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The Political in Question

The Political in Question published on

Join us for a talk by
Mrinalini Sinha (Professor of History, University of Michigan):

The Political in Question: Abolitionism in India’s 20th Century

Friday, October 23, 2015
The Institute for Public Knowledge, 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor

Histories of politics in India frequently distinguish between the domains of elite and of popular or subaltern politics. The latter is typically expressed in the idiom of the fragment and identified with the particular rather than with the universal. This talk engages with the popular politics of the anti-indenture movement in India to raise the following questions: what happens when popular politics makes a claim to the universal? What does such an “impossible” politics suggest about the nature of the political itself?

Co-sponsored by:
South Asia NYU,
Department of History at NYU,
The Center for International History at Columbia University

Karl Jacoby: “Between the Color Line and the Border Line: A Trickster’s Tale from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands”

Karl Jacoby: “Between the Color Line and the Border Line: A Trickster’s Tale from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands” published on
Karl Jacoby
Department of History
Columbia University
“Between the Color Line and the Border Line: A Trickster’s Tale from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands”
Tuesday, April 21, 4-6pm
Fayerweather 411
With Discussant Sarah Beckhart
“Between the Color Line and the Border Line: A Trickster’s Tale from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands”
“Between the Color Line and the Border Line: A Trickster’s Tale from the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands”

Indian Secularism on a Global Stage

Indian Secularism on a Global Stage published on

19Nov2014 Indian Secularism on a Global Stage

Indian Secularism on a Global Stage: Reconsidering Muslim Belonging in Nehru’s India

by Prof. Taylor C. Sherman, London School of Economics and Political Science

Discussant: Prof. Manu Bhagavan, Hunter College/CUNY

Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014
208 Knox Hall

Muslim belonging in India since independence has been anchored using the language of secularism. However, the rise to power of the BJP in recent decades and the concomitant anti-Muslim violence in India has led some to declare that India’s secularism is in crisis. Much of the discussion surrounding this issue is predicated upon the assumption that India’s secularism was firmly established under the rule of the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru. This paper takes a new look at secularism in Nehru’s India. Rather than focusing on what Nehru said in his speeches and letters, this paper examines notions of secularism as the term was deployed on multiple levels of government and in wider society. It reassesses Nehru’s influence, and explores the ways in which calculations about the treatment of Indian Muslims in India were often worked out on a global stage.

Reframing ‘India’ in Exile: The Excentricities of Peripheral Vision and a View from the Centre

Reframing ‘India’ in Exile: The Excentricities of Peripheral Vision and a View from the Centre published on

April 8, 2014
Location: Fayerweather 411
Time: 5:30-7:00pm
Speakers: Benjamin Zachariah (Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University)

Abstract: In the first half of the twentieth century, political emigres and exiles from India found themselves in a position to become the voice of a colonised and oppressed country before an audience comprising often sympathetic, if not always well-informed, citizens of various countries of the world in which they found themselves. The ways in which they found this voice had much to do with their ability to reframe the problem of India in terms intelligible to these audiences. In so doing, they also embarked on a process of self-education and ideational translation that was transformative of the ways of conceptualising India in the world, and the world for India. The various framings of India, sometimes by the same person for different audiences, is revealing of the ways in which existing and emerging languages of legitimation were mobilised, and affected the reframing of ‘India’ both at home and away from India, by those identified with India as a national entity as well as those foreign to it. The ways in which peripheral subjects speaking from and to the centres of world power were crucial elements in conceptualising the periphery for its own subjects at home is an important aspect of the mobilisation and movement of diverse ideas in the first half of the twentieth century. How did the persons move back and forth?  How did this movement of ideas work? How were these transmitted? These questions take us past the themes of the limited or constrained agency of the native informant, towards a more dynamic model of moving ideas.

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CIH Zachariah Poster 2 copy


Re-presenting Pakistan: Journalism, Justice and the War on Terror

Re-presenting Pakistan: Journalism, Justice and the War on Terror published on

CJS Panel Poster (for web)

RE-PRESENTING PAKISTAN: Journalism, Justice & The ‘War On Terror’

Date: February 27, 2014
Time: 7-9pm
Location: Columbia Journalism School, 3rd Floor Lecture Hall
Moderated by:  Steve Coll (Dean of Journalism School)

Pakistan has been called a failing state and the most dangerous country on earth. Western media has spotlighted the militancy and the duplicity of the Pakistani state towards its American partner. Yet, stories about the Pakistani victims of the “war on terror” remain scant even though thousands of Pakistanis have been bombed, disappeared, detained and displaced. This panel will examine the relationship between the representation of Pakistan in the media and the “war on terror.” It will discuss alternative models to pursue and publish ethical journalism.

Asim Rafiqui is a photojournalist who has been investigating human rights issues in Pakistan. His most recent project covers the lives and stories of Pakistani prisoners in the US prison at Bagram. Rafiqui is also a fellow at the Open Society Foundation

Sarah Belal is a prominent Pakistani human rights lawyer who has been working to get Bagram prisoners released. Her organization Justice Project Pakistan has been litigating on behalf of families of prisoners. Belal is also a fellow with the UK based human rights organization, Reprieve.

Madiha Tahir is an independent journalist who recently produced a short documentary, Wounds of Waziristan, about survivors of drone attacks in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. She is co-editor of a collection of essays, Dispatches from Pakistan and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University.

Saadia Toor is the author of State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan. She is an associate professor of sociology at CUNY and works on populist movements and, feminism and religion, in Pakistan.

Co-sponsored by The Sevellon Brown Fund, Columbia Journalism School Photojournalism Dept., Center for International History


The Human Rights Restoration-Revolution

The Human Rights Restoration-Revolution published on



As part of the 1949 Unesco Human Rights Exhibition seminar series, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights is proud to present

The Human Rights Restoration-Revolution, a talk by Dr. Marco Duranti (Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Sydney).


Discussant: Samuel Moyn (James Bryce Professor of European Legal History, Columbia University)

Date and time: Wednesday 2 October 2013 at 6.15pm

Location: Second Floor Common Room, Heyman Center for the Humanities


With Unesco’s 1949 Human Rights Exhibition as its point of departure, this talk will consider the historical moment of the so-called “human rights revolution” in the late 1940s. Dr. Duranti’s analysis of the forces that first championed human rights invites a reflection on how far this moment should be considered revolutionary in the first place. Instead, Dr. Duranti suggests that the human rights became a means of rearticulating discredited political agendas in postwar Europe, and thus the moment in question may have constituted as much a restoration as a revolution.


This is the opening lecture in a new seminar series revolving around the largely unknown 1949 Unesco Human Rights Exhibition – the first international event that sought to visually represent the history, meaning and content of the rights set out in the UDHR. The series will seek to explore the exhibition’s themes through the research of human rights scholars from various disciplines in an open and interactive setting, leading up to a new display of the exhibition archive at Columbia University’s Buell Hall Gallery in April 2014.


Dr. Marco Duranti received his PhD from Yale University in 2009 and now teaches history at the University of Sydney. He is currently writing a book on the genesis of European human rights law for Oxford University Press.


This seminar series is made possible with the support of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, the Center for International History, and the Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research.


The event is free and open to the public with limited seating offered. Find directions here.