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: