Four-year PhD Studentships

Location: University of Westminster

Deadline: 26th August 2016


Two x four-year, full time PhD studentships in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment as part of ERC grant funded project Monsoon Assemblages.

Stipend of £16,000 p.a. and Tuition Fees (Home/EU fees only).


Full article

Two x four-year, full time PhD studentships

Monsoon Assemblages is a five-year long research project funded by the European Research Council (Starting Grant no. 679873) with the ambition of confronting challenges of urban climate change through novel, inter-disciplinary research in three of South Asia’s rapidly growing cities: Chennai, Delhi and Dhaka. It is driven by questions of how these cities might be transformed if no longer thought of as exclusive products of human agency, but as co-designed by the material energies of earth systems.

PhD applications are invited from the spatial design and/or environmental humanities disciplines to engage with these questions. The exact areas of study will be developed with the successful applicants; proposals may draw from a number of theoretical perspectives, including urban political ecology, actor network theory, urban assemblage theory or more-than-human ontology, and propose to make use of a range of research methods, including archival research; policy research; literature review; textual and graphic analysis; ethnographic fieldwork; mapping and data visualisation; spatial modelling and design. All proposals should include a practice based component. Successful applicants will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of supervisors drawn from the project team and will be encouraged to engage fully in the activities of the Monsoon Assemblages project, including participation in symposia, workshops, exhibitions and publications.

Full details and instructions on how to apply are available here:


Settled Topographies: From Gibraltar to the Ganges

ArCHIAM Centre Conference

July 11 – 12, 2016

10:00 – 17:00


School of the Arts Library

19 Abercromby Square


Last week the ArCHIAM Centre at Liverpool School of Architecture hosted a two day symposium, ‘Settled Topographies: From Gibraltar to the Ganges’, exploring how culture and spatiality have comingled across this trans-continental region in contemporary and historical settings. As Professor Souymen Bandyopadhyay (Director ArCHIAM) introductory remarks stated, ‘there is a need to reflect on the area’s global interactions to help inform contributions to the present world’.

The opening sessions including papers by Dr Iain Jackson (University of Liverpool), ‘State Building and Nation Creation: British Mandate Architecture and Planning in Iraq’, and Cleo Roberts, ‘The River Ganges: Colonial Calcutta’s Sub-City’, provided a rich insight into how British colonial relationships had sought to harness inherited environments through a combination of infrastructural, and prestige projects, and the ecological riverine environment respectively.

Jackson’s discussion looked at the legacy of British architecture in Iraq, and argued that flamboyant structures such as J.M.Wilson’s University of Al Il Beit, 1922-27, created to resonate with local aesthetics and indebted to New Delhi design, served as conduits for governance. Roberts drew on this analogy and discussed how the river Ganges, popularly framed as a commercial conduit to colonial Calcutta, was, as her catalogue of visual sources was beginning to show, a lived space which challenged concepts of spatial governance, and in doing so held the city together, and allowed it to function. The notion of spatial politics was further drawn out by Dr Jyoti Atwal (Jawaharlal Nehru University_ whose work, ‘Mapping Widowhood: Observations from Colonial North India’, used a method of gender geography to understand how state administration and caste enmeshed, and affected trends in widowhood.

Dr Sharon Smith (Aga Khan Documentation Centre at MIT) provided valuable insight into how visual methodologies, similar to those adopted by Jackson and Roberts, are supported and promoted by the active online documentation programme at the Aga Khan Documentation Centre. She encouraged researchers to access the diverse range of visual and material archives of the Islamic world, and to collaborate with their ongoing work and drive to digitise their resources. As Dr Michael Toler’s (Aga Khan Documentation Centre at MIT) paper ‘Visually Documenting Early 20th Century Tangier: A Study of Glass Negatives’, showed items from the collection, and showed how the archive’s development, through the open source resource, ArchNet, is enriching historic perspectives, and being used to shape current infrastructural projects.

The series of papers presented by Dr Martin Goffriller (University of Liverpool), ‘The Death of Place: An Archaeology of Oman’s Super-Modernity’, and Dr Harriet Nash (ArCHIAM affiliate researcher) continued to show how historic research in Oman, and an understanding of past settlement, is informing contemporary methods of heritage and infrastructural management. Goffriller’s archaeological work in Bahla Oasis, and Nash’s studies of the Aflāj Irrigation Systems of Oman explained how contemporary practices hinge upon historic forms of knowledge, such as the practice of star and sun watching to time, and allocate water resources described by Nash. As a subsequent paper ‘A Short Walk in the Himalaya: Vernacular Architecture on the 30th Parallel’, presented by architect John Harrison (ArCHIAM affiliate researcher) showed through detailed and continual survey, how water supplies, and drainage facilities shaped architecture and the social relationships.


Sundial in Qarya Beni Subh. Photography courtesy of Harriet N


The influences of water, and travel facilitated by oceanic regions was emphasised in research presented by Professor Soumyen Bandyopadhyay (University of Liverpool), and Professor Nicholas Temple’s keynote, ‘Migratio/Pelegrinatio, Traversing the Mare Nostrum and the Levant’. Both noted how global connections and varied routes through the Indian ocean and Mediterranean Sea respectively, had impacted on social and architectural geographies from time immemorial. Bandyopadhyay described his survey work in the Omani hubs, Muscat and Muttrah, and showed through specific architectural detailing and motifs found in a series of mosques how routes through the Indian ocean had influenced design.

A rich series of papers focused on North Africa concluded the symposium. (Abdullah Gül University) and (University of Liverpool) provided architectural insight into vernacular architecture. Polimeni’s paper presented a series of Ibadi settlements, and showed how topological analysis needed to integrate the importance of cultural identity. Quattrone’s research conducted in the oasis town of Nefta, Tunisia analysed how social and cultural requirements were reactivating the regions architecture and creating hybrid constructions, and new vocational training programmes.

A rich series of papers focused on North Africa concluded the symposium. Dr Beniamino Polimeni (Abdullah Gül University) and Dr Giamila Quattrone (University of Liverpool) provided architectural insight into vernacular architecture. Polimeni’s paper presented a series of Ibadi settlements, and showed how topological analysis needed to integrate the importance of cultural identity. Quattrone’s research conducted in the oasis town of Nefta, Tunisia analysed how social and cultural requirements were reactivating the regions architecture and creating hybrid constructions, and new vocational training programmes.

The ability to activate the landscape through practical outputs and public dissemination was shown by (University of Sheffield) and Carmen Moreno. The papers showed how researchers were creating on-site projects and workshops in the North Africa, such as the creation of for hammams, and social housing across the region described by Dr Magda Sibley, which were changing perceptions and encouraging re-use and new engagement with heritage sites. As Carmen Moreno from explained, architectural and restoration workshops informed by traditional knowledge had helped regenerate M’Hamid Oasis in South Morocco, and pass on new skills to young architects in the area. Future projects planned with Indus University in Gujarat were intending to achieve similar.

The ability to activate the landscape through practical outputs and public dissemination was shown by Dr Magda Sibley (University of Sheffield) and Carmen Moreno. The papers showed how researchers were creating on-site projects and workshops in the North Africa, such as the creation of LED solar lights for hammams, and social housing across the region described by Dr Magda Sibley, which were changing perceptions and encouraging re-use and new engagement with heritage sites. As Carmen Moreno from Terrachidia NGO explained, architectural and restoration workshops informed by traditional knowledge had helped regenerate M’Hamid Oasis in South Morocco, and pass on new skills to young architects in the area. Future projects planned with Indus University in Gujarat were intending to achieve similar.


Structural detail from M’Hamad Oasis, South Morocco

The plenary session held in Beech Gallery amongst the exhibition, ‘Yesterday’s Rooms’ by photographer Clive Gracey, synthesised the discussions, and suggested a series of new directions. There was emphasis placed on creating sustainable projects, which were aware of the on-going past, and appreciated that histories, and spaces were multiplicities, which needed to be explored in collaboration with contemporary users.


Bahla Interior, Dakhiliya Region. Sultantate of Oman. Courtesy Clive Gracey


The art of South Asia, exhibitions, and installations related to this region has recently been at the forefront of scholarship. Both in Calcutta and London, a series of exhibitions and the Paul Mellon Centre and Asiart Archive conference, ‘Showing, Telling, Seeing: Exhibiting South Asia in Britain 1900-Now’ have explored how this diverse area has been represented, consumed, and engaged with through visual means.

In Calcutta, Sujaan Mukerjhee’s visual investigation, ‘Chance Directed: A Guide to Calcutta Tourism’ was part of ‘Accessing the Archive: An Exhibition of Three Exploratory Projects’ presented by the India Foundation for the Arts in collaboration with Centre for Studies in Social Sciences. Using the Centre’s range of visual documentation including stereoscope views, postcards, photography, and tourist ephemera, Mukerjhee explored Calcutta’s visibility and memorialization from the perspective of the ‘outsider’. The installation, which offers a retrospective overview included the recreation of a 19th century stereoscope and established that the city matured, unfurled, and unfolded across the decades.


In her article for The Conversation, Cleo Roberts reported on the value of such retrospective overviews. The piece discussed Tate Modern’s Bhupen Khakar retrospective, ‘You Can’t Please All’ and related his career to India’s contemporary art infrastructure. The piece, which included interviews with Roobina Karode director of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, and the artist, Nikhil Chopra, discussed accessibility to the arts in India and noted the tensions involved in establishing a global circuit and network of exhibition.

This tension, and entanglement of asymmetrical perspectives formed the nexus of discussions at the ‘Showing, Telling, Seeing: Exhibiting South Asia in Britain 1900-Now’ conference. The two day series of panels, opened with a poignant discussion about curating and the burdens of representation. Iwona Blazwick (Whitechapel Gallery) and David Elliott (writer and curator) discussed their experiences at Tate Modern and The Museum of Modern Art Oxford retrospectively and addressed the methodologies they employed to create conversations between modernisms during the 1980s. Geeta Kapur (art critic) picked up on these questions and spoke about the Festival of India 1982 launched by Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi. She reflected on the reduction of a nation-space to city-space and spoke about the importance of the analytical frameworks and forums provided by the launch of Third Text in 1987.

The discussions which ensued, including Deepak Ananth (Ecole Supérieure d’Arts et Médias) and Sharmini Pereira (Raking Leaves), highlighted how these series of exhibitions had shifted the conceptual landscape and as Blazwick stated, in reference to the seminal Century City in 2001, had been ‘cross-pollinating’ and provided audiences with comparative cultural experiences. This notion of presenting hybrid expressions and negotiating artistic frameworks was further scrutinized in the second panel by Susan Bean and Sria Chatterjee (Princeton University). The papers historicised the process of display and used a series of European exhibitions, over the long twentieth century, to explore the role and reception of a selection of Indian artists and their work. Bean challenged the notion of vernacular and modern through the artists Ganpatrao Mhatre and Jadunath Pal while Chatterjee closely analysed the rhetoric and visual archive of the Festival of India, an umbrella series of nineteen exhibitions including the Hayward Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, British Museum and Royal Academy. Chatterjee problematized the institutional relationships manifest in the enterprise and in particular, her focus on the Royal Academy component of the Festival, showed that there was a web of viewing with multiple registers of meaning.


Zainul Abedin, ‘Santal Couple’, 1951

The subsequent papers expanded upon the role of institutions. Holly Shaffer (Dartmouth University) offered a detailed reading of institutional space through ‘Nehru: His Life and His India’ an exhibition of 1965, and Dayanita Singh’s, Museum Bhavan. Inter-linking these exhibitions she spoke of the thread of memorialization and myth embodied in images. The subsequent paper given by Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh) and Sanjukta Sunderason (University of Leiden), focused on institutional supported travel and the transit of two East Pakistani artists, Zainul Abedin and S M Sultan. Through these artists and the ‘journey as form’, London was shown as an influential meeting point of hybrid practice and informal exhibition. The responses, led by Nima Poovaya-Smith, considered how these papers used forensic memory, which could be both treacherous and telling, to  access asymmetrical perspectives.

The concluding panel moderated by Lucy Steeds (Central Saint Martins), series and managing editor for Afterall’s Exhibition Histories book series, discussed how exhibitions can be transposed to the page. The group including Emilia Terracciano (Ruskin School of Art), Zehra Jumabhoy and Shezad Dawood, considered writing as an afterlife, which offered a different and multi-textured form of engagement.

The second day opened with a series of papers, which teased out how Indian modernity had been exhibited in the United Kingdom and competed with and destabilised Western audiences and frames for viewing art. Brinda Kumar (Metropolitan Museum of Art) explored a show hosted by the Burlington Fine Arts Committee in July 1931 and discussed the grounding and contours it provided for a subsequent Royal Academy show mounted during the period of Independence. Kumar spoke through the exhibition texts, which framed the showcase through formal analysis, which privileged the ‘ancient end of the spectrum’. Hilary Floe (University of Oxford) moved the discussion to Myth and Reality: Oxford and India held in 1982 at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford, and a contrasting approach, which sought to ‘avoid totalizing claims’ and resist being a survey show. As the respondent Daniel Rycroft (University of East Anglia) surmised, both these papers pointed to competition within institutions and the non-neutral space of cultural politics, which should create legacies to inform future curatorial practice.

Naiza Khan (University of Karachi) and Karin Zitzewitz (Michigan State University) gave insight into how these contemporary circuits and networks of display were formulating. Their paper, ‘Nodal Connections: Triangle Network, Gasworks, and South Asian Artists in the UK’, discussed how the residency format offered by these spaces impacted on visiting artists. Case studies such as artist Abhishek Hazra gave insight into the artistic freedom and ‘reorientation of practice’ this time allowed. Eva Bentcheva (SOAS) followed focusing on an participatory commission by Motiroti for the Science Museum’s ships gallery in 2007. Her paper discussed the manifestation of the ‘Priceless’ installation and considered it as a fleeting and momentary engagement, which highlighted slow moving institutional agendas. These moments were none the less important and as Geeta Kapur stated, the platforms created by cultural institutions in India, particularly the Goethe-Institutes, were vital for artistic development.

The ability to untangle the interests of institution, artist and audience and how to conduct exhibition research was discussed by Saloni Mathur (UCLA), Carmen Julia (Tate Britain), and Sarah Turner (Paul Mellon Centre). The panel considered a number of methodologies; Mathur suggested that a legal case study approach and forensic reading of exhibitions coupled with self-consciousness was valuable. Turner impressed the need for imagination when digesting archival material and encouraged researchers to think about audience encounter and how to repopulate the exhibition space.


The concluding panel considered examples of groups kept at a distance and marginal to mainstream displays. Alice Correia (University of Salford) looked at South Asian female artists including Chila Kumari Burman, and a collection of self-initiated shows such as In Focus at Horizon Gallery in 1990, which articulated their experiences and dissent. Shanay Jhaveri (Metropolitan Museum of Art) used a show mounted at the Camera Club in the 1930s to interrogate the work of Leon Wendt. The paper discussed the moments of confrontation on show and generated a discussion about the consistent allure of art canonization.

The plenary panel and concluding remarks drew attention to the need for ongoing collaboration and as Sonal Khullar (University of Washington) stated, the ability to think about South Asia and Britain as metaphors rather than nation states. Nada Raza (Tate) highlighted that criticality was required and the exhibition could be seen as a laboratory and preamble to further questions. There was as Hammad Nasar (Asiart Archive) commented, the need to problematize the tendency to fetishise the exhibition as event.

As can be seen, this stimulating conference along with the work of Mukerjee and Roberts, highlights the enmeshed histories and narratives held in exhibitions, objects, institutions, and reflects the importance of exploring South Asian visual culture. As the first public event of a three year collaboration between the Paul Mellon Centre and Asiart Archive, there is all the more to anticipate and given the animated exchanges and charged conversations, it is certain that further and necessary initiatives will emerge and develop. These will be invaluable for capturing missed histories and regions, and problematising the relationship between South Asia and Britain’s visual relationship.

The 30th Annual BASAS Conference hosted by the Centre of South Asian Studies in their 50th anniversary year was held between the 6-8th April at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge. With generous funding from the Yusuf and Farida Hamied Foundation, the Thriplow Trust, and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre, the event brought together an international group of academics and early career researchers to discuss the study of South Asia.

With 42 panels, a round table addressing academic freedom and keynote lecture by Professor William Gould, the event generated a spectrum of new discussions, conversations, and raised valuable questions. This forum for research also included the BASAS student prize giving, receptions hosted by Taylor and Francis and the Centre of South Asian Studies and the launch of Claire Anderson’s latest book, New Histories of the Andaman Islands: Landscape, Place and Identity in the Bay of Bengal, 1790-2012.

The opening panels considered the interwoven aspects of the region’s political, religious and secular dimensions. This included presentations on religious politics and conflict in Bangladesh and British diaspora communities and a session which scrutinized the role of ‘national experts’ in South Asia’s development industry.

In the Reddaway Room, Shinjini Das (University of Cambridge), Leigh Denault (University of Cambridge), Muhammed Niyas Ashraf (Freie Universität Berlin) and Mou Banerjee (Harvard University) presented ‘Translating Christianity: Print, Conversion and Religious Identity in Colonial India’.

Using popular Christian publications, evangelical tracts and newspaper reports Das and Denault highlighted the debate and ideological restructing of religion in mid-late nineteenth century India. Through the figure of St Paul, an idealized missionary of the time, Das focused on the dynamics of ‘vernacular Christianity’ within Bengal. Arguing that Paul was an important resource for Hindu reformism formed a counterpoint to Denault’s paper which positioned Christianity as a novel platform for ‘Hindi publicists’ such as Harischandra of Banaras.

Muhammed Niyas Ashraf moved the lens to South India and the interaction between Protestant missionaries and Islam practices. Picking apart the polemicist, Sayyid Sanaullah Makti Tangal, the paper suggested that his defensive Malayalam publications cemented Muslim solidarity in the colonial Kerala. Banerjee’s work similarly thought through polemic discourses realized in chap books in Musalmani-Bengali and dobashi Bengali.

Pivoting around the work of Munshi Meherullah, a Muslim apologist and itinerant tailor, Banerjee examined the Muslim atrap community’s response to Christian missionaries working across Bengal in the late colonial period. Speaking through his re-conversion practice the paper emphasized Meherullah’ determination, idiosyncratic methodologies and the affect this had on an aspirational pan-Islamicism.

The importance of munshi figures in colonial India could not be discounted in the second panel of the afternoon, ‘The East India Company and the College of Fort William: Art, Literature, Politics’. This circumspective view of the college was opened by Joshua Ehrlich (Harvard University) who discussed the external politics of the Calcuttan institution in relation to the college established at Haileybury. Noting the rhetoric and policies of Governor-General Wellesley and the Court of Directors, Ehrlich argued that the College was instrumental in configuring knowledge and education as an extension of state.

 Cleo Roberts (University of Liverpool) picked up on this thread and argued that the College’s use of Roussean ideals to create students as ‘instruments of state’ was insufficiently executed. Examining the College from the perspective of the students, her paper showed that Wellesley’s policies and management of the college actively encouraged a class of apathetic, distracted and disobedient men to emerge.

The inability to manage this ‘cult of boyhood’ was perhaps in part due to the College’s professors and tutors who, as Diviya Pant’s (University of Kent) paper showed, were pursuing entrepreneurial and personal literary works. Detailing the ouvre of John Gilchrist, a pioneering linguistic affiliated with the College, Pant analysed how links were being forged between Hindustani and English. She argued that this analogy was drawn to give weight to Gilchrist’s formulation of Hindustani. Situating it as a modern language and playing a typically comparative game, she concluded crafted it into a desirable and commercial subject.

Discussions lead by David Washbrook were animated and drew an important parallel with the concurrent roundtable discussion ‘Academic Freedom in South Asia’. Chaired by Professor Chatterji (University of Cambridge) the discussion addressed the historic and contemporary correlates of the academic pressures currently at the fore in South Asia. The transnational character of this movement was detailed by Ed Anderson (University of Cambridge). Citing recent issues of censorship around Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History, he raised the point that activism external to South Asia is influential and impacts on debates.

Humeira Iqtidar (King’s College London) reiterated the multi-directional force of these campaigns and spoke on the incursions on academic freedom in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Insights offered by Mamun Rashid (University of Cambridge) placed further focus on incidents in Bangladesh whilst Priyamvada Gopal (University of Cambridge) urged the academic community to exercise their views stating, ‘Freedom of expression is like a muscle, use it or you lose it’.

The valuable historic insights provided by Laurence Gautier (University of Cambridge) and Partha Pratim Shil (University of Cambridge) helped shape the subsequent discussion. Delegates pointed out that understanding the global nature of academic censorship was important. Further points raised included recognising that Hindu nationalism lacked a stock of credible public intellectuals and intellectual culture.


Discussions during the conference at Fitzwilliam College

The second day was a similarly varied and rich program. The morning sessions included discussions focused on criminality and personal law, monarchies and their global remit, labour migration and constitutionalism in Nepal and India.

Gender and Violence in India and the Diaspora chaired by Deborah Sutton (Lancaster University) was well attended and rigorously highlighted female experiences across the continent. Gemma Scott (Keele University) evinced the gender politics involved in the sterilisation campaign launched during the Emergency in India. Picking apart the male-dominated archive she excavated female perspectives and argued that a re-orientation of perspectives needs to acknowledge that the program exacerbated gender biases.

Subsequent papers presented by Mirna Guha (University of East Anglia) and Parul Bhandari (Centre de Sciences Humaines de New Delhi) noted bias in contemporary India. Guha examined the habitual violence experienced by female sex workers in Bengal. Her qualitative study showed that this violence was embedded in a complex web of social relationships rather than singularly bound in their sex work.

This overlapped with Bhandari’s work which mapped out the violence in pre-marital coupledom. Thinking through sociological, anthropological theories and gender studies, her work examined the normalization of gender asymmetry in these relationships. Arguing that these shaped the contours of subsequent marital relationships, her paper unpacked the rhetoric of agency and freedom attached to coupledom.

Nandini Sen (Goethe University) concluded the panel providing a historic perspective through the short stories of Rabindranath Tagore. Reading through the female protagonists, Sen noted that these novellas complicated models of kinship and challenged familial units. This segued into a lively question and answer session, which picked up on methodologies of onsite research particularly during sexual health campaigns and expanded on the impact of social media and technology on conceptions of liberal sexuality.

Visual and culinary cultures of South Asia found form in the following panels. Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh) and Sanjukta Sunderason (Leiden University) presented papers which analysed the manifestation of left wing politics of the 50s and 60s in print, poster campaigns and film. The ideological underpinnings and formulation of food practices were explored by Sreya Mallika Datta (University of Delhi), Saumya Gupta (University of Delhi) and Rachna Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in a panel chaired by Elizabeth Leake (Royal Holloway University of London).

Using cuisine and food to reflect on identity formation, nationhood and recognizing it as an effective mechanism for colonial rule and punishment ensured an animated audience discussion. The dietary regimes of imperial jails detailed by Singh unraveled questions about the body politic and micro-technologies of power.

The panel ‘Digital media and new technologies in South Asia and its diaspora’discussed the implications that digital research and methods have for the study of South Asia. Tine Vekemans (Ghent University) investigated the usage of online religious platforms by Jain diasporas, showing that this can enhance perspectives and prove transformative.

A mixed media collaboration by Ravinder Barn (Royal Holloway, University of London), Balbir Barn (Middlesex University) and Utsa Mukherjee (Royal Holloway, University of London) deduced that the depiction of digital environments as inherently demographic needs to be reconfigured. Their analysis of 250,000 tweets collated following the India’s Daughter controversy pointed to the disparity in impact, recognizing that key institutions held weight in the Twitter sphere, and activity was overwhelmingly re-tweets from these larger accounts.

Shaping opinion through diverse media was a strand of Professor William Gould’s keynote which concluded the day. Introduced by by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, his public lecture ‘Hidden Citizens: Space, place and rights in India and Pakistan, 1947-1952’ drew on various visual technologies, publicity materials and products such as cement and bidi packaging to establish the perimeters of citizenship. The material presented a comprehensive view of partition politics and how they were defined through the built environment.



Professor William Gould’s keynote, Thursday 7th April 2016

The conference concluded on Friday with a selection of panels including work on environmental history and borders, Sri Lanka’s problematic conceptualisation as a connected empire and a popular session considering imperial elephantology and anopheles mosquitoes in South Asian history. Both Jonathan Saha’s (University of Leeds) and Rohan Deb Roy’s (University of Reading) papers elegantly argued for animals to be understood as multi-faceted vectors of extended political, sanitary and social debates. Saha noted that this interspecies provided entry point into warped colonial knowledge systems and as Roy reaffirmed provided an effective prism for critical research. As noted by the chair Sujit Sivansundaram (University of Cambridge) this was a welcomed field which sat with the body of work building around the study of matter and ecology in South Asian.


BASAS delegates

Thanks must be expressed to the conference organisers; Bhaskar Vira, Elisabeth Leake, Edward Anderson, Barbara Roe and the team of post graduate volunteers who made the event so stimulating and successful.

Further information can be found on the BASAS website, where a series of Podcasts will be available shortly.

Between the 8-9th February 2016, the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences and the Presidency University hosted the second international workshop for the Second Cities in the Circuits of Empire, Glasgow/Calcutta and the Nineteenth-Century Legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment; a project funded by the University of Glasgow, British Academy and supported by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada and the Australian Research Council.

Building on proceedings from the 2015 workshop held at the University of Glasgow, the international network of scholars from India, Canada, Europe and Australia met to explore the links between these colonial cities and how they featured in broader imperial circuits.

On the opening day at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Sujaan Mukherjee and Cleo Roberts were invited to present papers. The panel, chaired by Professor Rosinka Chaudhuri (CSSSC) and including a paper from Christopher Kelleher (University of Toronto) focused on literary, medical and artistic interactions between Calcutta and Scotland.

Drawing on their research for the ETIC project, Mukherjee presented, ‘Edinburgh, Calcutta, Cannabis: Medical Exchanges’ and Roberts delivered ‘Glaswegian Artist in Calcutta: William Simpson’s Documentation of the Ganges’. Along with Kellehers’ paper, ‘Henry Derozio’s Don Juanics and the Call to Conversion in Nineteenth-Century Calcutta’, the panel demonstrated how knowledge was filtered and mitigated across these regions.

Indebted to Professor Dan White (University of Toronto) work and his paper exploring visual encounter through city panoramas, Roberts presented another dimension of Calcutta’s visual culture. Using a rare book made by William Simpson, a Glaswegian artist, she argued that the Ganges threaded the work together, reflecting its broader visual currency. Her paper showed how this river was reflected as ‘the country’s essential mechanism, oiling its social, religious and economic character.’


William Simpson (1891)  pictured following his time in Calcutta

Mukherjee’s work focused on Calcutta’s pivotal role in international and local medical networks. Through a series of rarely acknowledged papers on Indian hemp (gunja) given by William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an alumni of the University of Edinburgh’s medical school, the paper traced how colonial medicine encountered local knowledge. Using these lectures given at Calcutta Medical College in 1839 to provide a nuanced perspective, Mukherjee expanded on how medical rhetoric legitimized his experiments and in part compromised folk knowledge.


Professor Swapan Chakravorty opens proceedings at Presidency University

This perpetual fascination with Indian products and plants drew parallels with presentations by Dr Kate Teltscher (University of Roehampton) and Dr John Mathew (ISER, Pune). These papers, given at Presidency University, detailed a common drive to catalogue ecological components of the empire. Adopting a micro-perspective, Mathew examined ‘Buchanan’s Barrackpore Menageries and Faunal Studies under Company Raj’ whilst Teltscher’s paper, ‘Cataloguing the Resources of the Empire: George Watt’s Dictionary’ analysed commercial descriptions. Rather than rest on the taxonomical ordering, Teltscher explored the text’s narrative arguing that India was constructed as both ‘retrospective and prospective…serving as a defence and vindication of colonial rule’.

The programme including speakers Professor Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow), Professor Mary Ellis (University of Glasgow) and Professor Tapati Guha Thakurta (CSSSC) concluded with valedictory address from Professor Swapan Chakravorty (Presidency University). The workshop created an important forum which gave rise to animated discussions and debate. These will be certain to continue at next year’s event.

Second Cities in the Circuits of Empire: Calcutta / Glasgow and the Legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment Conference Programme

8 February 2016 9 February 2016
Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta

R1 Baishnabghata Patuli Township, 700 094

Presidency University

86/1 College Street, 700 073

Arts Building, Ground Floor, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Auditorium

10.30 am – 10:45 am: Tea

10.45 am – 11:00 am: Welcome address

First Session: 11 am – 1 pm

Chair: Swapan Chakravorty (Presidency University)

11:00 am – 11.45 am: Daniel White (University of Toronto)

Title: Painted Cities of Empire

11:45 am – 12:30 pm: Sambudha Sen (Shiv Nadar University)

Title: Re -visioning the Colonial City: Calcutta, London and the Aesthetics of Hybridity

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm: Discussion

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Lunch

Second Session: 2:00 pm to 3-30 pm

Chair: Rosinka Chaudhuri (CSSSC)

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Christopher Kelleher (University of Toronto)

Title: Henry Derozio’s Don Juanics and the Call to Conversion in Nineteenth-Century Calcutta

2:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Sujaan Mukherjee (Jadavpur University)

Title: Edinburgh, Calcutta, Cannabis: Medical Exchanges

3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Cleo Roberts (University of Liverpool)

Title: Glaswegian Artist in Calcutta: William Simpson’s Documentation of the Ganges

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Discussion

4:00 pm – 4.15 pm: Tea

Third Session: 4:15 pm – 5:45 pm

Chair: Lakshmi Subramaniam (CSSSC)

4:15 pm – 4:45 pm: Mary Ellis Gibson (University of Glasgow)

Title: John Leyden’s Travels in Mysore

4:45 pm – 5-15 pm: Tapati Guha Thakurta (CSSSC)

Title: The Object Flows of Empire: Cross-Cultural Collecting in Early Colonial Calcutta

5-15 pm – 5-45 pm: Discussion

First Session: 11 am – 1 pm

Chair: Bashabi Fraser (Edinburgh Napier University)

11:00 am – 11.45 am: Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow)

Title: Frances Buchanan’s Survey of South East Bengal (1798)

11:45 am – 12:30 pm: John Mathew (ISER, Pune)

Title: Buchanan’s Barrackpore Menagerie and Faunal Studies under Company Raj

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm: Discussion

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Lunch

Second Session: 2:00 pm to 3-30 pm

Chair: Mary Ellis Gibson (University of Glasgow)

2:00 pm – 2:30: Parimala Rao (Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies)

Title: Seven Scotsmen of the Bombay Presidency

2:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Kate Teltscher (University of Roehampton)

Title: Cataloguing the Resources of the Empire: George Watt’s Dictionary

3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Discussion

3:30 pm – 3:45 pm: Tea

Third Session: 3:45 pm – 5:45 pm

Chair: Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow)

3:45 pm – 4:30 pm: Souvik Mukherjee (Presidency University) and Sarbajit Mitra (Jadavpur University)

Title:Of Swimming Doctors, Native Catechists and Scotch Dissenters: Exploring the Digital Archives of the Scottish Cemetery in Calcutta

4:30 pm – 5:15 pm: Shrimoy Roy Chaudhury (Shiv Nadar University)

Title: An Expatriate at Work: The Fragmented Worlds of Surgeon Thomas Alexander Wise (1825-1884)

5:15 pm – 5:45 pm: Discussion

5.45 pm – 6.00 pm: Swapan Chakravorty (Presidency University)

Valedictory Address

‘Almirah’ is a word that has come into Indian English from the Portuguese armário and from Latin armarium (while still also used in Hindi अलमारी ‎(almārī) and Urdu الماری ‎(almārī)). Following a keynote lecture given by Dr Ian Magedera at an international conference organized by the Chandernagore College’s English Department in January 2016, Assistant Professor Antara Mukherjee began a hunt for references in Bengali sources to the French and French culture during the period from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. During that time, despite several interruptions by the Royal Navy and British Army, ‘Chandernagor’, as it was known in French, was a trading post governed from France. Today’s Chandannagar is a busy town situated 35km upriver from Kolkata, a megacity of fourteen million people.


Chandannagar on the Hooghly

References found will enrich the MLC-hosted AHRC-funded, digital resource French Books on India, an open access digital library with bilingual annotations and links to full-text books via Gallica and Googlebooks. Though Chandannagar has an Indo-French Institute and its French language learners are served by the Alliance française du Bengale, French influences there are not as obvious as in Pondicherry (Puducherry) in South India. Dr Mukherjee has found traces in domestic architecture, insights that could feed into further outputs for the Liverpool-Kolkata ETIC project, but another thread led her right back to her own college library and to books that had been donated by the French-speaking Bengali philanthropist and historian Hari Har Sett in the 1930s. As well as containing several unique items, these hitherto neglected ‘almirahs’ are a time capsule of books its donor considered important to hand down to Bengali students of French.