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Offense! The Public Life of Injury in South Asia: The 6th South Asia by the Bay Graduate Student Conference at Stanford University, April 14 and 15, 2017

Conference/Symposium | April 14 – 15, 2017 every day | 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. |  Stanford University


Institute for South Asia Studies, Center for South Asia, Stanford University, University of California, Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz


Giving and taking offense has for long been a central element in public cultures across South Asia. In the 19th and 20th centuries, communities emerged around affective attachments to religious symbols, distinct histories and social practices, and calls to defend themselves against insults and attacks. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 carried two sections (153 and 295) that explicitly forbade “vilification” of groups, and the “insult of the religion of a class of people”. Both these sections are retained ad verbatim in the penal codes of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

While the colonial state saw ‘insults’ and ‘vilifications’ as a threat to public order, the charge of causing offense to religious, cultural or national sentiments has today become one of the powerful ways to assert social and religious dominance across South Asia. The claim of moral injury are at the heart of most major controversies: the campaign to ‘liberate ‘ the birth place of Lord Ram in the 1990s; Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws; the backlash toward the decriminalization of homosexuality in India; censorship of books, films, and dissenting voices across South Asia; banning of beef in India; vigilantes defending public morality, and much more. At the same time, minority communities and marginal and dissenting groups are also deploying narratives of injury and offense in their claims for recognition and inclusion.

The South Asia by the Bay Graduate Conference 2017 invites papers that probe the theme of offense, public morality, notions of collective injury, historical injustice and outrage in South Asia. The conference is the sixth in the series and emerges from the collaboration between Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Davis. This year it is hosted by the Center for South Asia at Stanford University.

Although the conference is open to the public, our aim is to provide a focused platform where about 20-25 graduate students working on South Asia can meet with each other and faculty from all the organizing institutions to discuss their work.

Keynote speakers:

William Mazzarella, Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Jisha Menon, Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies, Stanford University.

Please check back for updates on agenda and speaker list.

South Asia by the Bay inaugurates an unprecedented collaboration among several universities within California: Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Davis, and University of California, Santa Cruz.We aim to establish an annual forum where graduate students from across disciplines and institutions in North America, who work on South Asia, can meet to discuss their work with each other, and with South Asia affiliated faculty from the organizing institutions and beyond. Besides keynotes by important scholars in the field, we will hold interactive sessions with faculty on the international job market in South Asian studies, film screenings, and social events.

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