Yearly Archives: 2015

Traditions of Remembering and Life-Writing


Though I am whead-987227_1920eak and tired now,

And my youthful step long gone,

Leaning on this staff,

I climb the mountain peak.

My cloak cast off, my bowl overturned,

I sit here on this rock.

And over my spirit blows

The breath

Of liberty

I’ve won, I’ve won the triple gems.

The Buddha’s way is mine.

[Trans. Uma Chakravarti and Kumkum Roy][1]

This poem from the ‘Therīgāthā’ (a collection of poems written by senior Buddhist nuns from about 600 BCE) is one of the earliest extant personal accounts written by a woman focusing on following a specific religious path.

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European Conference on South Asian Studies, July 2016

The project team proposed a panel for the 24th ECSAS (European Conference on South Asian Studies) which will take place at the University of Warsaw (Poland) from 27 to 30 July 2016. The panel has been accepted and the call for papers is now open. If your research intersects with the panel theme below, please visit the conference website and submit your paper proposal at http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easas/ecsas2016/.

Download conference details (PDF)

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A Treasure Trove…!

A couple of months ago Matthias spoke about the excitement of hunting in the archive. As he said, the sense of anticipation when you don’t know exactly what a box or folder in front of you might contain is sharp but you also hold yourself back, warning yourself against disappointment. But then, once in a while, you hold your breath as you spot that one piece of paper that makes all the hours spent rummaging through piles of yellowing documents worthwhile….


This is what happened unexpectedly just a few weeks ago. After having spent some days familiarizing myself with the way the National Library of Scotland catalogues its nineteenth-century manuscripts and compiling a list of Scottish missionaries who had worked in Tamil-speaking parts of South India,

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Speaking through Images 3: What might be left unsaid…

It was Matthias who stumbled upon our second image on the home page, ‘Barber at Work,’ when buying old postcards on the internet. The rest of us agreed that this striking picture should form part of the website since it resonates with the several themes of the project.

This photograph from the 1920s captures a move from one state to another in medias res, focusing our eye on that ‘in-between’ stage that is so difficult to speak about. What fascinates me is the foregrounding of the body here, a body that is clearly experiencing a process of change… a body that is neither here nor there (or,

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Speaking through images 2: Power, Ambiguity, Identity

Pictures are fascinating. When we look at the same image again and again we discover new things or think of new stories behind the picture. Although the message of an image often seems obvious, most pictures have more than one dimension and inspire to tell various stories. Because they are fascinating and open to interpretation, pictures can be very powerful. With the photographs and sketches on our website, we wish to invite you to reflect together with us about the issues of our project.

Don’t worry if the pictures don’t speak to you at first sight.

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Speaking through Images 1: Action, Camera, Word?

Some of our friends have been intrigued by the images we’ve used to construct our website and we wondered if perhaps others too are curious about the visual contents of the website. So we thought we’d run a short series of blogs to take you through some of the thinking behind our choice of images and what we think they say.

Now, one of the things you learn very quickly when setting up a website is that images can either make or sink your website. No wonder we began to discuss what images we should use very early on.

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Treasure hunt in the archive

The most exciting phase in historical research is to explore new archives. If you are a historian, I hope, you agree with me. The thrill is particularly high in archives with rudimentary documentation, where you can only guess what might be behind a particular shelfmark. Sometimes you have to find your way by trial and error. It’s like treasure hunting – there is a vague promise to find something highly valuable, but you never know whether and when you will find a grain of gold. The fun of treasure hunting, however, goes much beyond looking for the one piece of precious metal.

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Welcome to the blog

Welcome to the ‘Conversion, Translation and the Language of Autobiography’ project blog. That’s quite a mouthful, I know! As you rightly suspect, academics spend an inordinate amount of time thinking up catchy titles for their books and projects: a descriptive, stodgy title is certain death (yes, even in the academic world) but it can’t be quite so cryptic, in an effort to be cool, that potential funders are put off either. So what does one do? Play around with the order of words, use a noun as adjective to arouse interest (note ‘language of autobiography’) and perhaps leave the boring details to a subtitle,

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