Madison 2008

in univerCity

The South Asia Madison conference is such a pleasant, communal affair. Every one is in good spirits and any testiness of panel Q&As never spills out into the lobby. It is the biggest gathering of practitioners of the South Asian intellectual trades – though, some disciplines are more gathered than others. (pre-modern folks are few, as usual.)

I confess that my paper was barely there (ok, bad) but my panel, called “Vernacular Histories” was one of the best I have participated on. I further confess that this year’s Madison conference was surely in the top 5 evah. Mostly, because there seemed to be a much healthier group of young Turks selling their wares. Ramachandra Guha gave one of the keynotes – speaking on the need to do ‘contemporary history’ and the urge to write biographies of key “mid-level” figures. Biography, as a genre, is certainly neglected in South Asian historiography (in English, i.e.), and I am sympathetic to his claims. However, that does seem to put Indian language academic/popular works on a different pedestal. Not quite sure why the eighty biographies of Fatima Jinnah in Urdu do not count?

I was also on a roundtable called “Beyond Marginalization: Pakistan as South Asia”. It was a useful discussion – in parts. I don’t think I was the useful part, though.

The highlight was meeting (finally) the legendary Frank Conlon, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington and karta dharta of H-ASIA. He came to our panel and managed a nice zinger on U of Chicago.

You can check out some random fotos, as well.

Finally, this came up in discussion and I feel the urge to let you all bask in this glory. Perhaps my favorite clip of all times.

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