Autobiography of an Archive: A Scholar's Passage to India

Nicholas B. Dirks
Berkeley Book Chats
Book cover for Autobiography of an Archive
Monday, May 4, 2015 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
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United States

Nicholas B. Dirks is the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a professor of history and anthropology. An internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, he is known for his work on the history of kingship and the institution of caste in India, as well as for his writing on the British empire. His major works include The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom; Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India; and The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain. He has edited several books, including Colonialism and Culture, Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, and In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century.

In this collection of essays and lectures, history's turn from high politics and formal intellectual history toward ordinary lives and cultural rhythms is vividly reflected in a scholar's intellectual journey to India. Dirks recounts his early study of kingship in India, the rise of the caste system, the emergence of English imperial interest in controlling markets and India's political regimes, and the development of a crisis in sovereignty that led to an extraordinary nationalist struggle. He shares his personal encounters with archives that provided the sources and boundaries for research on these subjects, ultimately revealing the limits of colonial knowledge and single disciplinary perspectives. Drawing parallels to the way American universities balance the liberal arts and specialized research today, Dirks encourages scholars to continue to apply multiple approaches to their research and build a more global and ethical archive.

After an introduction by Thomas Laqueur (History), Chancellor Dirks will speak about his work and then open the floor for discussion.

Co-sponsored by the Institute for South Asia Studies.