South Asia Conference, SMU

On September 22, Asian Studies in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences ( and the North Texas nonprofit SARII ( presented the 7th Annual South Asia Conference at SMU. The conference – Cities, Courts and Saints: Muslim Cultures of South Asia – brought together six leading specialists of Indo-Muslim history and culture. Since the arrival of Islam in South Asia, Muslim communities thrived in cities, giving them a unique shape with new forms of courtly and spiritual life. The scholars presented new perspectives on the way Muslim traditions contributed to forms of religious life, social etiquette, music and art of the Indian subcontinent. The conference, which is free and open to the community, was co-sponsored this year by the Clements Department of History and the Department of Religious Studies.

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Inspiring research from around the globe

An update from Michael,  who is majoring in religious studies and marketing:

Presentation by Dr. Rajeev Kinra, Northwestern University

It is great when students have the opportunity to engage in conversation with academic specialists from across the country, and a rare treat to discuss a topic like Muslim cultures in South Asia. Before coming to SMU, I did not even know that South Asia had such a rich history, and today I learned about the Muslim cultures in the region from the 8th century CE onward. For over 1,000 years, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and occasionally other smaller, religious populations have had to learn how to interact with each other in the same space, and their cultures have woven together in incredibly dynamic ways.

I was thrilled to see SMU host six professors from across the globe to discuss this topic this past weekend in McCord Auditorium. This year, the six featured researchers from the US and UK discussed the complex history of Islam across the Indian Subcontinent. They addressed how Islam changed and gave shape to courtly and spiritual life, both regionally and locally, including the influence of Persia on Indian Islam; the history of cities and forts; the success of Nawab Squander Begum, a Muslim ‘queen’ in Bhopal; and the importance of and innovation in art and music.  All of the presenters also discussed the history of scholarship on Indian Islam.  There were dynamic PowerPoint presentations that made this history come alive!

I always love attending these sorts of events, not just for educational benefit, but because it’s always exciting to meet other passionate researchers and writers in fields like Asian Studies, History, and Religious Studies.  They are always so eager and willing to talk about their work. When I entered Dallas Hall, the chatter and conversation coming from the third floor echoed down throughout the Rotunda! While our classes are fantastic at SMU, these sorts of events take it one step further and bring us students into the professional process of research beyond the University.  It provides us with the opportunity to gain inspiration for our own studies and to better understand the format of an official paper presentation. Further, the ability to meet professors and researchers from other institutions opens doors for students who are considering pursuing careers in academia.

Presenters and audience in conversation during one of the conference breaks

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