Although the conference is open to the public, our aim is to provide a focused platform where about 20-25 graduate students working on South Asia can meet with each other and faculty from all the organizing institutions to discuss their work.
“Offense! The Public Life of Injury in South Asia”
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Giving and taking offense has for long been a central element in public cultures across South Asia. In the 19th and 20th century, communities emerged around affective attachments to religious symbols, distinct histories and social practices, and calls to defend themselves against insults and attacks. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 carried two sections (153 and 295) that explicitly forbade “vilification” of groups, and the “insult of the religion of a class of people”. Both these sections are retained ad verbatim in the penal codes of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
While the colonial state saw ‘insults’ and ‘vilifications’ as a threat to public order, the charge of causing offense to religious, cultural or national sentiments has today become one of the powerful ways to assert social and religious dominance across South Asia. The claim of moral injury are at the heart of most major controversies: the campaign to ‘liberate ‘ the birth place of Lord Ram in the 1990s; Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws; the backlash toward the decriminalization of homosexuality in India; censorship of books, films, and dissenting voices across South Asia; banning of beef in India; vigilantes defending public morality, and much more. At the same time, minority communities and marginal and dissenting groups are also deploying narratives of injury and offense in their claims for recognition and inclusion. The South Asia by the Bay Graduate Conference 2017 invites papers that probe the theme of offense, public morality, notions of collective injury, historical injustice and outrage in South Asia. The conference is the sixth in the series and emerges from the collaboration between Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Davis. This year it is hosted by the Center for South Asia at Stanford University.
Keynote speakers: William Mazzarella, Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago
Jisha Menon, Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies, Stanford University