Imperialisms: 2019 CSA Graduate Student Workshop
Anubha Anushree and Mejgan Massoumi, both Ph.D. candidates in History at Stanford University, sat down with Stanford Global Studies Communications to talk about how they have decided to study modern India and Afghanistan for their dissertation research, and also share their experience in organizing the 2019 CSA Graduate Student Workshop on Imperialisms on April 29, 2019. The full interview is available on the Global Perspectives Blog.
The subject of empire is central to the questions of several disciplines, commanding both popular and political debate in our contemporary moment. The South Asian context is essential to both ongoing and retrospective conversations, serving as the crucible for perhaps the world’s most varied set of imperial formations.
How can we think of empires as a relevant political category in contemporary South Asia? What happens when we interrogate empire beyond the idea of territorial conquest and think about its cultural, ideological, visual, and aural manifestations? Are empires just a chronological phenomenon belonging to the alterity of past? Further, what distinguishes empires from contemporary South Asian political forms that have historically depended on being distinct and even antithetical to imperialism? The 2019 CSA Graduate Workshop is animated by these broad questions.
The demise of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the beginning of economic liberalization in India (1991) — many believed —signaled the emergence of a political order that was no more conditioned by its colonial ancestry. Economic liberalization was viewed as the magical pill that would cure South Asia of many sociological, political, and moral asymmetries. Yet, the rise of nationalism across the region has skewed many such sanguine narratives. The emergence of nationalist and religious fundamentalism disturbs the neat binaries of the colonial and postcolonial world. Such changes raise questions about the endurance of both nationalism and imperialism. In what ways does nationalism and imperialism collide and converge? What analytical methods help us identify and distinguish the specific political forms and cultural logic that are a legacy of empires and imperialism? This year’s conference will take place the same month as the general election in India and in the wake of major elections in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, posing the timely question of the relationship between earlier, imperial visions of a unified polity and that of the modern nation-state. Are South Asia’s recent impulses towards religious hegemony and regional hegemony evidence of earlier imperial impulses, and if so, where do we locate it? Can the contemporary situation be informed by studies of premodern empires, and vice versa?
Much of nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophy and history has focused on the decline and fall of empires and civilizations. Faced with the resurgence of imperial politics, a question for the twenty-first century is rather about the endurance of empire both in theory and practice. From Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's conception of empire as multitude via Pierre Manent's work on the metamorphoses of Western political organization to ideas of liberal empire in International Relations (John Ikenberry or Michael Ignatieff), the attempt to renew this theme requires critical engagement.
Against this backdrop, the purpose of this workshop is to gather an interdisciplinary group of graduate students at all levels to examine both the present moment and continuing legacy of empire. We invite papers that examine South Asia in a broad sense, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Nepal, the Maldives, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar or Burma, India, and transnational and diasporic spaces. Among others, the questions that will be debated include the following: Are we witnessing the resurgence of old empires or the formation of new ones? Winston Churchill remarked that the empires of the future would be "empires of the mind." Can power be contained or is it inherently imperial?
The workshop is organized by Stanford Center for South Asia in collaboration with Stanford Humanities Center, Department of History, and Department of Anthropology. Inquiries shall be addressed by email to workshop organizers Anubha Anushree (anubha1 [at] stanford.edu (anubha1[at]stanford[dot]edu)) and Mejgan Massoumi (mejgan [at] stanford.edu (mejgan[at]stanford[dot]edu)).
Image credit: “The World in the Time of Cabot”(Decorative map by MacDonald Gill from The Pageant of Empire. Souvenir Volume: An Anthology of British Empire by E. V. Lucas. London: Fleetway Press, 1924. British Empire Exhibition, 1924, 1925 (Wembley); Retrieved from Cornell Library's digital collection on Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection.)
*Open only to Stanford affiliates and the South Asian Studies scholars of the SF Bay Area.
9:30 AM: BREAKFAST
9:50 AM: OPENING REMARKS by Professor Jisha Menon (Director of Stanford Center for South Asia)
10:00 AM – 11:30 AM: THE MORAL AND POLITICAL ECONOMY OF IMPERIALISMS
Chair: Ashveer Pal Singh (Stanford, Department of Anthropology)
Anubha Anushree (Stanford, Department of History), “The corrupt or the corruptible? The quotidian fortunes of East India Company”
Nethra Samarawickrema (Stanford, Department of Anthropology), “Rerouting the Ocean: Rethinking Temporalities of Indian Ocean Trade”
11:45 AM - 1:00 PM: PERFORMING IMPERIALISMS
Chair: Dean Chahim (Stanford, Department of Anthropology)
Suhaila Meera (Stanford, Department of Theater & Performance Studies), “An Embodied Erotic-Aesthetic: The Playful Courtesan in Turn of the Century India”
Mejgan Massoumi (Stanford, Department of History), “Performing Dissent: The Visual and Aural Reception of Imperialisms in Afghanistan, 1960-79”
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM: ECOLOGICAL IMPERIALISMS
Chair: Anubha Anushree (Stanford, Department of History)
Rishika Mehrishi (Stanford, Department of Theater & Performance Studies), "Sepoys “in motion” and Greased Cartridges: Human-nonhuman affiliations in 1857 India"
Jameson Karns (UC Berkeley, Department of History), “See the Forester for the Trees”
J’Nese Williams (Stanford Humanities Center),“Botanic Gardens and the Colonial State: India in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries”
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM: IMPERIALISMS CONTINUED?
Chair: Mejgan Massoumi (Stanford, Department of History)
Nicole Ferreira (UC Berkeley, Department of History and South & South East Asian Studies), “Afghan Genealogy and the Mughal Empire”
Syed Asad Ali (Independent Scholar), “American Imperialism in 20th Century Iran”
4: 30 PM - 5:00 PM: TEA BREAK
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM: THE KEYNOTE LECTURE HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO UNFORSEEN CIRCUMSTANCES. ALL CHANGES TO THE PROGRAM WILL BE NOTIFIED IMMEDIATELY.