Category Archives: Lectures

Mitra Sharafi, “Corruption and Forensic Experts in British India,” Baldy Center Distinguished Speaker (March 3, 2017)

Photo of Prof. Mitra Sharafi

“Corruption and Forensic Experts in British India”

March 3, 2017, 12:30 pm. Lunch served at 12:00 pm.

509 O’Brian Hall, University at Buffalo North Campus

Mitra Sharafi

Associate Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin, Law School

 

About the speaker: Mitra Sharafi is a legal historian of South Asia. She holds law degrees from Cambridge and Oxford (the UK equivalent of a JD and LLM) and a doctorate in history from Princeton. Sharafi’s book, Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772-1947 (Cambridge University Press, 2014) won the Law and Society Association’s J. Willard Hurst Prize for socio-legal history in 2015. The book explores the legal culture of the Parsis or Zoroastrians of British India, an ethno-religious minority that was unusually invested in colonial law. Her research interests include South Asian legal history; the history of the legal profession; the history of colonialism; the history of contract law; law and society; law and religion; law and minorities; legal consciousness; legal pluralism; and the history of science and medicine. Sharafi is a regular contributor to the Legal History Blog. Since 2010, her South Asian Legal History Resources website has shared research guides and other tools for the historical study of law in South Asia. Follow her blogposts and follow her on Twitter @mjsharafi  Read more.
DOWNLOAD PAPER: “Corruption and Forensic Experts in Colonial India” (573 KB)

Daniel Majchrowicz (Northwestern University), “The Case of the Vanishing Maharaja: Urdu Travel Literature and Princely Politics in South Asia” (March 10, 2017)

Asia@Noon

Daniel Majchrowicz (Northwestern University)

The Case of the Vanishing Maharaja

Urdu Travel Literature and Princely Politics in South Asia

Friday, March 10, 2017

12 to 1 pm

280 Park Hall

Holkar In 1851, the young Tukoji Holkar, Maharaja of Indore, went missing under suspicious circumstances. Some said his regent wanted him out of the picture. Others speculated that he’d been kidnapped and taken to Calcutta by nefarious colonial agents. In truth, he’d  skipped town to make a clandestine tour of of North India. After his return, Holkar did something that was doubly unprecedented for a Persian-speaking court of his time: he wrote a travelogue, and he wrote it in Urdu. Following his lead, other princes across the region began to write their own, increasingly elaborate travel accounts. By the end of the 19th century, writing about travel have become a well established expression of princely praxis. Focusing on two narratives in Urdu from 1851, this talk will argue that the decision to write a travel account – and to do so in Urdu – reflected Holkar’s, and the princely states’, desire to use travel literature to stabilize their legitimacy at a time when colonial predations had rendered it increasingly precarious.

Daniel Majchrowicz

Daniel Majchrowicz is an Assistant Professor of South Asian Literature and Culture at Northwestern University. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2015. He is currently working on two manuscripts. The first is a study of Urdu travel writing from 1830-1950, tentatively titled “Travel and the Means to Victory: Travel and Travel Writing in Modern South Asia.” The second is a collaborative project aimed at producing a scholarly anthology of Muslim women’s travel writing from across the world, entitled “Veiled Voyagers.”

Supported by the UB Honors College and Asian Studies Program.

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.