IISER Mohali, Knowledge city, Sector 81, SAS Nagar, Manauli PO 140306

The Afflicted Fragile Self and Her Past: Exclusion, Body and Disease in Early India

Aloka Parasher-Sen, Professor Emerita, Department of Sanskrit Studies, School of Humanities & Former Head, Dept of History, University of Hyderabad

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In our ‘afflicted’ present we are compelled to re-visit our pasts if only to understand how ideas from our historical consciousness help or, inhibit our actions in the present. It is the contemporaneity of a now familiar term ‘social distancing’ that is in fact deeply entrenched in the Indian ethos built around ‘caste’ exclusions. At the same time, dealing with the initially unknown cultural and social ‘other’ has also been excluded in our sensibilities in different ways. While underlining that ideology of a society is distinct from social practices embedded in varied historical contexts contingent on socio-economic, political and environmental factors, in this presentation we focus on how the body and disease were discussed in early India with particular reference to the role of social groups engaged with treating the body. We interrogate whether ‘caste’ and social boundaries were broken in this regard. While history unravels interesting facets around this theme primarily from sources rooted in collective memory, I end the presentation with raising questions that have egged me on to think afresh about issues of affliction to understand suffering that was often based on experience and therefore, difficult to find in old texts from the perspective of the sufferer. We hope to show how ‘Social distancing’, ‘Othering’ and ‘Affliction’ were deeply intertwined and is not something that is simply left behind in the past but is our present as well.

About the Speaker:
Aloka Parasher-Sen is currently Professor Emerita, Department of Sanskrit Studies, School of Humanities, University of Hyderabad. She started teaching at the University of Hyderabad in 1979 and went on to become Professor and Head, Department of History and Dean, School of Social Sciences. She 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, 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 major publications are in the area of social history of early India, in particular, ancient Indian attitudes towards foreigners, tribes and excluded castes. She is the author and editor of more than 7 books/monographs. Her major writings among others include Mlecchas in Early India (1991); Social and Economic History of Early Deccan -- Some Interpretations (1993). She edited Subordinate and Marginal Groups in Early India published by Oxford University Press as part of Themes in Indian History series in 2004.

Meeting ID: 978 4739 3777
Passcode: 033273
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