Blog Past Events

Home/Land Exhibition and Panel Discussion

From the 3rd to the 28th March, in the Creative Exchange space of the ESI building in the University of Exeter’s Penryn (Cornwall) campus displaying an exhibition titled Home/Land which showed the artworks of six artists from Jaffna, Sri Lanka, depicting their experiences in the aftermath of the civil war in their country. The exhibition was part of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Exeter, particularly Dr Gillian Juleff and Dr Deborah McFarlane, the University of Leicester, Museum of London Archaeology and the Arts Faculty at the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, led by the Professor of Fine Arts, Sanathanan Thamotharampillai. The team has been working together on a project entitled ‘Identity, place and community: archaeologies of the recent past in post-war Jaffna, Sri Lanka’. 

This blog will introduce the artworks in the exhibition and then give an account of the panel discussion organised on the 7th of March with Professor Sanathanan, Dr Struan Gray from the Falmouth School of Film and TV, Dr Laura Hodsdon, Senior Research Fellow, Falmouth University, and Shibani Das an AHRC Doctoral student and a representative of the South Asia Centre.

The exhibition, Home/Land, consisting of artworks created independently by the artists, contends with the intersection of place, identity, and memory. It showcases the emotional impact that the war had on local communities, especially those who were denied the chance to remember by the state. The various artworks were themselves an exploration of memory, both ‘individual and collective’, which is “embedded in the experience of loss of a land and the longing for” (T. Shanaathanan, 2023).

As you enter the exhibition, Mano Prashath’s rendition of facades greets you. By using these architectural forms of the entryway to homes, from across time periods, Prashath comments on the in-betweenness that they can represent, “a space between inner (agam) and outer (puram), us and them, sacred and profane, social and psychological”.

The artwork of of Jasmine Nilani Joseph works with fences, built around refugee camps and militarized zones, and invoked their haunting effect as symbols of boundaries. As Shibani Das pointed out in the panel discussion, the fences showcased the double marginalisation of women during the war, who were not only suffering outside the fence but also inside it, within their homes.

Next, Vijitharan Maryathevathas’ mixed medium work on paper, a collation of many forms and memories, each overlapping and flowing into each other, is together a strong comment on “the complex and fragmented identity of Sri Lankan Tamils” forced to migrate from the country.

An important theme brought out both with the exhibition and then in the discussion was that of land, and landscapes. Tamil literature from the Sangam period speaks about five landscapes, termed thinai. Professor Sanathanan reminded us of the work of Cheran (2007[JG1] ) who extends these thinai to the experience of the “the displaced and diaspora”. Thus, these thinai become not only physical planes but “are infused with imagination, located in time, and associated with specific patterns of behaviour”. Suntharam Anojan’s acrylic work powerfully invokes these landscapes, which he believes “are buried in the remnants of our culture”, and which he exposed in his work aptly titled “Layer Upon Layer”. His work reminds us that war impacts not only people but also the landscape, alongside the culture and daily lives of the people. It is a poignant statement on the lasting effects of the war in Sri Lanka on the social fabric of a place, in Anojan’s case, the Vanni, the vast tract of scrub jungle in the north that separates the Jaffna peninsula from the south of the island.

Dis/placement by Professor Sanathanan used jigsaw pieces to show the rupture that war leads to. Each piece “represents an identifiable or memorable fragment that is part of a larger vision or experience”. Exploring the connections between physical space, memory and history, the broken puzzle pieces he has used are able to show the “impossibility of linear histories” in a war zone.

T. Krishnapriya’s line drawings, although just lines, were powerful means of grieving. As she writes, “drawing with each stroke re-enacts desire and loss”. As Shibani pointed out in the discussion, works like this can speak about pain and suffering, humanizing violence, but without the use of the body or the human form. Abstract lines or representations of structures are employed in a way by the artists that they are still able to capture the emotional impact of the war, and a war-like situation which continues in Jaffna.

Her other installation was a haunting video that spoke to the suffering of women during the war. Based on the experience of a woman who was forced to give birth on the temple steps after being denied the right to visit the hospital and subsequently succumbed to death, the video evoked inner anatomies as it imagined the experience inside the woman’s womb and showed the flow of blood that connected the baby with the mother.

Prof Sanathanan’s Incomplete Thombu was the last installation to farewell the visitors before leaving the exhibition, almost like a visitor’s comment book. It used the media of the artbook which recorded the houses and buildings that were lost in the war and are drawn from memories in the book. It spoke to the loss of everyday life as it showcased the drawings of objects like vases, mugs and other household items that are now gone. As Dr Guleff wrote, “it is a quiet but very powerful inspiration for our [their] project as it uses the concepts and methods of archaeology to open up memory” and comment on the destruction of heritage, both monumental and small, with the war.

The panel discussion held on the 7th of March, at the Environment and Sustainability Institute accompanied the exhibition but also went much beyond it, discussing themes of heritage, repression, and community in Jaffna, as well as Cornwall and in England broadly. Dr Gill Juleff brought this out in her introduction to the panel, where she reflected on the ‘unexpected synergies’ between Sri Lanka and Cornwall, both peninsulas with a distinct sense of identity and place.

The discussion began with reflections on how ‘absence’ shaped the exhibition, with Prof Sanathanan pointing out its role in giving agency to people to remember, an opportunity denied to the people of Jaffna with the government ban on commemoration and memorials. The drawings, in contrast, tell stories of displacement, in a situation where you are not permitted to publicly grieve. 

The discussion progressed to themes of state oppression, as Dr Gray provided a comparison with repression in Chile which also led to the disappearance of ways of life, while Dr Hodsdon inversely commented on festivals in Cornwall which helped in community building, representing these ways of life. As the panelists explored the impact violence has on everyday lives, spaces, practices and cultures, the way war and the many forms it takes even after it has ended, leads to the loss of social fabric was also brought out. 

As Professor Sanathanan pointed out, it is ironic how the struggle for a homeland had made many in Jaffna homeless. The discussion then reflected on the impact of the war on the landscape, or in Jaffna, the many landscapes or thinai. The art in the exhibition was able to thus provide ‘alternate forms of landscape art’ as Dr Gray showed, and represented new forms of graphic art that could be used for protest, as Shibani pointed out. This art, as Prof Sanathanan argued, is not saying “you have done this to us” but rather that “this has happened to us”.

Prompted by Dr McFarlane’s question, the panel then tried to answer how creative knowledge can come into conflict with state/official/elite accounts of war and violence. As Prof Sanathanan pointed out, there are victory memorials and museums sponsored by the state in Jaffna which portray a particular narrative of the war. This exhibition, in comparison to those visible reminders, might not have the same reach, but it does give space for individual reflection to minority groups who are not allowed to memorialise the war through other means. Dr Gray provided a comparison with Chile, which exemplifies “a different cartography of violence”, and where the role of the state in transnational justice is different. As Shibani argued, moving on from the past can thus mean different things, and we need to reflect on what shapes and form it can take, who undertakes it and where it happens

The floor was then open to questions from the audience. Dr Shubranshu Mishra’s question prompted an exploration of the use of the term ‘heritage’ and the connotations it carries. Dr Gray questioned the translatability of the term, especially in the context of Chile and Sri Lanka. Alternatives were thus proposed, such as that of culture, and as Dr Hodsdon chimed in, intangible heritage and living cultures needed to be considered in this scoping and defining of heritage too. 

Dr Xinan Jin made a relevant intervention. She was curious about the division of labour and its gendered aspects in the work of memorialisation. Professor Sanathanan spoke about how young women artists were emerging in Sri Lanka and their active role in land reclamation movements. As mentioned above, work like that of fences in the exhibition, was able to particularly represent women’s plight.

The discussion ended with an apt note, as Professor Sanathanan answered a question about the impact of this exhibition on local communities. He reflected on whether creative ways of memorialisation had made the community stronger. He answered in both the affirmative and the negative. He illustrated that these spaces could give the local community the chance to remember and grieve, and thus were an important stage in the process of remembering. However, minorities in the countries still faced the consequences of the lack of power and political representation.

The exhibition and the panel were both important means of prompting discussion on the war in Sri Lanka in Exeter and Cornwall. As Shibani pointed out, the artworks in the exhibition represented anyone’s struggle and could have broad resonances. Together, the outcomes of this collaboration on the past in Jaffna prompted the audience to think about the impact of war on people’s homes and ways of life and fostered discussion on the importance of memorialisation. 

Works cited:

Cheran, R, (2007). “The Politics of Identity; Bakhtin’s Chronotope and the Tamil Concept of Thinai”, in R. Cheran, Darshan Ambalavanar and Chelva Kanaganayagam,(eds.), New Demarcations; Essays in Tamil Studies. Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc.

Blog Past Events

‘Facts, Fiction and the Factory’, a presentation by Rameesha Azeem

On the 7th of December, 20222, the Exeter South Asia Centre hosted an event titled ‘Facts, Fiction and the Factory’, a presentation by Rameesha Azeem. Rameesha is a Visual Artist and Curator working in Lahore, Pakistan and the founder and director of “The Factory Project 01”. Rameesha combined the multiple goals of bringing creative people together, providing a healthy environment to create new kinds of works and being able to use the resources to their advantage. She brought a team of 18 artists, 9 writers and filmmakers to visit a revenue-generating Shoe Factory in Lahore, which covers an area of 30,000 meters or 9 acres, with 900 workers and more than 1000 machines. The factory produces more than 50 types of shoes. The Factory project brought the art world into this industrial space and was the first project of its kind in Lahore which brought these two distinct worlds together

The Factory Project consisted of 3 segments. It started with an art exhibition consisting of 18 artists, who worked at the factory for a year engaging with people, resources and technology. The Project continued with the launch of the official publication where, the editors, Emaan Maqbool and Rameesha, worked with 8 literary writers to engage with the exhibiting artists, from the beginning of their process. In the last segment, everything came together in a documentary film directed by Muhammad Usman, in collaboration with the Vasl Artists Association, Karachi, part of which was screened at the event. 

Rameesha screening the documentary

At the event, Rameesha gave a talk which focused on Pakistani contemporary art and how The Factory Project aims to allow the creatives to experiment, research, collaborate and evoke the boldness of interdisciplinary concepts, ideas and their execution. She took us through her curatorial vision and spoke on the installations of the exhibition, showcasing how artists developed ideas by taking inspiration from the work done at the factory. They also creatively used the Factory’s space and converted the equipment at the factory into the focus of their installations. The entire staff, from the CEO to the management and heads of departments to the skilled labourers, had witnessed the making, process, and installation of the artworks. Their patience and support helped this project succeed. Its success was that the 900 workers not only contributed to the making of the art but also emerged as a new audience. The talk was followed by a group discussion where we discussed the experience of the workers in the project, the visual vocabulary used in the exhibitions as well as explored the current state of contemporary art in Pakistan and South Asia in general.  

Group discussion after the documentary

The Project aims to move on to the next segment called ‘The Factory Project International’ where curators from Portugal and Wales collaborate in a cross-disciplinary project that will be presented in Lisbon, Swansea and Lahore.

We are grateful to Rameesha for having shared her experience of curating this project with the members of the South Asia Centre. Our gratitude also to Qaiser Abbas, for having arranged this event. 


Listening, smelling and sensing Kolkata

By Rishika Mukhopadhyay and the team

“… দুপুর হতেই গলির মোড়ে শব্দ হল ঠংঠং বাসন চাই, বাসন?’ শব্দ চলে গেল দূরে। তারপরে এল চুড়ি চাই, খেলনা চাই?… সন্ধ্যাবেলার শব্দ হচ্ছে ওই বেলফুল। ‘বেলফুল চাই বেলফুল’ হাঁকতে হাঁকতে শব্দ গলির এদিক থেকে ওদিক চলে যায়।“

জোড়াসাঁকোর ধারে – অবনীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর]

With the fall of the afternoon, a sound drifts forward from the corner of the lane, ‘anyone for utensils? Utensils anyone?’ – a characteristic metallic sound emanates from it and then it melts away in the far horizon! Then comes the bangle and the toy sellers…evenings are replete with swell-smelling Mogra sellers’ call- ‘Anyone wants Mogra?’ Their call travels from one end of the lane to another and slowly fades away.

Jorasankor dhare, Abanindranath Tagore     

Figure 1: A hawker walks by in a North Kolkata lane (Image courtesy Team Sensory Heritage)

On the last Sunday of July 2022, as monsoon rain poured over North Kolkata streets, the team of Urban Sensory Heritage waded through the waterlogged street of Ramkanto Bose Street and managed to enter the imposing structure of Mullick family house. The yellow Corinthian columns had turned pale as they withstood the constant lashes of rain. The bamboo installation, the electric wires, switchboards, standing fans and hanging lights were steeped in water as the tarpaulin cover over the courtyard failed to keep off the rain from making its presence felt inside. Can we still continue with the exhibition on Kolkata’s sensory heritage? Will people still come on a rainy Sunday afternoon to hear the city’s everyday sounds and smell its familiar odours? Proving all our concerns wrong, around 300 visitors came from all corners of the city over two days 30-31 July. Our project Tracing Sensory Heritage of Kolkata Streets/ শহরের সংবেদন essentially wanted to bring art and heritage-related conversations in the city outside the gallery space and beyond the domain of experts. 

Figure 2: Welcome banner with the exhibition logo designed by Ramaprasad Dutt. (Image courtesy Team Sensory Heritage)

This research and public engagement initiative proposes to look at Kolkata’s heritage as a constellation of overlapping and contesting modes of senses felt through sound and odours. The exhibition presented the city’s sensory world in three layers. First, we traced how sounds and smells of the city have been narrated in the writings of Hutom to Rabindranath Tagore to Nabanita Deb Sen. The writers and poets have captured how from the nineteenth century to contemporary times Kolkata’s urban sensorium has been an integral part of knowing, feeling and remembering the city. 

Six themes have been identified from these texts. 1.  Lost identity and emerging soundscape of the city / হারিয়ে যাওয়া ডাক এবং ডাকের বিবর্তন 2. Home and the world: Women hawkers for women at home/ অন্দরমহলের ফেরিওয়ালা 3. Temporality of sound and smell/ শব্দের সময় / শব্দেরসাময়িকতা 4. Inaudibility of more than human sound/ অশ্রুত জীবনের স্বর: প্রকৃতি এবং জীবজন্তু 5. Multisensory city- smells of good and bad মন্দ ভালোর বহু সংবেদনের মিশেল    6. Sounds in poem/poetic sounds কবিতায় মেলা শব্দেরা. Visitors were drawn towards these evocations and tried to find synergies between the century old texts and contemporary sounds. 

Figure 3: Anandabazar Patrika, a reputed Bengali Newspaper covered the event spontaneously and did a photo essay

Secondly, there was an invitation to listen to some familiar yet unnoticed sounds of the city which renders the city its identity and way of life. A call for participatory sound archive building was first circulated on social media to realise this vision. A joint effort of our team and members of the public captured around 50 sounds of the city spanning from the call of street hawkers to street making, from vehicles to announcements, from processions and sound of nature. The collection, which we would like to think of as sound commons of the city is available on Soundcloud. A soundmap of one neighbourhood of the city was made by Dr Sayantan Das. The display was interactive and visitors were curious to understand how the sounds can be integrated into Google Map.  

Figure 4: Smell installation: questioning the perception of good and bad smells (Image courtesy : Sounita Mukherjee) 

Finally, an installation showcased the materialities of smell and perception of smelling good and bad. Bamboo craftsman Binod Pakrey from Dompara neighbourhood – a hub of bamboo craft, whose family has been engaged in this profession for generations worked with artist Nilanjan Das to give shape to the idea. The installation brought together two iconographies from Bengal’s architecture. The কুলুঙ্গি/ kulungi (a small nook carved within a wall to use as a shelve) can be seen in figure 4, nested inside an একচালা/ ekchala (a single arch which acts as an aureole during Durga Puja); they seamlessly blended with the existing architectural motif of the venue.

Spices, itar, flower, betel leaf as well as rotten fish, water from curdled milk and alcohol were kept hidden in eight brass jars of itar sprinkler. The audience was asked to identify the sounds and smells and reflect upon what kinds of memories are evoked by these materials. Further, they were remembering how the city is associated with these smells and sounds. Artist Nilanjan Das who curated the exhibition felt that the most difficult aspect of the exhibition was to capture the smell and make it accessible to people, precisely because of smells’ ephemeral nature. We received some valuable suggestions on smell capture from Dr Ishita Dey based at South Asian University in Delhi. Their month-long exhibition  ‘Smells of the City: Scents, Stench and Stink’ commissioned by Kiran Nadar Exhibition of Art inspired us to work with containers that are available in our field site. Nilanjan chose brass itardaani(scent and rose water sprinkler) from Chitpur Road’s Zakaria street area for this purpose.      


Figure 5: Both vernacular and English press were enthusiastic to cover our event. Snippets from the Times of India and The Telegraph

The overarching intention for this project is threefold. First, we are initiating an understanding of heritage in the city beyond the divide of tangible and intangible heritage and the lament of loss/destruction. Through the process of curating the exhibition and creating a participatory sound archive we also initiate public discussions around it. Second, through public engagement we democratise the heritage ‘making’ process that emerges from people’s attachment to their everyday atmosphere. Third, in the age of dominant visuality we are aiming to recognise the sonic and olfactory ecosystem of the city from the perspective of people with different needs and abilities. The public engagement and overwhelming response inspired us to take the project forward and we will wait for the city to call us back again. 

Team members: Dr Raktim Ray (UCL, Development Planning Unit), Dr Rishika Mukhopadhyay (Durham, now Southampton Geography), Dr Sayantan Das (Dum Dum Motijheel College), Nilanjan Das (Rabindra Bharati University/Hamdasti), Suromita Kanjilal(Indus Valley world School)

Rishika has completed her PhD titled Heritagising Urban Craft Economy: Thinking with Chitpur Road Kolkata from Department of Geography, University of Exeter in 2021. During her time in Exeter, she was an active member of Exeter South Asia centre. She was part of the organising team for BASAS 2018 and PGR student workshop in July 2020. She continues to be involved with the centre and participates in the Decolonising South Asia reading workshop.

Funders: UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies and Durham University Geography Research Development Initiative

Blog Past Events

Decolonising South Asia: a reading workshop in 8 parts  

Convenors: Shubranshu Mishra and Nandini Chatterjee  

Date/time: Select Wednesdays (see under sessions), 5-6 pm 

We are running a 8-part reading and discussion group exploring the implications and suitability of the concept of decoloniality for South Asia. If you would like to participate, please write to for a Zoom link.

Session 1: Decoloniality or Postcoloniality?  

5 October 2022 

Chair: Shubranshu Mishra  

What is decolonisation/decoloniality? What is the genealogy of this term/model/praxis, and how and when did it diverge from postcolonial studies or theory? What is the disciplinary difference between the two? How do they approach the questions of power and epistemic violence? What are the limits of decolonising? What are the dangers of co-option and the critiques in the South Asian context?  

Key reading:  

Mignolo, Walter D., and Catherine E. Walsh. On decoloniality: Concepts, analytics, praxis. Duke University Press, 2018. (selections)  


  • Quijano, Aníbal. “Coloniality and modernity/rationality.” Cultural studies 21, no. 2-3 (2007): 168-178.  
  • Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (ed). Another knowledge is possible: Beyond northern epistemologies, London: Verso, 2007.  
  • Bhambra, Gurminder K. “Postcolonial and decolonial dialogues.” Postcolonial studies 17, no. 2 (2014): 115-121.  
  • Gopal, Priyamvada. “On decolonisation and the university.” Textual Practice 35, no. 6 (2021): 873-899.  
  • Khanna, Neetu. The visceral logics of decolonization. Duke University Press, 2020.  



Session 2 Cast(e)ing South Asia  

9 November 

One possible way of decentring the moments of political liberation of South Asian nation-states is by paying attention to the oppressive hierarchies, often entrenched, if not created by processes of colonial rule, continue to structure lives and prospects. For example, how has the Nationalist and the Subaltern Historiography in South Asia invisibilised the category of caste? Can race and caste be discussed together, as Wilkerson puts it, ‘Caste is the bones, race the skin’? How can we address the proximity between whiteness and Brahminism / White and Savarna Feminism? How do hierarchical categories such as qaum/zaat/ biraderi ensure the perpetuity of casteism beyond Hinduism and across South Asia?   

Chair: tbc 

Key Readings:  

Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The origins of our discontents. Random House, 2020.  

Jangam, Chinnaiah. “A Dalit Paradigm: A new narrative in South Asian historiography.” Modern Asian Studies 50, no. 1 (2016): 399-414.  

Also, Shankar, Shobana. An Uneasy Embrace: Africa, India and the Spectre of Race. Oxford University Press, 2021.  


  • Gazdar, Haris. “Class, caste or race: veils over social oppression in Pakistan.” Economic and Political Weekly (2007): 86-88.  
  • Asif, Ghazal. “Jogendranath Mandal and the politics of Dalit recognition in Pakistan.” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 43, no. 1 (2020): 119-135.  
  • Pan, Anandita. “Embracing difference: Towards a standpoint praxis in Dalit feminism.” South Asian Review 40, no. 1-2 (2019): 34-50.  
  • Rege, Sharmila. “Dalit women talk differently: A critique of ‘difference’and towards a Dalit feminist standpoint position.” Economic and Political Weekly (1998): WS39-WS46.  
  • Omvedt, Gail. Dalit visions: The anti-caste movement and the construction of an Indian identity. Orient Blackswan, 2006.  
  • Jayawardene, Sureshi M. “Racialized casteism: Exposing the relationship between race, caste, and colorism through the experiences of Africana people in India and Sri Lanka.” Journal of African American Studies 20, no. 3 (2016): 323-345.  
  • Paik, Shailaja. “Forging a new Dalit womanhood in colonial Western India: Discourse on modernity, rights, education, and emancipation.” Journal of Women’s History 28, no. 4 (2016): 14-40.  
  • Guru, Gopal, “The Politics of Naming,” Seminar 471, ‘Dalit’, November 1998, pp. 14-  

Session 3 Queering South Asia  

30 November 

How can queer theory help us understand South Asia beyond a ‘diversity’ angle? How do Hindutva groups appropriate queerness to advance their ‘Islamophobic, casteist, and homohindunationalist agendas’? How does the Indian trans movement’s ‘desire for backward class status’ complicate our understanding of social justice and caste/social hierarchy?  

Chair: tbc 

Key Readings:  

Upadhyay, Nishant. “Hindu nation and its queers: caste, Islamophobia, and de/coloniality in India.” Interventions 22, no. 4 (2020): 464-480.  

Rao, Rahul. Out of time: The queer politics of postcoloniality. Oxford University Press, 2020. (Selection: The Nation and Its Queers)  


Puar, Jasbir. “Rethinking homonationalism.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 45, no. 2 (2013): 336-339.  

Session 4 Developing South Asia  

11 January 

Understanding the damages and sustained violence inflicted by post-colonial nation-states on their populace through projects of developmentalism and biopolitics – whether invading people’s bodies through invasive biometric/regulatory programmes or destroying their habitat through development corridors – is key to decolonising South Asia. With the grossly unequal effects of climate change in different parts and social sections of South Asia, environmental humanism has a role to play. This discussion will foreground issues of poverty, land alienation, agrarian crisis & endangered livelihoods in the face of industrialisation/land grabs and climate change. Further, through a critique of ‘master plans’, we will explore how the expansion of cities to the adjoining rural areas and the (forced) migration from rural to urban impact the distinction between urban studies and rural studies. Further, how could development/inclusive growth be imagined in terms of social justice within a caste society? Can development be theorised differently – how have the southern states of India, especially Tamil Nadu, managed to link economic development with social inclusivity?  

Chair: tbc 

Key Readings:   

Kalaiyarasan, A., A. Kalaiyarasan, and M. Vijayabaskar. The Dravidian model: Interpreting the political economy of Tamil Nadu. Cambridge University Press, 2021.  

Pati, Sushmita. Properties of Rent: Community, Capital and Politics in Globalising Delhi. Cambridge University Press, 2021.  


Sainath, Palagummi. Everybody loves a good drought: stories from India’s poorest districts. Vol. 10. Penguin Books India, 1996.  

Session 5 Securing South Asia  

8 February 

This would be a space to discuss how enormous zones of nationality struggles, cessation, and occupations within South Asia have been excluded from and by liberal narratives in the name of security. How does one conceive of Kashmir beyond the nation-state paradigm? Where do the borders lie between Assam and Bangladesh; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan? How are the ideas of self-determination, azaadi, etc shaped through the everyday experiences of living under military occupation?  

Chair: Amina Yaqin 

Key Reading:  

Rumours of Spring: A Girlhood in Kashmir by Farah Bashir  

Home fire by Kamila Shamsie  


Akhtar, Aasim Sajjad. “Balochistan versus Pakistan.” Economic and Political weekly (2007): 73-79.  

Sherin, B. S., and Susie Tharu. Gendering minorities: Muslim women and the politics of modernity. Orient BlackSwan, 2021.  

Session 6 Citizenship 

8 March 

This session would be an exploration of the possibilities and impossibilities of political belonging and participation in postcolonial South Asian nations. It would also be a time to think about the ways in which people create and disrupt the nation as a political unit – whether actively through their movements, or inherently, through their religious or other subjectivities. This can perhaps offer a space to imagine other kinds of political communities. 


Key readings: Review essay but really interesting 

Sur, Malini. Jungle passports: Fences, mobility, and citizenship at the Northeast India-Bangladesh border. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021. 

Kapoor, Ria. Making refugees in India. Oxford University Press, 2021. 

Iqtidar, Humeira. “State management of religion in Pakistan and dilemmas of citizenship.” Citizenship Studies 16, no. 8 (2012): 1013-1028.  


Qasmi, Ali Usman. The Ahmadis and the politics of religious exclusion in Pakistan. Anthem Press, 2015.  

Mookherjee, Nayanika. “The “Dead and Their Double Duties” Mourning, Melancholia, and the Martyred Intellectual Memorials in Bangladesh.” Space and Culture 10, no. 2 (2007): 271-291.  


Tejani, Shabnum. “Cow Protection, Hindu Identity and the Politics of Hurt in India, c. 1890–2019.” Emotions: History, Culture, Society 3, no. 1 (2019): 136-157.  

Fazal, Tanweer. “Minorities and their nationalism (s): the terms of a discourse in South Asia.” South Asian History and Culture 3, no. 2 (2012): 163-176.  

Tejani, Shabnum. “The necessary conditions for democracy: BR Ambedkar on nationalism, minorities and Pakistan.” Economic and Political Weekly (2013): 111-119.  

Session 7 Decolonising Partition narratives 

Date: tbc 

Chair: tbc 

Who is the ‘other’ in the popular history of Partition? How have the neoliberal technologies impacted the ways in which Partition narratives and trauma are told, and ‘made accessible’?  

Key Readings:   

Pippa Virdee (2022) Histories and Memories in the Digital Age of Partition Studies, The Oral History Review, 49:2, 328-345 

Anchal Malhotra’s two books: Remnants of a Separation : A History of the Partition through Material Memory and Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided   

Kaur, Ravinder. “Curating the wound: The public memory of partition remains woefully caste-blind.” The Caravan (2017). Also Butalia’s chapter on Maya in The Other Side of Silence.  

Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza (2019) B.R. Ambedkar, Partition and the Internationalisation of Untouchability, 1939–47, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 42:1, 80-96 



Session 8 Decolonising Cinema in South Asia  

Date: tbc 

Chair: tbc 

How does cinema act as an important register to understand the region – its history and contemporary experience – as well as the representation of the most marginalised? How has new cinema constrained and redefined this experience? The discussion intends to go beyond the dominant Bollywood cinema while unpacking its Hindi Hindu Hindustan undertones.  

Key Readings:   

Edachira, Manju. “Anti-caste Aesthetics and Dalit Interventions in Indian Cinema.” Economic and Political Weekly 55, no. 38 (2020): 47-53. 

Qureshi, Bilal. “The Veiled Avengers of Pakistan’s Streaming New Wave.” Film Quarterly 74, no. 3 (2021): 66-70.  

Yengde, Suraj. ‘Dalit Cinema’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 41, no. 3 (2018): 503-518  


Hoek, Lotte. “Mirrors of movement: Aina, Afzal Chowdhury’s cinematography and the interlinked histories of cinema in Pakistan and Bangladesh.” Screen 57, no. 4 (2016): 488-495.  

Velayutham, Selvaraj. Tamil cinema: The cultural politics of India’s other film industry. Routledge, 2008.  

Ahmad, Ali Nobil. “Film and cinephilia in Pakistan: Beyond life and death.” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies 5, no. 2 (2014): 81-98.  

Gopinath, Gayatri, ‘Queering Bollywood’, Journal of Homosexuality, 39:3-4, 2000, 283- 297.  

Kumar, Sanjeev, ‘Constructing the Nation’s Enemy: Hindutva, popular culture and the Muslim ‘other’ in Bollywood cinema’, Third World Quarterly, 34:3, (2013) 458-469  

Blog Past Events


Talk by Dr. Shernaz Cama

Tuesday 31st May, 5pm

TS2 in the Alexander Building, Thornlea.

Also online through Zoom.

Advance booking is essential. Book here.

Parsi Embroidery is an amalgamation of Persian, Chinese, Indian, and European techniques and symbols. Research on this intercultural art form, descended from ancient Central Asia, has been an exploration of its roots and routes. This presentation will study motifs, colours, and symbolism across geographical locations, diverse religious traditions, and periods of time. It draws upon the archival collection and research of Parzor, founded by UNESCO in 1999; Parzor’s research from Iran, the Far East, the Western Diaspora, Pakistan, and India has been showcased in textile anthologies and encyclopedias of embroidery. It is hoped that a seminal book on this embroidery tradition will showcase a multicultural, global world from the days of the Silk Route till the 21st Century.

Dr. Shernaz Cama is Associate Professor at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, and director of the Parzor Foundation.

This talk is hosted by the Exeter South Asia Centre, and Department of Drama. All are welcome to attend in-person or online.

If you want to view the talk online, you will be sent a Zoom link after booking.

Blog Past Events

How to Present South Asia (to Those Who Know it and Those Who Want to)

PGR Workshop, Exeter South Asia Centre, 20 January 2022 1500-1615 pm (UK), on Zoom

Organisers: Prof. Nandini Chatterjee, Prof. Sajjad Rizvi

South Asia is often seen as a bewildering place by those who are new to the region. Not only does the region boast a super abundance of languages, ecologies, religions, cuisines and arts, but also an excess of seemingly endless entanglements and conflicts. It is a learned skill to present specialist knowledge on this region to a non-specialist audience in a comprehensible and interesting way. It is also a skill that postgraduate researchers and early career scholars must acquire in order to present their research to a wider audience, interview for jobs and convince publishers to commission their books. In this session, two professors of South Asian studies with complementary expertise, will facilitate dialogue between PGR students and ECR scholars working on South Asia, and offer insights based on their own experiences.


Review of ‘Famine Tales from India and Britain’ Exhibition

By Shreya Gupta and Shibani Das, PhD Candidates in History

Thousands of students walk through the Forum every day, rushing to class, the library or stumbling out of the RAM bar. One witnesses a pause in this bustle at the queue winding its way to grab a coffee at PRET.

Between the 9th to the 11th of November, students at the University of Exeter found another reason to pause in the Forum: An exhibition recounting stories of famine through poetry, scroll paintings and graphic art, titled Durbhikkha Katha (‘Famine Tales from India and Britain’), part of an AHRC-funded project organised by the University of Exeter in collaboration with Jadavpur University and the British Library.


Reporting on the Research Majlis (Gathering): Exciting Works in Progress

On the 1st of December, we had a lovely online workshop organised by two of our PhD candidates – Yangkyi Tenzin (English) and Prashant (History), together with the joint Director of the Centre, Dr Elizabeth Thelen. The idea was to have discussions around research projects that are ongoing or in the making, being undertaken by both students and staff, allowing for a dialogic, democratic format. We had three presentations by PhD candidates, and three by staff members of the Centre. Each presentation was between 5-10 minutes in length, and was followed by lively discussion with all members of the audience, ably chaired by Prashant in the first half, and Yangkyi in the second.

Blog Past Events

South Asia Centre Research Majlis (Gathering): Works-In-Progress, 1 December 2021

The South Asia Centre is holding an online research gathering on Wednesday 1 December from 4:30-6:30pm GMT to discuss works-in-progress, while highlighting the breadth of research undertaken by centre members and building inter-disciplinary conversations and connections. The event will feature a set of informal short research presentations by both PGR students and staff, with Q&A/discussion after each presentation.

Blog Past Events

Urdu Club Begins on 12 November


We are starting off an Urdu-reading club for beginners online on 12 November, Friday, 4-5 pm. The group will be informal and include members of various levels of reading ability. Staff and student members who are advanced readers will lead the sessions. It should be fun!