became Curator of its Art Gallery in 1962. He provides an insider’s view of the institute’s move to its iconic new building in Kensington High Street, which opened in the same year. Its purpose built galleries soon won a central position in the contemporary London art scene. Between 1962 and his retirement in 1979, Bowen organised more than 200 exhibitions of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, the crafts and other media, working with established and emerging Commonwealth artists, many of whom had never exhibited in Britain before. Correspondence, memoirs and other material vividly reflect the planning, organisation and impact of the exhibitions.

RCMS 360_5 Trafalgar Cemetery, Gibraltar, 1988

As an acknowledged expert on Commonwealth Art, Bowen travelled extensively, and the collection records an educational visit to West Africa in 1968, and a lecture tour of Canada in 1969, undertaken after an invitation to address the Canadian Society for Education through Art. A second volume of original art work includes pencil drawings executed during the visits to West Africa and Canada.

To view the collection catalogue, please follow the link:

For information about accessing the archive in Cambridge University Library, please see:

Post by John Cardwell, RCS Archivist.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Gujarati Textiles - an exhibition at the SADACC Trust

Held at the Old Skating Rink Gallery, Bethel Street, Norwich
Open 9:30 - 5:00pm Mon to Sat, Closed Sunday
Copyright © 2014 The SADACC Trust, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
The SADACC Trust
The Old Skating Rink,
34-36 Bethel Street
Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1NR
United Kingdom

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Cambridge's first Tibetan exhibition

Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond
28 May 2014 – 17 January 2015
Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond is the first exhibition of Tibetan material in Cambridge. It will display some of the world’s oldest Sanskrit and Buddhist manuscripts – and a gift from the 13th Dalai Lama – in a special exhibition on Buddhist books at Cambridge University from May 28th 2014.
Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond
28 May 2014 – 17 January 2015

It puts on display for the first time the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s astonishing Buddhist artefacts and brings together collections and research from three of the University of Cambridge Museums; the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and the Fitzwilliam Museum – as well as the University Library, the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Emmanuel and Pembroke Colleges.

Historians, anthropologists, linguists, art historians, chemists and material scientists have all contributed to this unique view into the complex world of the book in Buddhism.

Exhibits of particular note include some of the oldest illuminated Buddhist manuscripts from the first decades of the eleventh century, specimens of skilfully illuminated wooden covers and a quartet of scroll paintings brought back from the controversial Younghusband Expedition.

Dr Hildegard Diemberger, Co-Curator, describes the exhibition as “telling the story of the incredible journeys that the words of the Buddha have taken – crossing mountains and oceans and taking different material forms in different places.”

This story is told through the curation of three distinct spaces within the Li Ka Shing gallery at the museum. First to greet visitors will be a Himalayan Buddhist Altar which demonstrates an exploration of the text as sacred object, as a relic of the Buddha. Secondly, the Laboratory shows how Tibetan books are made and analysed, investigating the long history of printing in Tibet and the recent discoveries made by Cambridge scientists and scholars about the pigments used in illuminations. The final section, the Library, traces the journeys taken by Buddha’s word from India, across Asia, to places as far apart as Sri Lanka and Japan, Mongolia and Taiwan.

“It’s a real first,” said Dr Mark Elliott, Senior Curator in Anthropology at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. “A lot of these artefacts have never been seen on display before, and certainly not together. But we’re also looking at Tibetan books, and Tibetan Buddhist art, in a completely new way. There have been some real surprises during the development of the exhibition and we’re looking forward to sharing some of those with visitors.”

This exhibition is one outcome of a series of Cambridge-based, linked projects carried out over the past decade. These projects include Tibetan and Mongolian Rare Books and Manuscripts; Transforming Technology and Buddhist Book Culture: The Introduction of Printing and Digital Text Reproduction in Tibetan Societies; and the Sanskrit Manuscript Project, all funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and Tibetan Books Evolution and Technology (TiBET), supported by the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship. Thanks to exchange schemes run by the Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit, Tibetan scholars have been able to engage with these materials providing new insights and understandings of their cultural significance.

Professor Nicholas Thomas, Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, said: “This is a truly collaborative project that exemplifies the research strengths of the University of Cambridge and the extraordinary potential of the Arts Council-funded Connecting Collections programme, that brings together the collections and expertise of all the University of Cambridge Museums. This particular project has also been generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.”
From the Buddhist Altar, to the Library, to the Laboratory, this exhibition promises to be an inspiration for scholars, Buddhists and curious people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the story of the transformation of Buddha’s words, from palm leaves, to paper, to digital dharma; you will never look at a book in the same way again.

Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond
28 May 2014 – 17 January 2015

For more information please contact Verity Sanderson, Marketing and Press Coordinator, University of Cambridge Museums on 07872 410663 or

Friday, 11 April 2014

Twenty libraries in Delhi you've never visited

SAGAR: a south asia research journal
Anyone planning a research trip to Delhi should read Daniel Majchrowicz's archive review in the October 11th 2013 issue of  SAGAR: a South Asia Research Journal.

Daniel, a PhD candidate in the field of Islamic Cultures of South Asia at Harvard University, reviews twenty libraries often overlooked by visiting scholars.  The online article includes links to library websites (where available), location maps, and lots of helpful tips about the collections and buildings, including the best times to visit them.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Bhutan photographic exhibition

The Department of Geography Library, at the University of Cambridge, is currently exhibiting photographs from a research project undertaken in the Kingdom of Bhutan. This is the pilot in a proposed series of small exhibitions showing the wide-ranging research interests of members of the department.

The current exhibit 'Hidden Lands and Sealed Mountains: Places and Spaces in a Conservation Landscape' illustrates the work of Riamsara Kuyakanon Knapp, who conducted her doctoral fieldwork on sacred natural sites and the conservation-culture-development nexus in Bhutan with the kind support of the Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment, Royal Government of Bhutan.

Riamsara writes: I was raised and grew up in Thailand while it was undergoing rapid economic development and personally witnessed changing landscapes and changing human values around me. Thus I am interested in the human engagement with nature and environmental conservation, and specifically the expression of Buddhist philosophies and practices and the ways in which conservation landscapes are culturally inflected. My PhD research concerns the relationship between environmental conservation and Buddhist beliefs and practices and my research draws from and addresses theorizations in cultural landscapes and political ecology. I am interested in multi-disciplinary research and employ methods from the social and environmental sciences.

The exhibition can be viewed during library opening hours. No appointment is required.  See:  Afternoons are generally the best time to visit, as the library is quieter. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Visual Anthropology and Contemporary South Asian History conference

Right hand image from Tymms 8, Royal Commonwealth Society Film collection,
copyright Cambridge University Library

Registration is now open for the interdisciplinary conference ‘Visual Anthropology and Contemporary South Asian History’,, which takes place at CRASSH, University of Cambridge, 4-5 April 2014.

Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes (University of Cambridge)
Professor Marcus Banks (University of Oxford)

The ‘Visual anthropology and contemporary South Asian history conference’ aims to offer historians, anthropologists and postgraduate history students a unique opportunity to share and strengthen their scholarship within a cross-disciplinary research network concerned with the crucial relevance of applying theories of visual anthropology to the study of contemporary South Asian history. This conference is the result of the positive feedback and detailed suggestions received during the ‘Exploring modern South Asian history with visual research methods’ pre-conference seminar series organised in February-March 2013 by the Centre of South Asian Studies (CSAS) in collaboration with the CRASSH and the Royal Anthropological Institute, and led by historians, anthropologists and postgraduate students (podcasts available here). Accordingly, this conference has two objectives. First, it will examine the ways in which scholarship in the field of visual anthropology informs historiographical methodologies pertinent to re-interpreting, producing, distributing, and repatriating visual records of South Asian history. Second, it will create a strategically innovative research and practice-based framework for postgraduate history students at the University of Cambridge interested in experimenting with, and advancing new cross-methodological approaches. These objectives will be achieved by securing the participation of some of the key scholars in the fields of visual anthropology and South Asian history, and by organising a special pre-conference workshops which will introduce the theme of the conference and help postgraduate history students explore new ways in using visual research methods. 

Keynote addresses will be delivered by Professor David MacDougall (Australian National University) and by Professor Elizabeth Edwards (Vice-President of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Director of Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University). Professor Alan Macfarlane (University of Cambridge) will present a special contribution. Other invited speakers include Professor Christiane Brosius (Heidelberg University), Professor Malavika Karlekar (Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi), Dr Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh), Dr Zoe Headley(Institut Français de Pondichery), Dr Vron Ware (Open University) and Dr Mandy Rose (UWE).

The conference will host a special session titled ‘Tamil Societies and Visibility' in association with the Fondation Maison Science de l’Homme, Paris, and Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge. Speakers include Dr Raffaela Cucciniello, Dr Sujit Sivasundaram, Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes.

The pre-conference workshop will be dedicated to ‘Writing South Asian history with visual research methods’. Prof. Marcus Banks and Dr Motrescu-Mayes will advise on the methodology used by ten postgraduate history students who will work with unique visual records selected from the collections held by the CSAS. The aim of this workshop is to introduce history students to using theories of visual anthropology to the study of contemporary South Asian history. The research findings and short visual essays produced by the students during the workshop will be subsequently presented and discussed during a three-hour special conference session chaired by Professor Banks. Also, CRASSH Digital Humanities network will participate in designing and developing the pre-conference postgraduate student workshop with a view to expand and integrate similar practice-based learning strategies within digital humanities programs. As a result, building on the valuable on-going collaboration between CRASSH and CSAS, ‘Visual anthropology and contemporary South Asian history’ conference will continue to advance and strengthen the dynamic, international and cross-disciplinary research network formed by scholars of historical and visual anthropological studies of South Asia.'

Sponsors: Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the Smuts Memorial Fund, the Centre of South Asian Studies (University of Cambridge), the Fondation Maison Science de l’Homme, Paris, and the Thriplow Charitable Trust.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Salvation Army in South Asia

SAALG members who attended our 90th conference at the University of Cambridge Library enjoyed a day of fascinating talks, a visit to the wonderful new Centre of South Asian Studies building and a chance to view a wide range of collections including films, maps and archives. One of the many highlights of the day was discovering the significant South Asia related material held at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre (which comprises archives, a library and a museum).

Image copyright: Salvation Army International Heritage Centre 
Hari Jonkers, Archives Assistant, introduced us to items relating to the Salvation Army's international administration including the South Asian Zonal Department, records of 'Overseas Territories' - the Bangladesh Command, Sri Lanka Territory, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar / Burma territory and various Indian territories. Their collection also includes personal papers of Salvation Army missionaries who served in South Asia such as the Lutz family.

Image copyright: Salvation Army International Heritage Centre 
Particular subject strengths have developed, for instance there is a considerable amount of material relating to Indian 'criminal tribes', including books and pamphlets held in their reference library.

Only a small fraction of the collections are currently searchable via the online catalogue  but new records are regularly being added and updates about collections can be found on the Heritage Centre's blog  where Hari has just posted more about their South Asia material. 

If you would like more information about the collections please contact:

Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, William Booth College, Champion Park, London, SE5 8BQ

Telephone: 020 7326 7800


The Centre is open from 9.30 to 4.00pm Tuesday to Friday. To view items from the library or archive collection please make an appointment before you visit.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Tagore goes online in Bengali and English

Some of you may remember that back in May 2013 we posted on the then upcoming launch of a new online variorum of the works of Rabindranath Tagore. SAALG was very fortunate to welcome Sukanta Chaudhuri, emeritus professor at Jadavpur University, to present the website in all its glory at our recent 90th conference.  Sukanta led the team at the School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University - Calcutta, who collaboratively worked for two years to execute the project. 

The website includes all of Tagore's writings in Bengali and English, in all their versions, from manuscript to print and special features include a unique collation software (the first in Indic script), a search engine which locates any word or phrase used in his works whether print or manuscript, a checklist of all Tagore's manuscripts and a comprehensive bibliography of all his works. The website can be navigated in three languages - English, Bengali and Hindi. 

The website is called bichitra and is free to access at:

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Themes in Literature of the Indian Subcontinent - Book Talk Series at SOAS

This 2013-2014 book talk series at SOAS explores overarching ideas such as double segregation, isolation and nostalgia in the works of major contemporary authors of the Indian diaspora in relation to the changing historical, political, socioeconomic and cultural contexts of migration. The talks are free and all are welcome! The talks are led by Kavita Ramdya (SOAS) and take place in Room 279, Russell Square: College Buildings from 17.00 - 19.00. 

On Monday 3rd March  Jhumpa Lahiri's "Unaccustomed Earth" published in 2008 will be discussed. The collection of short stories explores the tensions that arise from growing up in an Indian household in America, inter-generational communications and arranged versus love marriage.

On Monday 7th April discussion will centre around "Nacropolis" by Jeet Thayil, a fictional representation of Bombay's drug trade as told through multiple narrators over the course of three decades. 

This series is one of the many events organized by the new SOAS South Asia Institute. For further information and a listing of future events please visit:

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sir Frederick Tymms: the flying civil servant

Frederick Tymms (on the left), with Rod Doucla [sic]
whilst working on the Cape to Cairo Air Route in 1929
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/9/30

Frederick Tymms (2nd from left), camera in hand,
with Wolley Dod, Lindup, and Francis, whilst planning the Cape to Cairo Air Route, 1929
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/9/10

Frederick Tymms (2nd from left) in Allahabad in 1934
with T. Campbell Black and C.W. Scott for the England-Australia Race
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/15/1

'Imperial Airways - Delhi Flying Club - handing over',  January 1932
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/10/139

The Royal Commonwealth Society collections in Cambridge University Library hold the archives of Sir Frederick Tymms,  RCMS 20, one of the most significant figures in the development of civil aviation, referred to by his biographer, E.A. Johnston, as the 'Flying Civil Servant'.

Tymms served as an Observer in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1, then joined the civil aviation department of the Air Ministry 1920-1927 where he became involved in the development of air routes across Africa and India in the 1920s and 30s.  His archives document the difficulties of locating suitable landing strips at regular distances across each continent and the excitement at the opening of new aerodromes. 

During the 1930s and much of the 1940s Tymms was in India where he was appointed Director of Civil Aviation 1931-1942. For a brief period in 1942-1943 he became Managing Director of Tata Aircraft Ltd, Bombay, and from 1945-1947 was Director General of Civil Aviation in India.  The Tymms archive is rich in photographs from this period - see: RCMS 20/2/ 10-19.  There are views of the grand Secretariat buildings in New Delhi, in which Tymms had an office, of the Delhi Flying Club which he joined, and of his travels all over South Asia looking for viable air routes and opening aerodromes.  Early air races are documented, such as the MacRobertson England-Australia Race in 1934, as are numerous air stations and aeroplanes.  Tymms took photographs in Burma and the collection has fine aerial photography of the Arakan Coast. He also  took many photographs in Simla, the hill station to which the government moved for relief from the searing heat of Delhi, as well as in Kashmir where he holidayed with his wife. 

Tymms, a keen photographer , also captured on cinefilm some events associated with his work in civil aviation, as well as social occasions and holidays he enjoyed with family and friends.  His earliest film dates from 1925 and records the First African [aviation] Survey (Film 12).  There are three short black and white silent films made in South Asia in the early to mid-1930s - Films 16, 17 and 19.

Film 16 (the film can is labelled: Hyderabad. Jaipur. Simla. Delhi) includes busy street scenes, farming scenes, elephant rides, coastal scenes and a view of the Himalayas. There are several scenes of Qutub Minar, Delhi, of road trips, street vendors, shikar and fly fishing. 

Film 17 (the film can is labelled: North West Frontier Province. Kashmir. Palampur.  Simla) opens with views of the Khyber Pass and then moves to Dal Lake and Srinagar in Kashmir, and onto hill stations in  Himachal Pradesh.  It focuses on travel and landscape scenes, as well as local crafts.

Film 19 (the film can is labelled: Bombay. Ceylon. Burma. Singapore. Karachi) includes fishing boats, street vendors, temples, shoreline, a flower market, ball games, traditional Burmese dance, aircraft and airport buildings. It includes shots of the Shwedagon Pagoda and Buddhist monks in Rangoon, a paddle-steamer transporting railway wagons, sea-planes, Kallang airport in Singapore, and Karachi airport.

Tymms and his wife Millie had become great friends with J.R.D.(Jeh) Tata and his wife Thelly during their time in India, and they returned in October1962 to participate in Air India celebrations in Bombay on the occasion of J.R.D. Tata's reenactment of the first Karachi-Bombay flight, via Ahmedabad in 1932. Sir Frederick filmed some of the celebrations in colour.   Film 8  opens on 15th October 1962 in an Air India marquee at Bombay airport and includes footage of a Burmah-Shell Aviation Service bullock cart, a De Havilland Leopard Moth dating from the 1930s and a Boeing 707. The film also includes hugely contrasting scenes of Indian women carrying heavy stone on a building site, busy street scenes, and grand buildings in Delhi.

Tymms went on to represent the UK on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (I.C.A.O.), led missions to New Zealand and the West Indies as a trouble-shooter to promote civil aviation, and was a founding member of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. He was elected Master of the Guild in 1957.    His wide interests embraced communication technologies, satellites and space travel, and the sovereignty of space.

The Tymms collection on civil aviation was donated to Cambridge University Library by Group Captain E.A. Johnston in 1994.  Johnston's biography of Tymms, To organise the air: the evolution of civil aviation and the role of Sir Frederick Tymms, the Flying Civil Servant, was published  by Cranfield University Press in 1995, ISBN 1871315468.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Cambridge seminar on teaching history using film archives on February 11th 2014

As part of the Centre for Commonwealth Education seminar series, Education in India: a Multidisciplinary Exploration, Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes will present 'New Visual Methodologies in Teaching Modern South Asian History'
Time: Tuesday, 11 February 2014 from 12:30 to 13:30
Donald McIntyre Building
Room GS1 
Centre for Commonwealth Education
Faculty of Education
University of Cambridge<
01223 767 680 
ALL WELCOME; Refreshments available
Dr Motrescu-Mayes writes:
In the context of a steadily growing interest in investigating modern history with the help of visual research methods a number of historians, anthropologists and artists (Pinney 2004, Pushpamala N. 2004, Tan 2005, Spencer 2011, Kahlon 2011) have recently employed theories of visual rhetoric in the study and representation of South Asian identities. Moreover, the use of visual records as primary research sources is not anymore the prerogative of cultural historians but a pedagogical tool recurrently used by teachers and students of South Asian history. In this talk I will present several teaching and learning platforms which I have developed since 2011 in collaboration with British and South Asian historians. 
The talk will also include a selection of visual essays produced by thirty history teachers during a one-week workshop which I co-organised with the Azim Premji University, Bangalore, in September 2013. This workshop was a pedagogical exercise that highlighted the ways in which Indian history teachers could successfully use colonial amateur footage as a valid primary research source able to complement the Indian history curriculum for classes VIII-XII. The talk will conclude with a discussion on the urgency of interdisciplinary research and pedagogical methodologies pertinent to reliable and long term knowledge- transfer programs within modern South Asian studies.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

SAALG 90th Conference - Friday 21st February - University of Cambridge Library

Join us for the 90th SAALG Conference which will take place on Friday 21st February at the University of Cambridge Library. The theme for the day will be 'Archives' and we will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of collections and projects - there will also be a chance to visit the new Centre of South Asian Studies building in Cambridge.  

Image: Cambridge University Library Faoch via Flickr
The full programme is as follows: 

Image: Cambridge University Library - RCS QM 8/123 - From the Royal Commonwealth Society Library, Queen Mary Collection.  A view showing crowds of people watching the arrival of the Royal Party at a palatial building, Calcutta.

The fee for the day is £20 including lunch, full directions to the Library will be sent out before the day. Please email Helen Porter, SAALG Chair or telephone 020 78984153 to make a booking or for more information. The final day for registering is Wednesday 12th February.