South of the Vindhyas: Early Deccan History - Aloka Parasher Sen
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About the Event
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Its ‘Histories’ in the plural primarily because our vantage point is to discuss regional, sub-regional and local historical tendencies that then define the whole region we have identified as the Deccan. It’s also our concern to move beyond linguistically defined modern regional entities that are of recent origin to argue that most of these were historically constituted differently, often with flexible boundaries. Emphasizing on looking at histories of small regions and localities also enables one to move beyond mere dynastic history, which in their aim to valorise the present, talk of great individual rulers and icons to then privilege only political history to justify similar tendencies in the contemporary.
The task then is to share with you an inclusive historical narrative that suggests that before and after the rise of the so-called big ‘empires’ there were political systems of organisation that we dismiss as merely ‘tribal’ or those lacking in monumental grandeur. At another level, we also intend to discuss social and economic processes that defined much of the hinterland of the various Deccan sub-regions to reveal both differences and similarities that then give a character to early Deccani history. This character, I argue is one that is in a constant state of negotiating plurality so that Deccan can be characterized a region where cultures meet.
And finally, in interrogating the cultural and religious landscape, writing on localities, places and sites focuses on the ‘fragment’ – epigraph, sculpture, artefact, shrine - as a source of history. This enables us to move away from a meta-narrative of this region’s history built around literary sources from outside the region. As we argue, we are then able to contextualize the monumental and question theoretical models of historical explanation applicable for other spatial units of the sub-continent.
ALOKA PARASHER-SEN has been teaching at the University of Hyderabad, India since 1979 where, since 2018, she is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sanskrit Studies. She has widely traveled on academic assignments and was DAAD Fellow, (1986- 87) and occupant of the Rotating Chair in India Studies (2007-08) at the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor (1992) at the University of California, Berkeley, USA and most recently, the first occupant of the Saroj and Prem Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Polity and Society (2008-2011) Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta, Canada.
Her main area of research interest is in the social history of early Indian attitudes towards foreigners, tribes and excluded castes and different aspects of the history and archaeology of Early Deccan.