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South Asia Concentration



Upcoming Events

South Asia Alumnae Lecture Series

This year Smith College will bring back seven alumnae doing academic work related to the study of South Asia who have recently completed a PhD (or who are very close to doing so). The idea is to showcase the excellence of our former students as well as the wide range of topics that one can study in South Asia, the wide variety of disciplines that one can employ, and the issues most pressing to the next generation of scholars. 

Smith College’s South Asia Concentration has generated an impressive lineage of scholars, and we hope that you join us in celebrating their accomplishments.

Stephanie Spray ‘01
“Filming with Nepal, or How Not to Make a Documentary”
December 3, 2015, 5 pm in Seelye 201 

Stephanie Spray is an anthropologist and filmmaker in the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University whose work explores the confluence of social aesthetics and art in everyday life. Her films have been described as “breathtakingly intimate” by the Director of Programming for the Film Society of the Lincoln Center, a characteristic that grows directly from sixteen years of engagement with a single community of so-called “untouchables” in Nepal (called the Gandharba) who have been cast in most of her films: Kāle and Kāle (2007), Monsoon-Reflections (2008), As Long As There’s Breath (2009), and Manakamana (2013). Manakamana won numerous awards in festivals around the world, and was listed by IndiewireNew York Times, and The New Yorker as one of the top films of 2014. Stephanie Spray is currently completing a PhD in Anthropology at Harvard University, and she graduated from Smith College with a BA in Religion in 2001.

Constance Kassor ‘05
“How To Win Debates and Influence History: A Case-Study from 15th-century Tibet” 
February 4, 2016, 5 pm in Seelye 201 

Constance Kassor is a visiting lecturer in the Religion Department at Smith College, and serves as the director of Smith’s Buddhist Studies Concentration  Her research investigates the relationships between text and practice in Tibetan Buddhist philosophical systems. Her current project, Thinking the Unthinkable / Unthinking the Thinkable, considers the relationship between Buddhist thought and meditative practices from the perspective of the 15th-century Tibetan scholar Gorampa Sonam Senge, and places Gorampa’s views in dialogue with contemporary issues in Western Philosophy. Connie received her PhD in Religious Studies from Emory University in 2014, and graduated from Smith College in 2005 with a BA in Philosophy. As a junior, she participated in the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program, and now serves as the program’s director.

Joseph Leach ‘07
“Pilgrimage in the Periphery: from Spiti to Tso Pema”
February 18, 2016, 5 pm in Seelye 201 

Joseph Leach is a PhD candidate in Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. His dissertation, The Hidden Valley in the Iron Mountains: Nyingma Buddhism in Spiti’s Pin Valley, explores Nyingma Buddhism in the Western Himalayas from the nineteenth-century to the present. The dissertation examines how a religious community negotiates the impacts of colonialism, nationalism, and modernity within emerging global Buddhist networks. Joseph continues to study subjects he first encountered at Smith College. After traveling to India on the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program, he completed a senior thesis on the Western Himalayas in the departments of Philosophy and Art History. He graduated from Smith in 2007 with a BA in Indo-Tibetan Studies.

Emilia Bachrach ‘04
“When Krishna Eats in my Home: Negotiating Family, Gender, and Devotion in  Seventeenth-Century Hagiography”
Thursday, March 24, 2016, 5 pm in Seelye 201 

Emilia Bachrach is a visiting assistant professor in Religious Studies at Elon University. Her research focuses on practices of religious reading and scriptural interpretation in contemporary Hindu communities of urban north and northwest India, particularly Gujarat and Rajasthan. She is currently working on a book manuscript called Reading the Medieval in the Modern: Scriptural Debate and Sectarian-Fashioning in Gujarat. She has held research, writing, and teaching fellowships with several institutions, including the American Institute of Indian Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies, and Millsaps College. Emilia holds a PhD in Asian Cultures and Languages, with a focus on South Asian religions and literatures, from the University of Texas at Austin (2014). She also holds a MTS from Harvard Divinity School (2008) and a BA in Religion from Smith College (2004).

Natasha Behl ‘04
“Challenging Exclusionary Inclusion: Sikh Women and Political Action”
April 14, 2016, 5 pm in Seelye 201

Natasha Behl is assistant professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University. Her research and teaching examine the relationship between democracy, citizenship, and difference. In particular, she is interested in understanding democratic political participation of minority groups in India, and the normative implications of ethnic and gendered diversity for Indian democracy. Her interests lie in the following areas: Indian Politics; Sikhs & Sikh Diaspora; Race, Ethnicity & Politics; Gender & Politics; Gendered Violence & Violence Against Women; and Democracy & Citizenship. Natasha graduated with a B.A. in Government from Smith College in 2004, and in 2010 completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at University of California, Los Angeles, where her training focused on Race, Ethnicity, Politics and Comparative Politics. She was also awarded a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Doctoral Fellowship at College of Wooster and a Riley Postdoctoral Fellowship at Colorado College.

Previous speakers in the series:

Kathryn Hardy ‘04
“Speakers and Selves: Language Categories and the Cinematic Production of Difference”
September 21, 2015

Kathryn Hardy is currently a Mellon Fellow in Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry at Washington University in St. Louis, and was previously the Singh Fellow in South Asian Studies at Yale University. Her work focuses on language and media production in South Asia. Her current project, Becoming Bhojpuri, explores the processes through which commercial filmmaking in the Bhojpuri dialect of Hindi shifts and solidifies categories of language and society. Kathryn received her PhD in South Asian Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014, and graduated from Smith College in 2004 with a BA in Religion. As a sophomore, she was encouraged to attend the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program, and has based her research in India ever since.

Lesley Jo Weaver ‘04
“Studying Illness in India: The Case of Type 2 Diabetes and Mental Health”
October 8, 2015

Lesley Jo Weaver is an assistant professor in Anthropology at the University of Alabama, where she teaches courses on gender, medical anthropology, and South Asia. Her doctoral research explored type 2 diabetes management among women in New Delhi. Jo graduated from Smith in 2004 with a major in biological sciences and a secondary focus on South Asian religions. Her first trip to India was as a sophomore on the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program, where a visit to a leprosy colony sparked her curiosity. Jo’s interest in health and India took her from Smith, back to India, and eventually to Emory University, where she got a Master’s degree in Public Health and a PhD in Anthropology. 

Future events, lectures and more are listed here and on our Facebook page.

Past Events

For additional past events related to South Asia, see the Smith College Buddhist Studies website's Events page.

Ratan Srivastava MD and Manushi Srivastava PhD
Banaras Hindu University
"Social Change and Public Health in India"
September 29, 2015

Pandit Rabindra Goswami: Solo Concert on Surbahar

Rabindra Goswami, one of North India’s most esteemed classical musicians and a fellow at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music during the 2014 fall semester, returned to Smith College for a solo concert on the surbahar. The surbahar, sometimes known as the bass sitar, is an instrument rarely seen or heard. Difficult to master and sublimely beautiful, the surbahar is used to play dhrupad: the oldest form of North Indian classical music.

December 7, 2014

Jamal J. Elias lecture

"The Prayers of a Child: Piety, Virtue and Cuteness in Muslim Societies", a lecture by Jamal J. Elias, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities
Professor of Religious Studies and South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania, November 14, 2014



Presentation of the Concentration
October 20, 2014

Faculty, concentrators and interested students gathered to share all that's happening in South Asia studies at Smith.



North Indian Classical Music Festival
October 18 and 19, 2014

Two evenings of classical music:

October 18: Pandit Rabindra Goswami, sitar and Ramu Pandit, tabla

October 19: Shrimati Vidya Rao, vocals, Rohan Prabhudesai, harmonium and Ramu Pandit, tabla


Pankaj Kumar

Screening of "The Vote" followed by questions and answers with filmmaker Pankaj Kumar, September 30, 2014

Download the poster (PDF)

Ali Asif Khan


The politics of Sufi music within the Islamic tradition. A Global Salon discussion with qawwal singer Ali Asif Khan and his musicians, March 28, 2014

Maya Rao Residency

Performer Maya Rao's four day residency at Smith included four events, October 30 - November 2, 2013.




Aditi Mehta Global Salon and lecture

Aditi Mehta lecture

Global Salon poster

"Women in Indian Bureaucracy: An Uncertain Glory", a Global Salon discussion, followed by a lecture, "The Tryst Betrayed: Social Justice Programs and Indian Democracy" by Aditi Mehta, Smith College Class of 1975, September 30, 2013.


Maya Joshi Global Salon and lecture

Global Salon

Colonial Missionaries

"Caste, Class and Religion in India: Engaging with Ambedkar on Equality and Liberation", a Global Salon discussion, and lecture, "Missionaries in Colonial India: The Case of Satyanand Stokes" by Maya Joshi, Associate Professor English, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi, September 24, 2013.

Roundtable discussion of feminism in India

"Feminism in the Garb of Traditionalism: Doing 'Women's Work' in India", led by Ms. Girija Raghavan, media entrepreneuer and filmmaker based in Tamil Nadu, India, April 10, 2013.

Pandit Devashish Dey film screening

Film screening of a concert given at Smith College by renowned North Indian classical vocalist Pandit Devashish Dey, November 27, 2012.

Salman Ahmad talk and concert

"Rebuilting Pakistan After the Floods", a lecture by Salman and Samina Ahmad at Smith College on November 19, 2012.

"Sufi Rock Unplugged -An Accoustic Mystical Journey", a concert with Salman Ahmad and Sherjan Ahamd at Smith College on November 18, 2012.

Imagining India: Art and National Identity

Smith College’s Global Studies Center presented two lectures with Professor Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Centre for the Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, India.

“Conceits of the Copy: Traveling Replicas in Colonial & Contemporary India,” April 18, 2011

“Fault-Lines in a National Edifice: On the Rights & Offenses of Contemporary Indian Art,” April 21, 2011.