Inaugural Asia Lecture presented in celebration of York’s 50th

In celebration of York University’s 50th anniversary, Professor Veena Das, the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, will present the York Centre for Asian Research’s (YCAR) inaugural Asia Lecture.

The lecture is part of YCAR’s Asian Transformations event series, which reflects upon key transformations and continuities in Asian societies, diasporas and studies, and in Canadian engagements with Asia.

Right: Veena Das

Das will discuss “Poverty and the Imagination of a Future: The Story of Urban Slums in Delhi, India”, Thursday, Sept. 24, at 109 Accolade West Building, Keele campus. A reception will be held prior to the event at 5pm in the lobby outside the lecture hall. The doors will open at 5:45pm and the lecture will begin at 6pm.

As one of the best-known social theorists specializing on South Asia today, Das is particularly recognized for her research on the anthropology of violence, social suffering and the state in South Asia. Among her many works are Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (University of California Press, 2006), Critical Events: An Anthropological Perspective on Contemporary India (Oxford University Press, 1995) and Structure and Cognition: Aspects of Hindu Caste and Ritual (Oxford University Press, 1977).

Vas also edited Mirrors of Violence: Communities, Riots and Survivors in South Asia (Oxford University Press, 1990) and co-edited Social Suffering (University of California Press, 1998) and Violence and Subjectivity (University of California Press, 2000).

The abiding concern of Vas’s research has been to understand the working of longtime cultural logics in contemporary events, as well as moments of rupture and recovery. Her first book showed how one may address this through an examination of texts produced in local communities in which myth and history were embedded in each other.

In recent years, she has worked intensively on issues of violence, social suffering and subjectivity. Her interest in these questions stemmed from matters on the institutional processes through which violence and suffering are produced as well as from questions on what it is to produce testimony to these events and to oneself.

“If societies hide from themselves the pain which is inflicted upon individuals as prices of belonging, then how do social sciences learn to receive this knowledge? I have tried to see the intricate relations between biography, autobiography and ethnography to frame many of these questions,” says Das.

She is currently working on a project on the burden of disease and on health seeking behaviour among the urban poor in New Delhi. Vas and her colleagues are trying to create panel data for 250 households which will track the relation between local ecology, health and family processes of decision-making.

Das received the Anders Retzius Gold Medal from the Swedish Society of Anthropology & Geography in 1995and an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago in 2000. In addition, she is an Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

There is no charge to attend the lecture, but RSVPs are required. To RSVP, click here.

For more information, contact the York Centre for Asian Research at or 416-736-5821.