Activities in Lund


The 45th Annual Madison Conference on South Asia was held 20–23 October 2016. This year's theme was DECAY. The conference, sponsored by the Center for South Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's, attracted over 750 scholars and specialists on South Asia, coming from countries all over the world and much of the United States. This year the Joseph W. Elder keynote lecture at the conference was given by Professor Radhika Coomaraswamy, former under-geneal secretary from Sri Lanka, and the 2016 Plenary Address speaker was Pankaj Butalia.
The Annual Conference on South Asia invites scholars, students, professionals, and anyone interested in research on the region to Madison, Wisconsin, for a four-day event featuring research panels and roundtables, lectures and addresses, film screenings, booksellers, association receptions, and other special presentations. 
This year, SASNET deputy director Lars Eklund participated in the Madison conference, also representing the European Association for South Asian Studies, EASAS, an organisation for which he serves as the Treasurer. Afterwards he spent four days in Chicago, visiting the University of Chiacago. More information.

SASNET and the Association of Foreign Affairs in Lund (UPF) jointly organize a seminar on “Tibet as an (Inter)National Problem” – focusing on China’s and India’s respective roles in Tibet, on Wednesday 20 April 2016, at 19.00. The speaker is Dr. Dibyesh Anand, Associate Professor in International Relations and the Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster in London, UK. Venue: Café Athen, Sandgatan 2, Lund.
In his presentation, Dr. Anand describes the failed negotiations between Beijing government and the Dalai Lama; the change of leadership in China; the advancing age of the Dalai Lama; and the democratization process in the exile. He alsopoints out the desire of foreign powers to work with China due to its growing economic might, the unresolved border dispute between India and China, and other factors adding to the acuteness of the contested question of politics and geopolitics of Tibet. The lecture will highlight the key aspects of the contested Tibet question and analyse how changing dynamics of relations between China, India and the West are relevant and how these relations in turn get affected by the internal politics of Tibet.
In 2015, Dibyesh Anand held a well-attended SASNET seminar on Kashmir. More information.

SASNET and the Department of Political Science at Lund University jointly organize a seminar on ”The Role Prestige plays in a State’s Decision – the cases of India and Iran” on Thursday 12 April 2016, 13.15 – 15.00.  The speaker is PhD candidate Kanica Rakhra from the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament (CIPOD) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. There she is an ICSSR doctoral fellow and a member of the Early Career Committee at ISPP. Currently she spends two months at Lund University on a visiting fellowship from SASNET. Venue: Conference room 367 at the Political Science department, Paradisgatan 5 H (House: Eden).
In her presentation, the role prestige plays in a state’s decision making will be discussed, specifically how it influences the nuclear programs of India and Iran. Prestige, as a concept, has been an underlying factor in state decision making and nuclear programs, specifically, have been associated with the notion of prestige. This seminar seeks to understand how the notion of prestige is viewed and interpreted by states and its relation with the security of a state. It aims to understand whether a state’s decision to have a nuclear program is linked to its idea of itself, and understand the determinants in this idea of its ‘self’. Two case studies of India and Iran are taken to interrogate this argument.  

On Friday 19 February 2016, from 17.00 – 20.00, the South Asian Students’ Association (SASA) in collaboration with SASNET screened the award-winning film The Sky Below by Indo-American film director Sara Singh, specially invited to Sweden for this event. The film deals with the Partition of India, and was screened at Edens Hörsal, House Eden, Paradisgatan 5 H in Lund. See the poster. The event was well attended by students and scholars from Lund University. After the film a constructive discussion took place about Partition, the obstacles arisen when shooting a film on both sides of the India-Pakistan border while Singh's upcoming movie projects were also discussed.
This courageous and moving film evokes painful memories and raises powerful issues that continue to trouble the South Asian subcontinent. Lyrically shot on both sides of the Indo-Pak border, the film should be watched by those who care about the legacy of Partition as well as those trying to understand the complexities of fighting wars in those lands. Sara was born in India into the Patiala royal familyin Punjab, now spending her time primarily between New York and South Asia. Her work has been exhibited all over the world including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the Asian Civilizations Museum; the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and at universiites such as Oxford and Stanford. This was the first screening in the Nordic countries. More information about the movie and Sara Singh.

Olle  Qvarnström and Martin Gansten.

Professor Olle Qvarnström and Associate Professor Martin Gansten, researchers in History of Religion at the Centre of Theology and Religious Studies (CTR), Lund University, held a SASNET/CMES lecture at Lund University on Thursday 25 February 2016, 15.00–17.00. The seminar was organised in collaboration with the Center of Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), and was entitled ”Hindu Reception of Perso-Arabic Traditions of Knowledge and the Role of Jainism in Cultural Transmission”. 
The seminar was based on an ongoing research project carried out by Qvarnström and Gansten, in a field where, till now, almost no research has been done. They focus on Sanskrit-language reception of Islamic divination/astrology. The few studies which have been made generally relate to Jaina-Muslim relations in later periods in history. The Lund University project therefore constitutes vital foundational research. The research work, dealing chiefly with medieval textual sources and based on philology and historical criticism, is related to the areas of previous research and specialist competence of the applicants, with regard both to reception history and interreligious relations. Research results will be published as English-language articles and at least one monograph. Qvarnström and Gansten will also participate in international research networks focussing on Persian-Indian cultural exchanges, history of astral disciplines, and Jainology.  Read more about the research project.
The seminar is part of a joint SASNET/CMES seminar series during the spring 2016. View full program here.

SASNET and the Association of Foreign Affairs in Lund (UPF) jointly organize a seminar on Buddhist-Muslim Tensions in Sri Lanka on Tuesday 3 May 2016, 16.00-18.00. The speaker is Professor Dennis B. McGilvray from the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. The seminar will focus on the recent violent events between Buddhist and Muslims groups in Sri Lanka. Venue: Palaestra Auditorium, Universitetsplatsen, Lund.
In the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) which ended in 2009, an unexpected outburst of hostility against the island’s Muslim minority has been led by militant Sinhala Buddhist monks. Organizations such as the Bodu Bala Sena (“Buddhist Strength Force”) have accused Sri Lankan Muslims of black-veiled misogyny, cruelty to animals, and jihadi terrorist planning, all of which they use to justify attacks against Muslim mosques and shrines that violate the “sacred zones” of Buddhist temples.  This illustrated presentation will review the recent anti-Muslim incidents in Sri Lanka in the context of Sinhala Buddhist ethno-nationalism, and it will discuss the long-term dilemmas of Muslim minority identity in Sri Lankan society.
During his visit in Lund. Prof. McGilvray will also give another seminar, focusing on Sufism. More information.   


On Friday 12 February 2016, from 15.00–17.00, SASNET organized a book launch of the book JALLAD: Death Squads and State Terror in South Asia, by Tasneem Khalil, Sweden based editor and publisher of Independent World Report, a journal of human rights and global politics. The book launch took place at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Finngatan 16, Lund. The event was documented and cab be watched on Youtube. Go for the recording.
Extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearance and torture – these are the tools used by death squads across South Asia. The Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh, the 'encounter specialists' of India, army units of Nepal, the Frontier Corps of Pakistan and 'the men in white vans' of Sri Lanka are specialists on violence deployed by the state in campaigns of state terror. They are shielded by black laws and emergency acts. Their targets are the political opponents of the state and socioeconomic troublemakers. Khalil argues that Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are national security states, connected to an international system of state terror patronised by sponsors like the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Israel. In this system, human rights abuses are perpetrated behind the closed doors of secret detention facilities while death squads roam the streets with impunity. Jallad sets out to close a gap in the literature on human rights in South Asia, in which sociopolitical analysis of state terror is hard to come by. Khalil unveils the bloody logic of domination and repression that lies at the very core of statecraft in South Asia. 
Tasneem Khalil was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 2007, following his detention by the Bangladeshi military intelligence agency. In 2008, Swedish PEN conferred him with an honorary membership for his journalism. The new book by Khalil is an excellent work.
An excellent review of the book was published in Sydsvenskan, the daily paper in Malmö, on 12 February. It is written by journalist Axel Kronholm. Read the review, entitled ”Den sanktionerade terrorn. Sydasiens dödsskvadroner.    

Dr. M.S Harikumar from the Department of Communication and Journalism at University of Kerala, India, held a well-attended SASNET lecture at Lund University on Wednesday 3 February 2016, 13.15–15.00. The seminar, organised in collaboration with the Department of Communication and Media at Lund University, was entitled ”Social Media and Democratic Participation: An Indian Experience”. Venue: Centre for Languages and Literature (SOL), Helgonabacken, Lund. The seminar was recorded by Talat Bhat and is now available to watch on Youtube. Go for the seminar.
Dr. Harikumar is a media professional turned academician with close to two decades of experience in the Indian newspaper industry. He was earlier chief sub-editor and chief reporter working for the Mathrubhumi daily, which is one of the most circulated newspapers in India. His PhD thesis in Mass Communication was a seminal explorative study on the reader-editor gap with a special emphasis on the gate-keeping theories of Mass Communication. More information.

Professor Dennis B. McGilvray from the University of Colorado, Boulder holds a SASNET/CMES lecture at Lund University on Monday 2 May 2016, 15.00–17.00. The seminar, organised in collaboration with the Center of Middle Eastern Studies, at Lund University, is entitled ”Sufi Transnational Networks – South Asia and Middle East connection”. Venue: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, seminarie room 1, Finngatan 16, Lund.
Professor McGilvray ethnographic interests are in South Asia, with a research focus on the Tamils and Muslims of south India and Sri Lanka.  His book, Crucible of Conflict (Duke 2008), examines matrilineal Hindu and Muslim kinship, caste structure, religious ritual, and ethnic identities in the Tamil-speaking region of eastern Sri Lanka, an area that was deeply affected by the island’s civil war. He also co-edited a collection of essays resulting from a multidisciplinary NSF project on Sri Lanka’s recovery from the 2004 tsunami (McGilvray and Gamburd, eds. 2010). The fieldwork that he currently undertaking explores transnational Sufism and matrilocal marriage patterns in Sri Lanka and southern India. This seminar is a part of a joint seminar series between SASNET/CMES. View full program here.

The South Asian Student Association (SASA) in collaboration with SASNET organised its first Fika Without borders lecture of 2016 on Thursday 21 January 2015, 17–19. As usual in the basement floor at Lund University External Relations (ER) building, Stora Algatan 4, Lund. Dr. Winnie Bothe from the Dept. of Political Science at Lund University gave an initiated presentation of the democratization process in Bhutan. A record crowd of students turned up for the event, not the least to try the delicious Bhutanese food prepared by the SASA committee. See the poster.
In her talk, Winnie explained the problems facing a country that is often called the world’s youngest democracy. The notion of democracy raises deeper questions of what a ‘democracy’ entails. It is not simply a reified set of institutions. It is as much about how we imagine these institutions. Drawing legitimacy from European constitutional tradition, the Bhutanese constitution is imagined as a system where the monarch is the guardian of sovereignty. In practice democracy has entered Bhutan, but it mainly engages the interests of the educated elite, whilst the rural citizens are still viewed as too immature to take responsibility for the constitutional rights they are given. In the image of the monarchy, they are engaged in a theatre of displaying respect for their superiors in the state. As such they still fulfil the role as subjects of the King and of those who govern in his name. 
The Fika without borders South Asia events consist of a series of eight lectures per year with one of the South Asian countries in focus each time. The events draw a mixed crowd of Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Srilankan, Afghani, Maldivian and other international Lund University students and researchers, and each time a number of students and researchers from the country in focus are invited to share their knowledge and experience of their country in an informal way. 

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