Office of the Provost

Carnegie Corporation grant supports second Elphinstone Conference


With a $20,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation, Dr. Shah Mahmoud Hanifi (history) and colleagues at JMU and abroad have planned Elphinstone II, a conference set for April 2017 in Mumbai, India, at Elphinstone College. The Conference will focus on Mountstuart Elphinstone and the Mediation of Global Forces and Local Agencies: Colonial Knowledge, National Histories and Public Higher Education in South Asia. The dual objectives of the conference are to reappraise the cultural, intellectual and scientific parameters of colonialism in South Asia as they were engaged and articulated by Mount Stuart Elphinstone (1779-1859), and to examine the historical development and contemporary expressions of the colonial knowledge formations Elphinstone represents across the nation-states comprising this world region today.

Elphinstone II ImageTo position Elphinstone in the scholarly and administrative genealogies of British colonial practice, the conference will engage his publications and archived writings on Afghanistan and India and his political and bureaucratic directives and initiatives as an ambassador to Kabul, resident at Poona (Pune) and governor of Bombay (Mumbai). Public education is a key arena of state-society interaction where the enduring legacy of Elphinstone in the sociology and intellectual architecture of colonial knowledge production is particularly evident.

With Elphinstone College as the conference venue, the gathering will involve scholars addressing it and other schools and universities in India as locations for the transmission of colonial histories, global sciences and political ideologies through educational infrastructure. The conference will also involve scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, resulting in a transnational comparison of the intellectual, scientific and administrative heritage of colonialism and the uneven modifications of those inherited regimes of knowledge and education throughout contemporary South Asia.

The Mumbai conference will result in three deliverable products. The first is an online streaming webcast of panels for local audiences outside of Mumbai in the participating countries and beyond. Regarding post-conference durables, all paper abstracts and synopses will be posted on a permanent website that may also be used to live-stream and digitally archive the panels. The third result will be an edited, printed book containing revised conference papers that will be distributed through an Indian publisher for global Anglophone distribution.

Elphinstone Book Image

Institutional support from a number of co-sponsoring organizations, including the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies, the American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, Elphinstone College and JMU’s Office of International Programs, sets the stage for continued collaboration.

This endeavor and the success in gaining the funding that supports it grew out of the inaugural Elphinstone Conference, which was held in London in November 2015 in partnership with JMU’s Office of International Programs, the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Under the leadership of Dr. Hanifi, 29 scholars from around the world convened to share insights on Elphinstone and his peers and the historical foundations of Afghanistan studiesTheir resulting work on reframing colonial knowledge of the Indo-Persian world in the post-colonial era will be published by Hurst & Co. in the UK in conjunction with Columbia University Press for North American distribution and an Indian publisher yet to be determined for distribution in South Asia.

Published: Friday, December 9, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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