Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Delhi Branch Office



Exhibition 'Flooded with Memories: Portraits of Inundation from Assam' by Kazu Ahmed, Siddharta Hall, MMB 3-5 March 2011

Annual inundations are fascinating natural phenomena. While their sheer power invokes fear, one cannot help being awed at the same time. It is associated with loss and disappearance of land, lives, histories and civilisations. In places where identities are so closely associated with land, it is hard to imagine the extent of that loss. Yet, however depressing as it may seem, lives carry on and coexist with the water that builds and destroys, provides and deprives.

 © Kazu Ahmed 2008

Matmora, where these photos have been taken, has long been lost in the depths of the Brahmaputra. An educational, cultural and historical centre, once synonymous with the identity of the Mising people of Assam, the village has all but completely disappeared, leaving nothing but its memory in the swirling waters of the Brahmaputra during the inundations. While the land is gone, the people continue to survive, and need an identity to hold on to an identity that enables them to associate with Matmora. An embankment hitherto nameless has been rechristened as the village and become home for the people of Matmora.

Taken in 2008, these images are portraits of an existence around that memory.

Kazimuddin (Kazu) Ahmed is an anthropologist and a media practitioner presently working with IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature in New Delhi, India. He was previously with Panos South Asia working on projects to communicate research and boost community based communication initiatives. His research interests are in the subjects of migration, borders, resources and identities, and he worked in the environment, development media and research sectors for many years. With a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology of Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, Kazu is also a photographer and is involved in documentary film-making.

Kazu Ahmed's series of photographies is on display in the context of the Workshop 'The Transculturality of Historical Disasters: Governance and the Materialisation of Glocalisation' organised by Heidelberg University's Cluster 'Asia and Europe in a Global Context' in collaboration with Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi.

Posted on 26 Feb 2011
Keynote Lecture 'Sublime aftershocks: Sociological reason in the aftermath of an earthquake in Gujarat, western India', 3rd March 2011, MMB
Thursday, 3rd March 2011, 6 pm

Siddharta Hall

Max Mueller Bhavan

Dr. Edward Simpson                                 


Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

School of Oriental and African Studies

University of London

This lecture is the keynote to the workshop 'The transculturality  of historical disasters: Governance and the materialisation of glocalisation' organised by the Junior Research Group 'Cultures of Disaster' in cooperation with the Cluster Liaison Office and Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi.


An earthquake is a distinct kind of catastrophe, which history, comparative literature and the ethnography from Gujarat suggests demands particular kinds of explanation. Such explanations are typically organised around the theme of sin, as well as other provocations of the divine order of the gods. Unlike situations of mass violence, the blame for disaster is not projected outwards onto ‘others’ but inwards on one’s ‘self’. To blame others would be to grant power and legitimacy to their gods. In this lecture, I examine the structures of the blame narratives found in Gujarat. I conclude: there are significant similarities in the ways people of different religions cast blame and attribute agency in the region. Secondly, those affected by the disaster use social memory as a form of collective reason to explain the catastrophe; as they do so, they render the extraordinary ordinary. Finally, the cleavages and ruptures evident in such explanations strongly resemble those that make society itself and, therefore, explanations can in fact be seen as attempts at understanding the experience of living through a disaster.

About the speaker:

Edward Simpson is senior lecturer in social anthropology at the Centre for South Asian Studies, SOAS in London. He is interested in the anthropologies of history, religion, and natural disaster in India. He is reviews editor for the journal Contemporary South Asia and co-editor of a book series called Society and History in the Indian Ocean, published jointly with Hurst and Columbia University Press.

Posted on 25 Feb 2011
Workshop 'The Transculturality of Historical Disasters: Governance and the Materialisation of Glocalisation', March 3-5, MMB

The third and concluding workshop of A6, “Cultures of Disaster”, addresses the transculturality of historical ‘natural’ disasters in South Asia, from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century.

In line with the two previous workshops “Hybridity of Historical Disasters: Nature, Society, and Power” (Beirut, March 2010) and “Learning from Disaster from Antiquity to Early Modern Times: Knowledge and Experience, Flow and Blockage” (Heidelberg, December 2009), the upcoming workshop addresses the relationship between nature and society in Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia in a comparative and transcultural historical perspective.

Please see our programme flyer and abstracts below for further information.



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Posted on 25 Feb 2011

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