Friday, 4 December 2015

SAALG winter conference: British Library, 22 January 2016 - do come!

BL Qatar Project
We are pleased to announce the next SAALG conference, which will take place at the British Library on Friday 22nd January 2016. The theme of the conference is metadata, and we have invited curators from a range of institutions to tell us how, through metadata, they have made their collections accessible. Kolkata cemetery records, Arabic manuscripts, and colonial films all feature in the day. There will also be an introduction to the British Library’s Qatar project and a tour of the digitisation studios. See programme below.


To be held at the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB on Friday 22nd January 2016 in the Conference Centre (Eliot Room)

A map is available online at


Arrival and coffee: 10.30 – 11.00

11.00 – 11.10
Introduction and welcome

11.10 – 11.50
Clare Sorensen, Historic Environment Scotland, 'Scotland in India, India in Scotland : an unexpected archive’

11.50 – 12.30
Yasmin Faghihi, Cambridge University Library, ‘FIHRIST: metadata, collaboration and sustainability’

12.30 – 1.50
Lunch (provided) and networking

1.50 – 2.30
Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge, ‘Old media and new digital literacy: the Colonial Film Database’

2.30 – 3.30
Introduction to the Qatar Project at the British Library and tour of Qatar digitisation studio

3.30 – 4.00   

4.00 – 4.30
Business meeting

Conference ends

The fee for the day is £20.00, which includes lunch and refreshments. To make your booking, please email Antonia Moon at the British Library by Friday 8th January.

If you have to cancel your place after Friday 8th January 2016, you may be asked to pay an administrative charge.

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Hazara in Quetta

Photographs by Asef Ali Mohammad
Curated by Shirley Read

2 November – 13 December 2015

Monday 2 November 6.00 - 8.00pm

Sunday 6 December 2.00 - 5.00pm
Asef Ali Mohammad’s documentary film ‘Besieged in Quetta, Pakistan’

This exhibition looks at the Hazara community in Quetta, Pakistan where some 500,000 Hazara have settled over the last century. As a religiously Shia and ethnically Turku-Mongol minority the Hazara face discrimination and over 1,700 people have been killed and more than 3,000 injured to date. Asef Ali Mohammad, a British based Hazara currently completing his photography MA at Middlesex University, has documented this – his own - community in its strength and vulnerability.
Asef Ali Mohammad was born in Afghanistan, grew up in Quetta - where members of his family live - and has lived in Britain since 2001. He won the Sony World Photography Student Focus Award in 2012; has been published in The Guardian, Newsweek and Foto8 as well as on the BBC and shown his work at Impressions Gallery in Bradford and Somerset House in London.

He will talk about his work during an opening event on
Monday 2 November 6.00 - 8.00pm
and will show his documentary film ‘Besieged in Quetta, Pakistan’ on Sunday 6 December 2.00 - 5.00pm.

Both events will take place in Lab 2 at Idea Store Canary Wharf.
Idea Store Canary Wharf, Churchill Place, E14 5RB

Mon-Thurs 9am-9pm;Fri 9am- 6pm; Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 12-6pm

Tube: Canary Wharf DLR: Canary Wharf & Heron Quays.
Buses: D3,D7,D8 & 277
Note: Churchill Place is south of Cabot Square. To find the Idea Store head for Jamie’s Italian, the Idea Store is on the dockside immediately below the restaurant.

Deeper than Indigo: Tracing Thomas Machell

History, memoir and adventure
Mon 26 Oct 2015, 18:45 - 20:15 at the British Library

Jenny Balfour Paul talks about her highly acclaimed new book Deeper than Indigo: tracing Thomas Machell forgotten explorer, based on Thomas Machell’s journals which she discovered at the British Library.  Hailed by AN Wilson as 'One of the most remarkable books I have ever read', it describes Jenny's own incredible travels through the Middle East, Asia and the South Pacific while following Machell’s extraordinary life and adventures. They include his eye-witness accounts of the First Opium War, travels up the Indus River, a voyage to the remote Islands of the Marquesas - where he had an affair with a cannibal princess - work on indigo and coffee plantations in India, travelling with Muslim merchants by Arabian dhows from Kolkata to Suez, and life during the Indian Rebellion.

Full details available on the British Library's website.

Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road

Full Price: £8.00
Senior 60+: £6.00
Student: £5.00
Registered Unemployed: £5.00
Under 18: £5.00
Friend of the BL: £5.00

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Visiting Research Fellowships at John Rylands Research Institute

The John Rylands Research Institute is pleased to announce its latest call for Visiting Research Fellowships.

The University of Manchester is part of the prestigious Russell Group of Universities and is highly respected across the globe as a centre of innovative research. The Library’s Special Collections are breath-taking in their breadth and depth. They cover more than 50 languages, span five millennia, and are written on virtually every medium ever employed from clay tablets to digital, papyrus to pixels. Contained within the collections are some of the most significant printed books and manuscripts ever produced alongside archive collections and visual resources documenting a wealth of cultural, literary, historical and religious traditions from around the world.

 The John Rylands Research Institute is a unique partnership led by the Faculty of Humanities (HUM) and the University of Manchester Library (UML). Humanities scholars, scientists, curators, conservators and digital imaging specialists are brought together to uncover, explore, unravel and reveal hidden ideas and knowledge contained within the Library’s world-leading Special Collections. The Institute welcomes applications for these Fellowships.

The closing date is Friday 27 November 2015 and further details of how to apply, including application form can be found at

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Voices of India: the First World War

SAALG blog readers may be interested to know that the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove will be holding a conference on 21 November, 10.15am-7.45pm

Voices of India
The First World War

For the past 100 years, the story of India’s role in the First World War has been largely forgotten, both within India and by the rest of the world. The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove is bringing to life the diverse voices and experiences of individuals from India who were affected by the conflict in this major one-day conference. Discover the personal thoughts expressed by soldiers in letters home from the Brighton military hospitals, listen to the astonishing sound recordings of soldiers in German prisoner of war camps and find out about extraordinary individuals such as Sophia Duleep Singh, Maharajah’s daughter, suffragette and nurse. This international conference seeks to consider how Indian soldiers and their families have been represented in memory, literature, media and official record; and how they can or should be remembered and viewed a century on.

Anyone interested in India's role in the First World War can find articles about this in the British Library's Untold Lives blog:

Letters from Indian soldiers
The Indian sepoy in the trenches

English and Indian soldiers of the Signal Troop of the Lucknow Cavalry Brigade relaxing in a farmyard at Brigade Headquarters, 28 July 1915, Photo 24/(158)  (Courtesy of the British Library Board)

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.