South Asia

Organized Panel Session

89 - Vernacular Literacies in Early Modern and Modern South Asia

7/7/2018
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

This panel studies the role of literacy in shaping historical and political claims about languages in early modern and modern South Asia. The panelists wish to contribute towards new ways of conceptualizing vernacular literacies by paying special attention to problems of materiality, institutions and political thought. One of our concerns is to test the limits of categories like “vernacularization”, “cosmopolitanism”, “circulation” and “colonial modernity” that have animated discussions about linguistic worlds in South Asia (Aquil and Chatterjee 2008; Chatterjee 2009; Pollock 2006). Through our specific case studies which include new research in Persian, Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi, Assamese, and Bengali we wish to come up with new categories that allow us to put the precolonial in conversation with the colonial in the South Asian context. Rather than concentrating on any one vernacular archive, most of our research is about archives that emerge out of linguistic, institutional and political interactions. We study “interactions” as a site of historical investigation in entering into discourses where the “vernacular” has been conceptualized as a relational category - marked by “circulation” and the “superimposition” of the classical. Expanding on existing concepts our work shows how the “vernacular” was both aware of and strategic about the uses of the past in making historical and political claims. Thus, we propose a new research methodology that would situate “literacy” within their material and institutional contexts in studying languages and their political worlds in early modern and modern South Asia.

Presentations:

Samyak Ghosh

Columbia University, United States

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Varuni Bhatia

Azim Premji University, India

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Samyak Ghosh

Columbia University, United States

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Andrew Amstutz

University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

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Rabi Prakash

Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

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