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
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 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.
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.