Monthly Archives: September 2016

Arthur Dudney, “Literary Decadence and Writing the History of Political Decline,” University at Buffalo (November 16, 3:30 pm)

Literary Decadence and Writing the History of Political Decline
A Public Lecture by
Arthur Dudney (Cambridge University)
Wednesday November 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm
306 Clemens Hall, University at Buffalo (Amherst Campus) 

Historians have always been interested in describing the trajectories of empires. The metaphor used for political development has often been that of a human life, from birth through to adolescence, maturity, senescence, and finally death. The topic of this lecture is the senescent phase of empires, more specifically the outmoded but still surprisingly prevalent assumption on the part of historians that whatever other factors have caused an empire to decline, an aesthetic or intellectual failure must also be identified. The
supposed decline in the quality of a late empire’s literary output, or “decadence” to use the term most commonly applied, is however poorly theorized both by historians and literary scholars. There is often a circular logic in the academic division of labor: Historians use the decontextualized insights of literary scholars to argue that literature decreased in quality in an empire’s last phase while literary scholars use historians’ work to read societal decline into literary works. Ultimately this reflects more of our own preconceptions than the thought of the society being studied. This lecture will draw on two very different historiographical case studies, namely the Roman Empire and the Mughal Empire, which ruled much of the Indian subcontinent from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century. Our understanding of the fall of Rome has become much more sophisticated in recent decades but in the case of India the colonial historiography (itself built upon some long-outdated ideas about the late Roman Empire) is still in need of being reconsidered.

Dr. Arthur Dudney is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Cambridge University and scholar of Indo-Persian literature. He is the author of Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History (Hay House, 2015) and has published work in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic SocietyJournal of Persianate StudiesEncyclopedia of Indian Religions, and Indian Linguistics. Dudney recently discussed his book and current projects for New Books in South Asian Studies.
Arthur Dudney’s talk is generously supported with funding from the UB Honors College, Department of History, and Department of Linguistics

Nathan Vedal, “Is Phonetic Writing Inherently Intuitive? A History of Sanskrit Scripts in China,” University at Buffalo (November 3, 2016, 3 pm)

Sanskrit and Chinese characters

Is Phonetic Writing Inherently Intuitive? 
A History of Sanskrit Scripts in China
A Public Lecture by
Nathan Vedal (Harvard University)
Thursday November 3, 2016 at 3:00 pm
306 Clemens Hall, University at Buffalo (Amherst Campus)
Advocates of Chinese writing reform since the early 20th century have often argued that China ought to adopt a phonetic writing system to replace its current character-based script. Intuitively, the simplicity of phonetic scripts, such as the Roman alphabet, makes this proposal seem reasonable, especially to a western audience. Historians have typically claimed that the lack of script reform in China before the 20th century was a result of insufficient exposure to or consideration of phonetic scripts. However, scholars in China had more access to phonetic scripts than is generally assumed. While these scripts captured their attention and even gained some adherents, they were not widely adopted for several intriguing reasons. This lecture will discuss the study of phonetic Sanskrit scripts in China, which began as early as the 3rd century CE. In particular, it will focus on the 16th and 17th centuries, which ushered in a renaissance of Sanskrit studies among Chinese scholars. During this period, scholars made various uses of this phonetic script, but also maintained that it would be insufficient as a replacement for the native script. Understanding the reasons underlying their skepticism of phonetic scripts sheds new light on why China maintained the use of a character-based script, and provides a window into scholarly culture in the early modern world.
Nathan Vedal is a scholar of Chinese intellectual history in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. His current research explores the formation of scholarly fields, particularly related to the study of language, in sixteenth and seventeenth century China. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Historiographia Linguistica, Tang Studies, and Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. He is currently preparing a chapter on “Chinese Lexicography, c. 600-1700” for the Cambridge World History of Lexicography.
Nathan Vedal’s talk is generously supported with funding from the UB Honors College.

September 12, 2016: Conducting research on violence in the Global South: Stories from Bangladesh

The UB School of Social Work’s Global to Local Luncheon Series presents

“Conducting research on violence in the Global South: Stories from Bangladesh”

by Shaanta Murshid, PhD

Headshot of Nadine Shaanta Murshid, PhD
Nadine Shaanta Murshid, PhD

Focusing on quantitative and qualitative findings from her research in Bangladesh, Nadine Shaanta Murshid will be speaking about conducting research on violence in a country, where political violence is omnipresent, while intimate partner violence remains a taboo.

Monday, September 12
12:30 – 1:30 PM
684 Baldy Hall, North Campus
~lunch provided~
Contact: Shannon Linehan,