Research Community News

The 25th European Conference on South Asian Studies (ECSAS) was held 24-27 July 2018 in Paris, France at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, (54 and 105, Blvd. Raspail). It was organised by the Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CNRS-EHESS). More information at the conference web page.
The ECSAS has met regularly since 1968, and has provided an important opportunity to discuss current research and scholarship on topics relating to South Asia within the humanities and social sciences. The 2004 conference was organised by SASNET in Lund, see the 2004 conference page.
Lars Eklund attended the conference, being a member of the EASAS board and treasurer during the period 2014-2018.

Norwegian senior researcher in Social Anthropology Kristin Hansen has published a book entitled ”Women, Religion and the Body in South Asia: Living with Bengali Bauls” (Routledge 2018). A novel approach to the study of women, the body and religion, this book will be of interest to undergraduates and graduates in the field of the anthropology. In addition, it will appeal to students of everyday religious lives as experienced by the poor, through case studies in South Asia.
The book provides further evidence that renunciation in South Asia is not a uniform path, despite claims to the contrary. There is also a special interest in Bauls among those familiar with the Bengali speaking region. Noted for their haunting melodies and enigmatic lyrics, Bauls have been portrayed as spiritually enlightened troubadours traveling around the countryside in West Bengal in India and in Bangladesh.
As emblems of Bengali culture, Bauls have long been a subject of scholarly debates which center on their esoteric practices, and middle class imaginaries of the category Baul. Adding to this literature, the intimate ethnography presented in this book recounts the life stories of members from a single family, shining light on their past and present tribulations bound up with being poor and of a lowly caste. It shows that taking up the Baul path is a means of softening the stigma of their lower caste identity in that religious practice, where women play a key role, renders the body pure. The path is also a source of monetary income in that begging is considered part of their vocation. For women, the Baul path has the added implication of lessening constraints of gender. While the book describes a family of singers, it also portrays the wider society in which they live, showing how their lives connect and interlace with other villagers, a theme not previously explored in literature on Bauls. Full information.
Kristin Hansen defended her doctoral thesis on Vaishnava Mendicant Renouncers in Bengal at the at the Dept of Social Anthropology, Oslo University in 2002. More information.

A political clearance letter from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs EA includes explicit instructions from the Indian government to not include any scholars from Pakistan at the Asian Studies Conference to be held 5-8 July 2018 at Habitat Centre in New Delhi. The conference is hosted by Ashoka University,  India’s premier private liberal arts institute. The Association for Asian Studies is the premier international academic body of Asianists with around 10,000 members. Every year since 2014, it holds an annual AAS-in-ASIA conference for scholars who cannot attend the annual event in North America. The last four conferences were held in Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.  Full information about the Delhi conference.
Foreign scholars had to apply for an Indian visa with a copy of the invitation and no-objection letters from the ministries of external affairs and home affairs. But the political clearance letter from the MEA includes explicit instructions from the Indian government to not include any scholars from Pakistan at the event. Pakistan was deleted from the list of 57 countries that were supposed to receive an invitation to participate. Annie Zaman, an independent researcher, is the only Pakistani participant who had registered for the conference. Having registered in February, she was to speak on the morning of July 6 on the topic of virtual geographical identities through the lens of Balochistan’s secessionist movement, of which most members live outside Pakistan. However, just over a month ago, the conference organisers contacted her to say that it would be futile to apply for a visa. Zaman was scheduled to be part of a panel co-organised by Sinjini Mukherjee of the University of Heidelberg and Mira Mohsini of the University of Akron on “Framing Spaces: Encountering Affective Geographies in South Asia”.
The organisers of the conference have said that they “deeply regret” the decision of Indian government to bar Pakistani academics as it was “not in tune with open exchange of ideas and knowledge”, but added that directive came too late in the day with preparations already underway for years. Read more in a Wire article

The 24th Himalayan Languages Symposium (HLS) was Held  on 8 -10 June 2018 at Lucknow University, Uttar Pradesh state, India. The 2018 HLS was hosted by the Linguistics Department of the University of Lucknow, headed by Dr. Kavita Rastogi. The Lucknow University campus is located on the north bank of the Gomti river in the heart of the city centre of Lucknow.
The Himalayan Languages Symposium was first held in Holland in 1995 and has convened annually ever since. This open forum welcomes all scholars and students of Himalayan languages. Contributions are welcome on any language of the greater Himalayan region, e.g. Burushaski, Kusunda, Tibeto-Burman, Indo-Iranian, Austroasiatic, Kradai, Andamanese, Nahali, Dravidian or any other language of the area. In addition to linguistic presentations, contribution are also welcome from related disciplines such as history, anthropology, archaeology and prehistory. The forum is secular and scholarly and not open to political or religious contributions. The 2019 HLS will be held in Sydney, Australia. More information.

On 23 February 2018, Karin Lundgren Kowacki at the Ergonomics and Aerosol Technology division within the Department of Design Sciences (IKDC) at Lund Institute of Technology (LTH), Lund University, defended her doctoral dissertation entitled ”The Heat is on: Evaluation of Workplace Heat Stress under a Changing Climate”. To a large part the thesis deals with workplace heat stress in India, and fieldwork has been carried out in Chennai. The faculty opponent was Dr Steve Rowlinson from the University of Hong Kong, China.
One article - part of the compilation thesis - has been published in the November 2017 issue of International Journal of Biometeorology (”Climate change-induced Heat Risks for Migrant Populations working at Brick Kilns in India: a Transdisciplinary Approach), with a few co-authors including Dr. Pernille Gooch, Lund University, and Professors Vidhya Venugopal  and Latha Anandh from the Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai. It deals with technical solutions including the use of sun-dried mud bricks and other locally “appropriate technologies” that could mitigate the worsening of climate change-induced heat. Socio-cultural solutions discussed for empowering the people who work at the brick kilns include participatory approaches such as open re-localization, and rights-based approaches including the environmental sustainability and the human rights-based approach framework.
Another article, also co-authored by Prof. Venugopal, was directly focusing on Occupational Heat Stress and Associated Productivity Loss Estimation at Workplaces in Chennai, and was published in the Global Health Action journal. its starting point was the summer of 2015, when India was hit by a scorching heat wave that melted pavements in Delhi and caused thousands of deaths, mainly among the most marginalized populations. One such group facing growing heat risks from both occupational and meteorological causes were migrant brick kiln workers. This study evaluated both current heat risks and the potential future impacts of heat caused by climate change, for the people working at brick kilns in India. A case study of heat stress faced by people working at brick kilns near Chennai where the situation is alarming since occupational heat exposure in the hot season from March to July is already at the upper limits of what humans can tolerate before risking serious impairment. 
More information about Karin’s research with links to the dissertation articles.
Read an article in Swedish on the thesis in LTH-Nytt 1/2018, written by Jessica Sellergren.

Karolinska Institutet Medical University has been involved in collaboration projects wih Pakistan, and especially with Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi, since the 1950’s. Professor Emeritus Bo Lindblad at IHCAR has been instrumental in much of these projects. Read his report on half a century of KI–AKU collaboration.
In March 2018, Aga Khan University sent an official letter thanking the President, Members of the Faculty and Members of the Administration of KI for their interest in, support of and contribution to the old and still ongoing collaboration with Karolinska Institutet). In the document, it is mentioned that the collaboration has created research leaders, research groups, besides good will for Sweden and KI and increased the research capacity within low-income areas of South Asia and East Africa. The PhD theses have been defended at KI and the papers in them published. A list of total publications from the teams involved is available at AKU and a summary of the projects with results is being prepared at AKU. Read the inspiring document.

The Department of Linguistics and Philology, and the Forum for South Asian Studies at Uppsala University organised an International Workshop on ”Self-narratives in Southasian Literatures” on 7-8 June 2018.  Venue: Engelska parken 9-3042, Uppsala. The workship was convened by Professor Heinz Werner Wessler and dealt with autobiographies and other forms of self-narratives in Southasian literatures.
Participants included Ram Prasad Bhatt, Hamburg University, Germany, presenting a paper on ”Life and times of Śaileś Maṭiyānī : Writer and Rebel”; Monika Browarczyk, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland,  presenting a paper on Hindi poet Kunwar Narain’s Reminiscences and Retellings of the Past; Alaka Chudal, Vienna University, Austria; presenting a paper on ”Nepalese women in their sociocultural surroundings”; Alessandra Consolaro, Torino University, Italy,  presenting a paper on ”(Impossible?) Adivasi autobiography: the expression of the self in Nirmala Putul and Jacinta Kerketta’s poems and in Rejina Marandi’s novel Becoming me”; Pär Eliasson, Uppsala University, presenting a paper on ”Bahina Bai: God, Guru and the Self”; Barbara Lotz, Würzburg University, Germany,  presenting a paper on ”Reading Indian Trans* Autobiographies: A Narratological Approach”; Nabila Rehman, University of Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan,  presenting a paper on ”Female self-narratives in modern Panjabi literature”; Marina Rimscha, Hebrew University, Jerusalem Israel,  presenting a paper on ”Men without women or women without men? A literary analysis of Dalit autobiographies”; Rosine Vuille, Zürich University, Switzerland;  presenting a paper on ”Sobti-Hashmat: the plural identity of the writer”; and Heinz Werner Wessler himself,  presenting a paper on ”Vinod Kumar’s ādivāsī jīvan-jagat, the author’s self, and the epistemology of empathy”. Full information.

Internationella Programkontoret

On 22 May 2018, the Swedish Council for Higher Education decided to award SEK 523 000 as a Linnaeus Palme Exchange Programme grant to the Department of Science, Environment and Society (NMS) at the University of Malmö for its new collaboration programme with Samtse College of Education (SCE) at the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) during 2018. The authority is pleased to see that the application maintains a high quality, due to the work and dedication of the collaborating partners leading to the achievement of our common goal of a higher quality of education. The project includes 12 approved numer of teacher and student mobilities.
The aim of the Sweden-Bhutan project is to develop and support a more culturally responsive teaching and learning in mathematics and mathematics teacher education in the Swedish and Bhutan school contexts. The new collaboration was facilitated by the NSAN editor Lars Eklund during a May 2017 visit to Samtse, when he discussed with Senior SCE  Lecturer Purna Badadur Subba and Dr. Johan Westman, Swedish ethnomusicologist working at SCE since 2016, the possibility to find collaborating partners in Sweden on the isue of Ethnomathematics. Read Lars Eklund’s report from Samtse College of Education.

At Malmö University, Associate professor Annica Andersson happens to be working on Etnomathematics with a strong international network with scholars at teacher education institutions and universities in different parts of the world. Her thesis and research has been based on critical mathematical and ethnomathematical research. Together with Lena Andersson, senior lecturer and the international coordinator at the department, and with a background from the ITP/Sida programme “Child Rights, Classroom and School Management”, they form the Swedish coordination team.

In early February 2018, Prof. Subba and Dr. Westman from Samtse College of Education visited Malmö University and their counterparts at Malmö University to plan for the coming exchange programme. In Malmö, they also had a seminar on Bhutanese folk music at Lund University’s Faculty of Fine and Performing Art - located in Malmö. Besides they spent a few days in Gothenburg and Borås. Photo to the right from Gothenburg.

Wangchu La och Duba Dukpa from Samtse Lower Secondary School.

By chance, another group of four Bhutanese school teachers also visited Sweden and Gothenburg during the same period. It so happened that Båtsmansskolan in Härryda, outside Gothenburg, had successfully applied for another Swedish government funded exchange programme, the Atlas programme, for a collaboration with Samtse Lower Secondary School - located in the same small Bhutanese town as the College of Education. Atlas is a programme for schools and other educational institutions interested in global networking and practical training exchanges. This programme is also administered by the Swedish Council for Higher Education. More information.

The NSAN editor also played a certain role in creating the initial contact between the two schools in Samtse and Härryda, and Lars was therefore invited to meet the entire Bhutanese group in Gothenburg on Sunday 11 February.  

See the NSAN page on the South Asia related Linnaeus Palme exchange programmes that were given funding in 2017

On Tuesday 15 May 2018, Aase Jeanette Kvanneid from the Institute for Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, defended her doctoral thesis with the thesis ”Waterworn. Climate Change Resonance in the Shivalik Hills of North India”. The evaluation committee forst opponent was Professor Ann Grodzins Gold, Syracuse University, USA.  The thesis deals with how a so-called global "climate awareness" falls into a small community in northern India. The analysis draws on long-term fieldwork among farmers and landowners, local politicians and volunteers. Ethnography thus illustrates the focal points between local, social life, and developmental work.
The Shivalik Mountains of North India are a region where it has been driving predators on natural resources for a long time, and where climate change is believed to make the situation more stressful for humans and ecosystems. Climate change and the transfer of knowledge around it are thus central. The water cycle, and water as a scarce resource, plays a central role in the analysis. When the water supply to the community was changed - both through the actions of an internationally supported irrigation project and through changes in climate and environment - local power relations were put into play. In addition, local reactions to a regional flood disaster and a landslide, both triggered by abnormally heavy precipitation, showed how global changes in climate and environment relate to local social life. Climate change was thus interpreted as a moral corrective of how people should relate to each other, to their gods, and to the environment. The main finding is that climate and environmental awareness in northern India is coincided with a national discourse about progress and modernization. Read more.

On Thursday 24 May 2018, PhD candidate Pawel Odyniec, Department of Linguistics and Philology at Uppsala University, held his final seminar for a PhD project entitled presented ”Engaging Advaita. Conceptualising liberating knowledge in the face of Western modernity”. Assistant Professor Michael Allan from the Department of Religious Studies at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA, was the seminar opponent. The thesis is essentially an essay on modern Indian philosophy. Broadly speaking, it engages with the theme of the relation between Self and Other, particularly as it is enacted in cross-cultural encounters, and examines three engaging articulations of the Advaitic notion of liberating knowledge or brahmajñāna that have been offered by three eminent Indian academic philosophers in twentieth century India; namely: Badrīnāth Śukla (19??-1987), Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya (1875-1949), and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975). In doing so, it pays particular attention to the existing relation between their distinctive conceptualisations of liberating knowledge and the doxastic attitudes that these authors assumed toward the Sanskrit intellectual past on the one hand and the Western alterity on the other. Read the thesis.

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