SSAI Bulletin
19 January 2018
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SSAI Events

The Indian Railways and the Theatres of Gandhian Nationalism

Arup K Chatterjee
When Wed 24 Jan 2018, 5 pm to 7 pm. 
Where B104, Brunei Building, SOAS University of London
Open to Students, scholars, public, alumni
Registration Free. No registration required. 
By the 1880s, the Indian Railways came to be dominated by imperial literary and cultural activities. Along with the rise of railway publishers such as Higginbotham’s and A.H. Wheeler’s, writers like Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, and Flora Annie Steel brought a distinctly provincial European and aristocratic flavour to experiences of journeying on Indian trains. A decade later, a storm was brewing however, in South Africa—an episode of humiliation that MK Gandhi witnessed in Pietermaritzburg—which was to redefine the railway experience in epical ways, and at times crude methodologies. By the early twentieth-century, the Indian Railways were rendered Indian by Gandhi’s ‘Third-class’ exploits, wherein he used the trains as a swadeshi coup, much like his loin cloth and his frugal diet. Gandhi’s life has been described as a crash course in semiotics. This talk of the Indian Railways and Gandhian nationalism tries to trace the journey of the Indian rail compartments from a Kiplinguesque fascination for hierarchies and aesthetics, at times governed by GF Kellner’s deluxe catering services on the railways, to a Gandhian disruption of the imperial railroads—in the ever expanding cultural biography of the Great Indian Railways.

Speaker Biography
Dr. Arup K Chatterjee is Assistant Professor of English, at the Jindal Global Law School. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Brunel University London. In 2014, he was a recipient of the Charles Wallace fellowship, to United Kingdom. He received his doctorate from the Center for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, for his dissertation titled: ‘Hillmaking: Architecture and Literature from the Doon Valley.’ Chatterjee has previously taught at colleges in the University of Delhi. He is the Founder Chief Editor of Coldnoon: International Journal of Travel Writing & Travelling Cultures. He is also the author of, the widely reviewed, The Purveyors of Destiny: A Cultural Biography of the Indian Railways (Bloomsbury, 2017). He is now engaged in writing a history of India, and a historical novel set in Edwardian India. He is a prolific author and has contributed numerous articles on history, literature, culture and politics, to magazines such as The Conversation, Scroll, The Wire, DailyO and Huffington Post, The Caravan, apart from contributing to Coldnoon. He has been or is about to be interviewed in The Missing Slate, Writers in Conversation (journal of the Flinders University), The Quint and BBC, India. He is Director of Research and Communications at IndiaHub, where inter alia, he is leading a project pertaining to the Indian Constitution. His interests are in the history of British imperialism, politics and philosophy; British cultural and historical encounters with India; and colonial and postcolonial historiography of India.
Further details

‘Revisiting the Philosophy of Verrier Elwin'

When Thurs 25 Jan 2018, 5-7 pm 
Where Room 116, Main Building, SOAS University of London.
Open to Students, scholars, public, alumni
Registration  Free. No registration required. 
About The Event
A forum to discuss Verrier Elwin’s life and work, with a focus on his philosophy for tribal development and his understanding of tribal culture. Turning to today, we can ask: are Elwin’s ideas still relevant? How can tribal people represent themselves in the post-colonial context and make their knowledge relevant to global environmental concerns?
The speakers for the event are: Dr Daniel Rycroft (Senior Lecturer at University of East Anglia), Dr Mark Elliot (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge), Dr Felix Padel and Malvika Gupta (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oxford University), Dr Rashmi Varma (Associate professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick), Dr Tara Douglas (Adivasi Arts Trust). The event will be chaired by Prof. Edward Simpson (Director of SOAS South Asia Institute). 
Further details
External Events

Free Talk

The early British High Commission in Pakistan: its role and history

Professor Ian Talbot
When  Tue 23 Jan 2018, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm 
Where  Alumni Lecture Theatre, Paul Webley Wing, Senate House, SOAS
Open to  Students, scholars, public, alumni
Registration  Free. Register here.
The literature on the legacies of Partition for Pakistan has overlooked the history of the creation of diplomatic embassies within the new country. In this talk, Professor Ian Talbot, who has long had a particular interst in Pakistan, tells the story of Britain’s early High Commissions and the difficulties that they faced. The very first one had to be established in great haste in the weeks leading up to Independence, and the Chancery had to lodged in a leased office in the British Chamber of Commerce building, while what had been the Sindh Collector’s residence became the official Residency.

Professor Talbot will examine the roles played by the first four British High Commissioners: Sir Laurence Graffety-Smith (1947-51), Sir Gilbert Laithwaite (1951-4), Sir Alexander Symon (1954-61) and Sir Morrice James (1961-5). As he says, they each brought very different personalities and priorities to the instructions from London. Their task was far from easy: there was always the difficult job of maintaining a fine balancing act between Pakistan and India, and they also had increasingly to compete with the Americans for influence. He will look at their management of the High Commission and its outposts in Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Dacca; and will analyse the ways in which the diplomatic mission undertook the important tasks of political reporting, mediating in the Kashmir conflict and protecting British interests at times of conflict in what was a formative period in Pakistan history.

Speaker Biography
Ian Talbot is a Professor of Modern British History at the University of Southampton. He wrote the seminal work, Pakistan: A Modern History, which was first published in 1999, reissued in an expanded form, and is now in its third edition. He is an acknowledged expert on Partition, and in addition to several articles, he co-authored a major study on the subject and its aftermath for Cambridge University Press. He was a speaker at the recent Lahore Literary Festival in London.
Further details

Free Talk
The missing; memory, migration and Partition

When Thursday, 8 February 2018, 2:00pm
Where Loughborough University London, 3 Lesney Avenue, The Broadcast Centre, Here East, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London E15 2GZ
Open to Students, scholars, public, alumni
Registration Attendance is free and open to all, but tickets should be booked in advance from
All are welcome to join for an afternoon of discussion, launching the new project Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination: British Asian Memory, Identity and Community after Partition. Funded by The Leverhulme Trust, this five-year project explores memory in South Asian communities in Loughborough and in Tower Hamlets, London. Professor Emily Keightley leads a team of seven researchers to examine the cultural practices through which people remember the past. A key focus is on memories of the 1947 Partition of British India: the project asks how memories of Partition circulate in diasporic contexts and how they contribute to both individual and community identities. The project is grounded in collaboration with partner organisations in London and Loughborough, including Tower Hamlets Council, East London Dance, Charnwood Arts and Equality Action.

At this launch event, a panel of invited speakers will present in response to their own research and the project’s themes: Partition, diaspora and memory. The session will be followed by a drinks reception.

Further details

Free Talk
Global Perspectives: How Earth History Comes Into World History 

When  Tuesday 13 March 2018, 6:30 pm- 8:00 pm 
Where  The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH
Open to  Students, scholars, public, alumni
Registration  Buy your tickets here:
Historians of human institutions and practices have had good reasons for not concerning themselves with the deeper histories of geological and biological events on the planet. This situation has begun to change, however, with recent debates on the Anthropocene - the proposed name of new geological epoch in which humans collectively act as a geophysical force - seeing humanists and scientists name different periods in the history of the modern world as constituting the "beginning" of the epoch.

This talk suggests that, irrespective of how the debate gets settled, it helps us to see small and big events in world history from new perspectives.

Speaker: Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilisations, University of Chicago

Chair: Professor Sir David Cannadine PBA Dodge Professor of History, Princeton University; Editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Visiting Professor, University of Oxford.

Further details

Tamil celebrations of Pongal before Thiruvalluvar

This afternoon, representatives of SOAS and the Federation of Tamil Associations UK, as well as guests from the High Commission of India, including Minister A.S. Rajan, came together before the statue of Thiruvalluvar on the SOAS campus to mark the end of Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival.

The statue of Great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, author of Tirukkural, was installed on 13th May, 1996 and has welcomed visitors to SOAS ever since.

The occasion was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the history of Tamil Studies at SOAS, remember the contribution of scholars such as Stuart Blackburn and John Marr to the development of regional studies and language teaching, and to renew our joint determination to bring back the teaching of Tamil to SOAS degree programmes.

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