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Usha Iyer is Assistant Professor, Film and Media Studies, in the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University. Professor Iyer's research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of cinema, performance, and gender studies with a specific focus on stardom, body cultures, spectatorial desire and engagement, and the political economy of transnational media. Her new book, Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Popular Hindi Cinema (Oxford University Press, 2020), examines the role of dance in the construction of female stardom in popular Hindi cinema from the 1930s to the 1990s, theorizing and historicizing film dance, a staple “attraction” of the popular Indian film form, in relation to the construction of cinematic narratives, star bodies, and spectator-citizens.
Event abstract: Across South Asia as the COVID-19 pandemic deepens, it has exposed challenges relating to public trust in pandemic preparedness, containment and questioned the power and limits of expert knowledge. How has the political and public health leadership in India projected pandemic related interventions, and what are the fluid borders between public health facts, lived experiences and media propaganda? The pandemic crisis is also linked to significant historical antecedents over the past decades. The COVID-19 pandemic follows decades of neoliberal policies and health systems reforms in India and across the world, that have had severe implications for affordable access to health services and enlarged the private health sector. How has this shaped access to care and the ethics of accountability during a crisis? How do pandemic politics distract and deploy 'history' and deepen 'other' forms of social stigma and virulent marginalization, and how has the media been critical in these debates? What futures can we see in a post- pandemic world, to rebuild and overcome some of these fractures?
Manan Ahmed is Associate Professor in the History Department at Columbia University. He is an historian of South Asia and the littoral western Indian Ocean world from 1000-1800 CE. His areas of specialization include intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia; critical philosophy of history, colonial and anti-colonial thought. He is interested in how modern and pre-modern historical narratives create understandings of places, communities, and intellectual genealogies for their readers.
Prof. Ahmed’s second book, The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India (Harvard University Press, 2020), tells a history of the historians of the subcontinent from the tenth to the early twentieth century. The core of the book is the history Tarikh-i Firishta which was written by Muhammad Qasim Firishta (b. ca. 1570) in the Deccan in the early seventeenth century. Broadly, the book presents a concept-history of “Hindustan,” a political and historiographic category that was subsumed by the colonial project of creating British India and the subsequent polities of “Republic of India” and “Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”