2019 Feb 21

Sighted by the Invisible: On the Nature of Caste in Medieval Hindu Law, by Donald Davis


Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room


In spite of the reasonable fatigue for more studies of caste, the present paper examines a debate in medieval India about whether caste (jāti) is empirically observable. Two major commentators in the Dharmaśāstra tradition, Medhātitihi (9 th cent.) and Vijñāneśvara (12 th cent.), both conclude that it is not. Other major authors such as Kumārila and Jayantabhaṭṭa, representing Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya traditions, respectively, claim that caste is visible. The points made on both sides
echo contemporary studies of race, especially the work by Obasogie on how and why blind people understand race in visual terms. The social construction of caste in visual terms, therefore, and the challenge to that view offer something new in our understanding of the ideologies of social stratification in medieval India. At a time when misinformation about the
history of caste practices and ideologies is growing, close readings of the language and ideas around caste in traditional texts are essential to dispel false claims.

SARC welcomes Donald R. Davis, Jr., Professor in the department of Asian Studies at University of Texas at Austin. For more on Prof. Davis' research, please see:

All SARC events are free-admission and open to public, refreshment will also be provided! 


2019 Mar 28

Talk by Elaine Craddock


Thursday, March 28, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room
2019 Apr 11

The Tacit Tirukkuṟaḷ: Religion, Ethics, and Literary Style in a Tamil Poem and Its Commentaries, by Jason Smith


Thursday, April 11, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room

This presentation will focus on two distinct topics. First, the talk will discuss the process of actually choosing a dissertation topic, offering some background information on how one narrows the field of potential topics at the dissertation prospectus stage and discussing how the project changes, develops, and is shaped by the fieldwork experience. Second, the talk will point toward new ways of reading the Tirukkuṟaḷ that pay close attention to the relationship between ethics and poetic style and the larger religious themes at play within the text. In contrast to previous readings of the Tirukkuṟaḷ that emphasize textual criticism and manuscript history or merely use the text to make inferences about the author's caste and religious identity, this presentation will propose a mode of reading the text on its own terms that pays careful attention to the relationship between content and form at both the level of the individual verse and the level of the structural whole.

All SARC events are free admission and open to all. Refreshments will also be provided!

2019 Apr 25

“Living with Shiva in the 21st Century," by Nilima Chitgopekar, Delhi University


Thursday, April 25, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room

Scriptures, myths, icons and beliefs, arising over many centuries, have coalesced in affording a robust and composite aura to Śiva as an enduring presence in Indian religious life. While many people today are not concerned with the ritual worship of Śaiva tradition, they still believe there is something enigmatic and worthwhile in Śiva. Drawing on her years of studying representations of Śiva in textual and visual media, Professor Chitgopekar proposes a way to speak of the enduring relevance of Śiva for 21st century Hindus, attuned to their shifting life experiences in India and abroad. She will share with her insights into the core of Śiva devotion that, while yet rooted in the old traditions, flourished in unexpected ways today.

All SARC events are free admission and open to all, snacks and beverage will also be provided!


42 Francis Avenue, CSWR 202
Cambridge, MA 02138


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Free and open to the public
All colloquia start at 5:30 in CSWR
(unless otherwise noted)
Refreshments served


SARC is made possible by the funding and support of HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL.
Harvard Divinity School