South Asia Working Group at Stanford University
The South Asia Working Group at Stanford is a space for dialogue, community, and reflection for students and scholars engaging with South Asia. Co-sponsored by the Stanford Center for South Asia and the Student Projects for Intellectual Community Enhancement (SPICE) initiative at the Stanford Vice Provost of Graduate Education, this forum features a variety of events such as paper presentations, lectures, and film screenings.
All South Asianist students are welcome to attend, participate in this forum, and contribute to building it as a student-led forum for intellectual deliberation for South Asian Studies.
Learn more about the 2021-22 Co-Coordinators:
Stanford South Asia Working Group, sponsored by the Stanford Center for South Asia and the SPICE initiative at the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, presents:
A talk by Rahul Advani, titled ‘Learning to (Digitally) Labour: Facebook, Young Men and the Politics of Publicity in India’
When: Tuesday, April 12th 2022, 10-11 AM PT
Where: Zoom (REGISTER HERE)
While India has been heralded for the globalization of its economy and technological progress, many young men in India’s cities remain invisible and excluded from the country’s IT-led growth. Based on twelve months of ethnographic research in the western Indian city of Pune, this talk explores the ways in which Facebook – of which India makes up the platform’s biggest market globally – is manipulated by marginalized educated young men via their smartphones. Examining the interplay between their online and offline lives, the talk focuses on how the techniques young men develop to enhance their visibility and masculinity on Facebook provide a lens into the experience of class in post-liberalization India.
Speaker bio:Rahul Advani is a Research Associate at Quantum Consumer Solutions in Bangalore whose scholarly work focuses on the intersections between social media, smartphones, youth, friendship, and class in contemporary India. Providing an anthropological perspective to the role of social media in everyday life, his research examines how young men excluded from neoliberal narratives of social mobility and urban transformation contest their marginalization by curating themselves technologically. Rahul received a PhD in Anthropology from King’s College London in 2019 and has published his work most recently in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory (2020) and Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2022). His research can also be viewed at www.lifeinametro.in.
The South Asia Working Group (SAWG), working in collaboration with the Stanford Center for South Asia, invites revolving moderators, speakers, and ideas for short films, for its event calendar of 2021-22. We tentatively propose three kinds of events under the SAWG for 2021-22, towards which we are seeking your participation and collaboration.
- Presentation of research by South Asianist graduate students – We invite South Asianist graduate students to present their research for discussion and constructive feedback. We will give preference to students who are in the stage of dissertation writing in their PhDs, but all are welcome to present their research and ideas. In this call, we propose two kinds of events. For the first, we invite Stanford-based Graduate Students to present an their research in-person to fellow students, postdocs, and other affiliates. For the second, we invite non-Stanford Students to present their research via Zoom. We envision to create a pan-South Asianist student-driven platform, for which we encourage participation from students, both within and outside Stanford University.
- Short film screening – In the Spring of 2021-21, we screened a Hindi short film titled ‘Adheen’, available on YouTube, and followed that with a discussion on that film. Similar to that, we want to screen short films and hold film discussions post-screening in the coming year as well. The film screenings will be conducted in-person to facilitate screening and discussion within one event. We invite you all to suggest short films that we can screen in these events. We will give preference to non-Indian short films, and short films not in the Hindi language.
- Talks by early career South Asianist scholars – We invite students to suggest early career South Asianist scholars whom they wish to invite as potential speakers, and for whose sessions they wish to moderate. In this call, we propose two kinds of events. For the first, we invite students to propose in-Person Talks by scholars based in the San Francisco Bay Area, both independent and affiliated to an institution in the Bay Area. If you have in mind someone whose session you want to moderate, the SAWG can facilitate their travel and the event in a venue at Stanford. For the second kind of session, we invite scholars who may be based outside the San Francisco Bay Area. We will give preference to early-career South-Asianist scholars who are based outside the US, Canada, UK, and Western Europe. If you have in mind any early-career South Asianist scholar based outside the San Francisco Bay Area whom you want to invite and whose session you wish to moderate, the SAWG can facilitate the online event.
Students can submit their proposals for prospective sessions through this google form. Under the system of revolving moderators, student moderators will be responsible for reaching out their proposed speaker, finalizing their availability, coordinating event logistics and management with the SAWG coordinators, and moderating the event with the speaker on the day of the event. We will provide you with logistical support, communication, publicity and financial support for the event! In the academic year 2021-22, we intend to combine in-person and online modes to conduct a total of nine sessions – three sessions per quarter during the academic year. We look forward to hearing from you with suggestions for events, and in response to our call for collaboration!
Shubhangni & Shantanu
Stanford South Asia Working Group
2022 Past Events
Stanford South Asia Working Group presents:
If you'd like to know more about Suraj's work and the theme of the session, please refer to the uploaded links on our linktr.ee portal
Environmental degradation and racism share a lot of affinities. Minorities in South Asia are seen as ‘waste’ and in this radical degradation of humans to waste we find the modern pulse of racism. Animalistic metaphors and texts used to designate the migrants in Assam tell us a common story of how refugees are treated as social wastes worldwide. Migrants in Assam are often portrayed as rats, ants, crows, spiders, snakes etc., in official reports, graffiti, cartoons, popular songs, and academic texts which profile them as unwanted, toxic and scavenging entities. The new citizenship regime in India with NRC, and CAA turns the ‘migrant’ and the ‘Muslim’ into toxic waste, turning them socially dangerous and undesirable. Like the ecological waste, they too are seen as ungovernable, thus to be discarded. The figure of the minority is increasingly seen as a “weed” that requires removal from the “garden” of India. We live in a time when only the majority is a citizen in India, and the rest, the minorities, are citizen-subjects. Their de-valued beings are a testimony to their permanent minoritarian experience.
Suraj Gogoi is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at National University of Singapore. He is interested in 20th century social and political thought in India’s Northeast and his doctoral dissertation The Assamese Ideology traces the social and political consciousness of the majority in contemporary Assam. His public writings address issues of citizenship, state, nationalism, identity, language, minority and political in South Asia.
Stanford South Asia Working Group, sponsored by the Stanford Center for South Asia and Vice Provost for Graduate Education presents:
A talk by Divya Sharma, titled “The Politics of Slow Violence: Toxic Legacies of extractive farming in Northern India” followed by a discussion with Alexa Russo.
When: Tuesday, Feb 1 2022, 10-11 AM PT
Where: Zoom (Register here)
In this talk, I examine the politics of slow violence (Rob Nixon, 2011) in the Indian Punjab, a regional ecology shaped by the Green Revolution since the 1960s. After decades of quiescence, agrochemical pollution, germane to extractive monocultural farming, has surfaced prominently on the regional and national political agenda in recent years. Based on fieldwork in south-west Punjab, specifically life history narratives of older cultivators and farm workers, this talk will trace the gradual and invisible normalisation of the agrochemical treadmill. I also explore how an emergent agroecological movement that foregrounds health makes it possible to name the enactment of slow violence and provides an opening for an intersectional politics.
About the speaker and discussant:
Divya Sharma is a Lecturer in Sustainable Development at University of Sussex. She received her PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Her research and teaching focus on postcolonial rural transformations, mapping changing landscapes of work, and the political ecology of food systems.
Alexa Russo is a PhD Candidate in the Anthropology department at Stanford University. Her research interests include alternative economic imaginaries and movements, feminist theory and praxis, cooperatives and collectives, and the politics of sustainability.
Format of the Session: After the talk by the speaker, Divya Sharma, there will be a short discussion with Alexa Russo, followed by Q&A with the audience.
This event is open to all students and early career scholars at Stanford and outside.
The Center for South Asia, the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, and the South Asia Working Group present
Religion as the Site of Non-State Politics: Islam, Caste, and the Limits of Secularism in India
Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 10:00 - 11:00 AM Pacific Time
Description: What determines the limits of the political in secular approaches towards minorities and their forms of life? In this talk, Shaunna will examine how secularism relies on political borders and adopts an inert approach towards various concepts that shape ideas of worldmaking. Given this limit of secularism, this talk turns to Islamic and Anti-Caste worldmaking in South Asia to demonstrate how they develop overlaps in their critique of the abstract rationality of secular political conceptions that uphold borders. Arguing that both Islamic and Anti-caste thought emphasize ethical conduct as the foundation for politics emerging from non-secular moralities, this talk demonstrates how their reconstruction of religion as a universal site of non-state politics opens imaginative possibilities for social democracy.
Shaunna Rodrigues is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. She also holds an M.A. and M.Phil. in Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She specializes in political theory with research interests in theories of empire and imperialism, religion and worldmaking, Islam and caste, and anticolonial constitutionalism. Shaunna is also a Core Preceptor with the Columbia Core Curriculum in Contemporary Civilization.
2021 Past Events
Stanford South Asia Working Group, in collaboration with Stanford Center for South Asia and Vice Provost for Graduate Education presents:
Title: On Touching: Caste and Queerness in India
Speaker: Shraddha Chatterjee, Doctoral Candidate and Vanier Scholar, York University
When: Friday, Nov 12, 2021, 3-4 PM PT
Where: Zoom (Register here)
This event is open to all students and early career scholars at Stanford and outside
In recent times, anti-caste critiques of queer activism have demonstrated the limits of queer politics in India. Within a larger atmosphere of increasing authoritarianism on the one hand, and increasing mainstreaming of queer lives on the other, what can anti-caste articulations teach us about queerness? This talk contextualizes and explores the tensions and possibilities that structure the intersection between caste and queerness — specifically by focusing on how anti-caste perspectives reorient queer politics to the question of progress and crisis.
About the Speaker:
Shraddha Chatterjee is a doctoral candidate and Vanier scholar at York University. Her research focuses on how discourses of nationalism and queerness support and resist each other in contemporary India. Her previous academic work has drawn on interdisciplinary dialogue between psychoanalysis, cultural studies, and queer and feminist theory. She is the author of ‘Queer Politics in India: Towards Sexual Subaltern Subjects’ (2018).
Format of the Session: The speaker will present for about 20-25 minutes which will be followed by a short Q&A discussion session with the audience.
South Asia Working Group at Stanford – Fall 2021 Series
Power and Faith in the Divine Republic: Religious Parties and Pakistan’s Political System
My project attempts to explain the apparent mismatch between the poor electoral performance of ‘Islamic’ parties in Pakistan with the power they exercise in national political life. Elections, however, are only one of a highly entangled set of the power-generating mechanisms employed, which include protest mobilisation, norm-setting, and religious legitimation. The fifth, largely hidden, mechanism balancing the books is near-continuous negotiations between all political players, including the different elements of the so-called ‘deep state.’ Can we separate what is particular and path-dependent from what is potentially more generalisable? Arguably, Pakistan’s Islamic parties work in conditions seen elsewhere in South Asia- staggeringly high levels of denominational diversity and competition in an atmosphere of heightened religious populism and nationalism, but offset by extremely transactional patronage-based politics. Yet two structural elements differentiate Pakistan: The Islamic Republic’s deeply encoded and deeply entwined simultaneous need for popular and religious legitimacy; and a dominant security state that has proved too weak to rule directly, but too strong to be subdued by politicians. Lastly, I argue that the methodological paradigm of critical realism offers some new possibilities in overcoming the epistemological challenge of studying parapolitics and conceptualising the security state’s role, whether in liberal democracies or hybrid regimes.
About the speaker:
Johann Chacko is a Ph.D. student with the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS, University of London. Johann received a B.A. in Geography and Middle East Studies and an M.A. in Middle East Studies from the University of Arizona. He is the South Asia columnist for the United Arab Emirate’s The National and previously taught political science at Christ University’s School of Law in Bangalore. Elements of this talk are drawn from his doctoral thesis, which he is currently writing up; from a paper delivered at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) 2021 annual conference; and from his chapter “Religious Parties” in the edited anthology Pakistan’s Political Parties: Surviving Between Dictatorship and Democracy published by Georgetown University Press (2020). He can be followed on Twitter @johann_c_c
Format of the Session: The speaker will present for about 30-40 minutes which will be followed by a short Q&A discussion session with the audience.
Open to all South Asianist graduate students within Stanford and other universities.
South Asia Working Group at Stanford – Fall 2021 Series
Topic: Movie Screening and Discussion - 'Cast in India'
When: Oct 8th 2021, 3-4pm PT
Where: EVGR Building B Meeting Room 144
Please join us for our first event for this quarter and our first ever in-person event on campus! We will be screening and discussing the short documentary film 'Cast in India', directed by filmmaker Natasha Raheja. The observational documentary takes to Howrah, India, to tell us about the little-known story of how some 300,000 manhole covers dotting the roads of New York City are welded and forged by workers thousands of miles away. It is a story that gives life to the transnational journey of everyday objects and the working lives of people who are behind these objects. You can read more about the movie here.
Every student who can make it in-person is invited! Light refreshments are included. Looking forward to meeting all of you! To attend the event, please register here.
The screening will be followed by a general discussion on the various themes that the movie brings to light and how we can connect its implications with wider contexts and processes.
SAWG Summer Writing Sessions
Event 2: Designing Your Own Academic Conference Panel
- emailing established scholars for meetings,
- honing your elevator pitch,
- drafting a conference abstract and paper,
- presenting the paper to a live audience, and
- asking and answering questions in the Q&A.
- An exercise focused on drafting a conference panel abstract will help you to discover the possibilities for sparking a conversation with other scholars on questions close to your own work.
Event 1: Thinking About Academic Learning - Close Reading and Writing
9am - 12:30pm Pacific Time (half hour break midway)
'Lipstick Under My Burkha' & Feminist Cinema in the Hindi Film Industry: A Discussion with Dr. Z. Rubi Sanchez Lozoya
For our last event this quarter, we will have a discussion on feminist cinema in the Hindi film industry. We will be engaging with broad themes in, and beyond, the famous film Lipstick Under My Burkha. As it became a part of prominent popular discussions in the months immediately after its release in 2017, it was able to generate conversations on female sexuality, gender-based discrimination, elitism and ageism. At the same time, the film’s promotion and marketing have been criticized for being excessively reliant on a particular urban elite audience and for simplifying some complex themes and portrayals.
For this event, we will be joined by Dr. Z. Rubi Sanchez Lozoya, whose famous article addressing these themes around the film can be found here. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Hindi & Urdu at the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Colorado at Boulder. Her work focuses on the interplay between Indian feminist films and their production and depiction on OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Through the discussion, she will help us think through how images can be read as text, and the ways in which they can incorporated in our own respective research, along with broader themes associated with the film.
4:00-4:15pm - Contextualizing the film
4:15-4:45pm - Discussion on how images can be read as text
4:45-5:00pm - Questions and how these can be applied to contextual research
Even if you have not watched the film, or are unable to watch the film, prior to the session, there will still be loads about the discussion that you will enjoy. You can watch the trailer here.
When: May 21st 2021, 4-5pm PT
Open to: South Asianist Students in Stanford University and UC Berkeley
Please join the South Asia Working Group listserv to stay updated about our events directly! Fill in your details at this Link.
'Non-Contact Research and Designing Personal Research Goals'
For our second session, on Friday, April 30, 2021, at 4-5 PM PT, fellow South Asianist researchers and students are invited for an open conversation on ‘Non-Contact Research and Designing Personal Research Goals’. A number of students are grappling with multiple problems, difficulties and fears regarding a whole lot, including those regarding our research projects. As a space focused on discussion and community-building, the South Asia Working Group is an ideal forum for discussing thoughts and concerns such as these. Thus, the group invites people to join the conversation on Zoom next Friday to share, listen and discuss. Considering the regional specificities which come with research more broadly, which are especially intensified with varied pandemic trajectories, a discussion with fellow South Asianist researchers will go a long way in making sense of and planning research projects. Hope to see you and look forward to an enriching conversation.
'Adheen' Screening and Discussion
For our first session, on Friday, February 9, 2021, at 4-5 PM PT, the group is excited to host a screening and discussion of the Hindi short film- 'Adheen'. Describing its premise as 'selfish or selfless- what is the definition of love in a family', the short explores issues of care, love, belonging and acceptance in family through the intermingled stories of four family members who have to make a bone-chilling decision about a loved one. The film is 21:42 minutes. After the screening, there is a discussion among attendees on thoughts about the film and the issues that it provokes us with. This event is also intended as a detailed discussion about future events and activities under the South Asia Working Group.