November 9-11, 2010
Department of English, Banaras Hindu University,
From 9-11 November 2010, I attended the Theory at Work: Text, History and Culture International Conference which was held in Vanarasi and organized by the Department of English of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Organized in collaboration with Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi) and the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (New Delhi), the conference brought together scholars from different regions of India and international scholars from renowned institutions including; King’s College (London), Macquarie University (Australia), University of Pisa (Italy) and Deakin University (Australia) amongst others. Focusing on the interplay between theory, textuality, history and culture, the conference provided for a meaningful and informative interdisciplinary dialogue on the development and deployment of theories with regards to the major fields and themes of literary studies, social and intellectual history, gender studies, anthropology and philosophy. My own research paper presentation, entitled “Mapping the Unknown: Empire, Gender and the Oriental ‘Other’ in Women’s Travel Narratives of Colonial Southeast Asia” analyzed the visual and textual cultural representations of the people, places and cultures of Southeast Asia in women’s travel writing by exploring the nexus between race, gender, empire and the politics of narration.
Ranked Number One this year on a survey of the top universities of India by India Today Magazine, the effort and work put in by BHU and the conference organizers to ensure the conference was an engaging and successful one for participants is testament to their dedication towards academia and the arts. Participants were treated to a theatre performance of Bhisham Sahni’s acclaimed play Madhavi, staged by students of the department. The play was first translated from Hindi to English by Prof. Alok Bhalla of the department and revolves around the human desire to achieve fame, recognition and its tragic consequences when pursued ruthlessly. The city of Vanarasi itself was a delight to explore; from a panoramic boat ride down the Ganges river, to the 110 feet tall Dhammekha Stupa at Sarnath where Buddha preached his first sermon, to the colorful busy bazaars and temples and the winding maze of serpentine alleys that make up the city. Held in a historical and legendary centre of learning which combines a picturesque, yet, apt blend of the spiritual, commercial, mystical and modern, the conference was a truly enriching experience.
Department of History
National University of Singapore