Visiting speaker Sumathi Ramaswamy (Duke University) presents "A Historian among Goddesses"
In this lecture, I offer some reflections on what it has meant for me as a professional historian to write over the past couple decades about a series of modern goddesses of modern India who have succeeded in capturing my imagination, in disturbing the terms of my engagement with official archives, in troubling the categories of my analysis, and in redirecting my work along paths that I had not envisioned before my encounter with them. As I focus upon the work of these goddesses in the political, cultural, and devotional landscapes of modern India, I also consider the ethical dilemma of engaging with such an “enchanted” figure from the perspective of the “disenchanted” discipline of History. I offer visual studies with its focus on the “enchanted” image as a way out of this ethical impasse.
Sumathi Ramaswamy is Professor of History at Duke University and Director of the Duke Center for South Asian Studies. She is the author of The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (2010), The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories (2004), and Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970 (1997). Her edited volumes include Barefoot Across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India (2010), and Beyond Appearances? Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India (2003). She is currently working on a project entitled “Global Itineraries: The Indian Travels of a Worldly Object.” She is co-founder of a trans-national digital network for popular South Asian visual culture called Tasveer Ghar (House of Pictures, www.tasveerghar.net)
This event is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the John E. Sawyer Seminars on the Comparative Study of Cultures grant program.
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