Graduate Methods Symposium 2012


The Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies

presents the


Graduate Methods Symposium 2012

9:50-3:40 pm, 2 May 2012, in the DSSEAS library


Panel 1   9:50-11:30

Ryan Damron, “Queen of Illusions: Gender Ambiguity and Puranic Inflections in the Mahāmāyā Tantra

Lisa Brooks, “Subjectivity and Karma: The Etiology of Non-normative Fetuses in Early Āyurveda”

Trent Walker, “Echoes of Buddhist Liturgies in ‘La Grande Inscription d’Angkor’: Rethinking the First Poem of Khmer Epigraphy”

Maria Packman, “Relative, Retainer and Rakshasa: Hanuman’s Son in Three Worlds”



Panel 2   12:30-1:50

Megan Hewitt, “Realism in The Story of Oey Se: Intersections of History and Fiction”

Padma Chirumamilla, “’Fishing nets are for stretching, love is for the internet’: technology, life and film in Andhra Pradesh”

Dylan Fagan, “Constraint as Method: Narrative in the 1974-1987 films of Gotot Prakosa”



Panel 3   2:00-3:40

Padma Maitland, “The Elephant and the Globe: A Stupa in India Today”

Thibodi Buakamsri, “Imagining Cambodia: Representation of the Country and its People in the Fin-de-Siècle of the 19th Century”

Janet Um, “Timeless Tales Reconsidered: Kashmiri Tellings of the Bhatkathā”

Ali Hassan, “Lahore in the Mughal Imaginaire




Lisa Brooks, “Subjectivity and Karma: The Etiology of Non-normative Fetuses in Early Āyurveda.” By considering the role of karma in passages on abnormal embryonic development in Āyurvedic texts we gain insight into the formation of subjectivity in specific early Indian contexts. This paper focuses on references to karma in two short passages on the etiology of non-normative fetuses drawn from the Śārīrasthāna sections of the Caraka Sahitā and Suśruta Sahitā. Here I understand karma as what Gerald Larson refers to as a “sociology of knowledge,” indicating that the framework of karma links thought systems with social reality. My paper argues that in these passages karma serves as the ultimate link between the deeds and comportment of parents- as well as the earlier deeds of the child- and the deviancies of their offspring, indicating a kind of self-regulating subjectivity through the notion of responsibility.  

Thibodi Buakamsri, “Imagining Cambodia: Representation of the Country and its People in the Fin-de-Siècle of the 19th Century.” In colonial Cambodia, some colonized elites drawn the lines between them and the colonizer. The land of Cambodia and the Khmer were defined by some common nature, identity, or interest. On the other hand, the French was defined as one who threatened and intended to destroy Cambodia. This study will explore the representation of Cambodia and its people through the two texts produced by two Cambodian princes, Votha and Yukanthor in 1885 and 1900 respectively. It aims to demonstrate Khmer elites’ imagination about Cambodia and how they made use of it in responding to the colonial power. ∆ 

Padma Chirumamilla, “’Fishing nets are for stretching, love is for the internet’: technology, life and film in Andhra Pradesh.” This paper is an attempt to understand the way in which interactions with technology might play a constitutive role in the shaping of identity, and in the imagination of a future. I trace the history of the Kamma community of Andhra Pradesh through looking at the various technological interactions and adaptations that played a major role in their identification as a community—from things such as technological supports in agriculture to heavy investment in regional film industries to the current view of IT (information technology) work as desirable labor. In looking at this history, I wish to put forth the notion of a “technophilic habitus” (with due credit to Bourdieu), as being a key marker of the oftentimes very specific and segmented populations that get to participate in the making of the IT dream and its reality in India. ∆ 

Ryan Damron, “Queen of Illusions: gender ambiguity and puranic inflections in the Mahāmāyā Tantra.” Readers of the Buddhist Mahāmāyā Tantra are quickly faced with an odd ambiguity: a clearly female deity described with a distinctly male iconography. This ambiguity appears to be caused by the assimilation of a non-Buddhist deity into an established Buddhist tantric soteriological framework. This paper will explore the integration of these two traditions, focusing on the vision of puranic goddess Mahāmāyā articulated in this Buddhist tantra and explore the ways that an instance of religious exchange became one of literary exchange as well.  

Dylan Fagan, “Constraint as method: Narrative Strategies in the 1974-1987 films of Gotot Prakosa.” The early short films of Gotot Prakosa present the viewer with a cinematic form and content seemingly novel in Indonesian Cinema. The films are abstract and deny facile linear narratives, though they are not bereft of meaning. This paper explores the formal innovations of filmmakers in Jakarta, such as Gotot Prakosa, in the 1970s and 1980s, in order to understand how filmmakers attempted to mediate the relationship between Film and lived social conditions at this moment in Indonesia. ∆ 

Ali Hassan, “Lahore in the Mughal Imaginaire.” Lahore sees itself as the eternal “second city” of the Mughal Empire, a one city that served as imperial capital multiple times yet never acquired the central roles of Delhi or Agra. Starting with an enquiry into the typical epithet Dar ul-Saltanat used to reference Lahore, this paper will explore the ways in which Lahore is spoken about in Mughal geographies and literary works. ∆ 

Megan Hewitt, Tjerita Oey Se [The Story of Oey Se]: Intersections of History and Fiction.” Tjerita Oey Se, jaitoe satoe tjerita jang amat endah dan loetjoe jang betoel soedah kedjadian di Djawa tengah [The Story of Oey Se: Which is an extremely beautiful and entertaining story that really happened in Central Java] is a work of Chinese-Malay fiction published in 1903 by a second generation Chinese novelist and journalist in Java by the name of Thio Tjin Boen. Framing this work in the context of the rapidly expanding print market of the late 19th and early 20th century in Java, this novel invites readers to question the interface between literature and history. Invoking this historical moment in a journalistic style, weaving together fact and fiction for literary effect, leads my work to explore how realism, as a literary device, is developed as social commentary on the position of Chinese in Dutch colonial Java. Drawing from an atmosphere of everyday social, cultural, and political experience, Thio Tjin Boen engages with a Chinese-Malay readership to establish his own literary authority. Opening an alternate possibility for interpretation by turning to comparison with Hikayat Nyai Dasima by G. Francis, I explore similarities in thematic content with a didactic message: the conflation of race and religion in the construction of identity and the tragedy that befalls the fate of women. Overall, I argue that the thematic trajectory of these texts requires an engagement with multiple interacting levels of signification in context. I take the opportunity to explore literary reflections upon race and colonial era identity politics and the close connection between racial, religious and linguistic communities in the construction of identity, working to recuperate the voice of marginalized literatures within the Indonesian canon at the same time broadening our understanding of history from the position of literature. ∆ 

Padma Maitland, “The Elephant and the Globe: A Stupa in India Today.” The design of the Diksha Bhumi Memorial Complex in Nagpur, Maharasthra, built in honor of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism, draws heavily on the stupa of Sanchi for its form and ornamentation. However, the construction and fabrication of Diksha Bhumi is uniquely modern, more expressive of an engineering sensibility than traditional stupa architecture. This paper examines the aesthetic characteristics of this monument and how it relates to Dr. Ambedkar’s social and religious work. Read as part of a larger social project, it is possible to situate the monument within a new collection of Buddhist sites that is defined as much by the colonial survey as political ambition and remnants of a Buddhist past. ∆

Maria Packman, “Relative, Retainer and Rakshasa: Hanuman’s Son in Three Worlds.” What can the child of a fish and a monkey tell us about literary cultures in South and Southeast Asia? This paper follows the story of Hanuman's water-born son in three forms: as Macchanu in the Thai Ramakien of Rama I, as Tamanta Gangga in the Bodleian manuscript of the Malay Hikayat Seri Rama and as Macchavallaban or Macchakarpan in the popular Tamil chapbook Mayiliravanan Katai. ∆ 

Janet Um, “Timeless Tales Reconsidered: Kashmiri Tellings of the Bhatkathā.” In eleventh-century Kashmir, Kemendra composed the Bhatkathāmañjarī and Somadeva, the Kathāsaritsāgara—two literary works based on the lost Bhatkathā. In claiming fidelity to the same earlier work, the two texts share striking similarities in content. However, formal and structural features of the respective works belie their authors' distinct literary visions. Through a close reading of the framing narrative and the author’s postscript of each work, this paper will reflect upon the intellectual, historical, and performative contexts within which these texts were produced. ∆ 

Trent Walker, “Echoes of Buddhist Liturgies in ‘La Grande Inscription d’Angkor’: Rethinking the First Poem of Khmer Epigraphy.” The “Inscriptions Modernes d'Angkor” (IMA), some forty-odd texts inscribed in stone on the walls of Angkor Wat during the Cambodian Middle Period (1431–1863), provide a vivid record of Buddhist pilgrimage to the twelfth-century Vaishnavite monument. Among these inscriptions, scholars have long celebrated IMA 38, also known as “La Grande Inscription d’Angkor,” as the earliest Khmer verse inscription, dating to 1701 CE. This paper argues that another inscription, IMA 31 from 1684 CE, is in fact the earliest verse inscription in Khmer and that both are based on an oral text still sung in Cambodia today, revealing key liturgical continuities between Buddhist practice in the Middle Period and the present. ∆