South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

Spring 2009

Vital Signs

University of Texas at Austin
February 6-7, 2009

This two-day symposium will be devoted to the roles of prediction and prognosis in various South Asian cultural settings, particularly within the social contexts of death, dying, and grave illness. The invited participants represent a number of humanities and social science disciplines, including philology, text criticism, literature, anthropology, medical history, and the history of religions. Prognosis as a practical medical discipline is first delineated in an elaborate way in the earliest medical compendium in Sanskrit, composed during the early centuries of the common era, in which we encounter detailed lists of what physicians should look for when they suspect their patients to be very near death, including corporeal signs (such as changes in complexion or sensory function), but also in dream narratives, in perceived symbolic equivalents between "person" and "event," in the reading of the distortion of images reflected in the pupil of a patient's eye, or in his own distorted shadow. But medical and cultural practices associated with what we might call "prognosis" are also a part of daily existence in contemporary South Asia. The goal of the symposium will be to arrive at multiple understanding of the ways in which prediction and prognosis give death and dying a "voice" in South Asian cultures.

Tentative Schedule

Friday, February 6th: 1:30-5pm
Meyerson Conference Room WC Hogg 4.118

"How Long Will I Stay in Heaven? The Sliding Soteriological Scale for the Shraddha" Matthew R. Sayers, Lebanon Valley College

"Color, Complexion, and Prognosis in an Early Sanskrit Medical Manual" Martha Ann Selby, The University of Texas at Austin

"Cremation as Healing in Aghor Medicine" Ron Barrett, Emory University

Saturday, February 7th: 10-5pm
Texas Union Sinclair Suite, UNB 3.128

"The Wasteland: Place as Prognosis" Diane Mines, Appalachian State University

"Painful Death Comes not to the Stranger: The Peculiar Religious Vision of Ramalinga Adigal (1823-1874)" Srilata Raman, University of Toronto

"The Death of Justice and the Justice of Death: Magic, Karma, and Violence in Sri Lanka" John Clifford Holt, Bowdoin College

"Meanings of Death in Wartime Batticaloa" Margaret Trawick, Massey University

Sponsored by: The Department of Religious Studies, the South Asia Institute, University of Texas at Austin.


Please contact Martha Selby.

Beauty in the Worlds of Islam

University of Texas at Austin
April 3-4, 2009
Thompson Conference Center Room 1.110 (map)

"Beauty in the Worlds of Islam" is a two-day K-12 and post-secondary workshop designed to explore the manner in which beauty is created, judged, negotiated, and relayed in Muslim societies from Asia to the Americas. The conference will emphasize the range of ways in which the diverse imaginative spirit of Muslim peoples is manifested in architecture, music, poetry, rhetoric, and calligraphy. It also hopes to draw attention to issues of gender, sexuality, disenfranchisement, and modernity as they shape the ideas of "beauty."

The conference takes on the twofold task of enriching American high school and college pedagogies pertaining to social studies and of enhancing interdisciplinary conversation among scholars of history, culture, language, literature, and religion. If you are interested in participating in this workshop please contact the SAI’s outreach office for an application.

Download paper abstracts (PDF, 402K)


"Beauty in the Worlds of Islam" is sponsored by the South Asia Institute, Department of Religious Studies, Department of Asian Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Islamic Studies Program, Hindi-Urdu Flagship Program, and Arabic Flagship Program.

02 Jul 2009
South Asia Institute in
The College of Liberal Arts at UT Austin