23 Oct 2017 12:30pm - 2:00pm CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building


Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work in Progress Seminar Series.  All welcome but please email Michelle Maciejewska to book your place and to request readings.  A sandwich lunch and refreshments are provided.

Dr Ananya Vajpeyi

I am working on a political biography of Sanskrit, aimed at narrating the long and continuing life of this language from ancient times to the present. What makes the language live despite its purported death, what makes it modern despite its origins and efflorescence in the remote past, what allows it to travel outside of the Indian subcontinent for as long as it has existed, and what lifts it out of the dead letter of ritual and scholasticism into the seething battleground of religion and politics in India today? The contemporary climate of reaction and revivalism in India (and worldwide) gives Sanskrit a new lease of life. But the role that this classical language is expected to play in a majoritarian regime of the Hindu Right forces us to revisit its long history and reimagine its possible futures. 

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Dr Ananya Vajpeyi is the Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow 2017-18. She is at CRASSH in Michaelmas Term 2017.

Ananya Vajpeyi is  a Fellow and Associate Professor at the  Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi. She works at the intersection of intellectual history, political theory and critical philology. She is currently writing two books: one, a history of caste categories in India from pre-colonial to modern times, and the other, her long-term project, a life of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956).

Her first book Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India was named book of the year 2012 by the Guardian and the New Republic. It received the 41st Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize from Harvard University Press, the Tata First Book Award for Non-Fiction (2013), and the Crossword Award for Non-Fiction (2013).

Vajpeyi was educated at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (MA), the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (MPhil), and the University of Chicago (PhD).

She has taught at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, in the history department at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. Most recently she was a Visiting Professor in South Asian and North African Studies at the University of Venice, Ca' Foscari (Spring 2014).

Vajpeyi has held post-doctoral fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. She has been an IDRC visiting fellow at CSDS, a senior fellow with the American Institute of Indian Studies, and a Kluge Fellow at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Washington DC in 2013 and 2014.

Most recently, Vajpeyi has been a Global Ethics Fellow with the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs, 2014-2017.

Vajpeyi writes regularly for The Hindu newspaper and guest-edits an issue of Seminar magazine annually. She contributes often to Foreign Affairs and World Policy Journal. She is also a frequent contributor to Scroll.in, Indian Cultural Forum, and RESET: Dialogue on Civilizations. Recent publications include an op-ed in The New York Times, an essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books and an interview on www.foreignaffairs.com, with the Editor of Foreign Affairs, Gideon Rose. She has a chapter in K. Satchidanandan Ed. Words Matter: Writings against Silence (Penguin 2016). Her review essay about Patrick Olivelle's translation of Kautilya's Arthaśāstra appeared in the July 1, 2016 issue of Public Books. Her article ‘The Return of Sanskrit’ appears in the Fall 2016 issue of World Policy Journal. Her newest essays appear on Guftugu.in and in the Hindu Sunday Magazine.

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