Historian Romila Thapar to lecture about academic freedom in India

Author: Liu Institute

Romila Thapar

Pre-eminent historian and public intellectual Romila Thapar will deliver the second annual Justice and Asia Distinguished Lecture by the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

The virtual event will take place through Zoom at 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time/8:30 p.m. India Standard Time. It is free and open to the public with registration at https://go.nd.edu/ed74ff

In a lecture titled “Writing History in Contemporary India,” Thapar will examine academic freedom in India, especially the divide between the academic writing of history and public perception. Drawing upon examples from various periods of Indian history, her lecture will discuss how history is used in political ideology. The event will be moderated by Neeta Verma, the Robert P. Sedlack, Jr. Associate Professor of Industrial Design and a Liu Institute faculty fellow.

“We are honored that Professor Romila Thapar will speak for our Justice and Asia Distinguished Lecture,” said Michel Hockx, director for the Liu Institute. “We urgently need voices like Professor Thapar's to guide our thinking about justice in its global context, as well as in a regionally Asian specificity.”  

Thapar is an emerita professor of ancient history at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Her principal area of study is ancient India, and she is regarded for her use of social-historical methods to understand change in the mid-first millennium BCE in northern India.

The author of From Lineage to State, Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, Early India: From Origins to AD 1300, and the popular History of India, Part I, Thapar has received honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, the University of Oxford, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Calcutta, the University of Hyderabad, Brown University, and the University of Pretoria.

She is an honorary fellow of SOAS University of London, where she received her Ph.D. in 1958, and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2008, Thapar received the U.S. Library of Congress’s Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

At 90 years old, Thapar remains an active scholar, lecturer, and public intellectual. 

Neeta Verma, the Robert P. Sedlack, Jr. Professor of Visual Communication Design and Liu Institute faculty fellow, will moderate the event.

The Justice and Asia Distinguished Lecture invites top scholars who examine the theme of justice in relation to Asia and with awareness of Asian cultures and traditions. The series is part of the Liu Institute’s organizing theme of “Justice and Asia” that examines and supports thematic work from a range of perspectives, projects, disciplines, and collaborations. The Justice and Asia Distinguished Lecture series launched in 2021 in an event with Professor Haiyan Lee of Stanford University.

The Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, provides integrated and multidisciplinary research and teaching on Asia. The Institute also promotes general awareness, understanding, and knowledge of Asia through public events and supporting student and faculty scholarship and engagement with partners in Asia. The Institute, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, was established in 2010 by a gift from the RM Liu Foundation that supports the philanthropic activities of Robert and Mimi Liu and their children, Emily and Justin, both Notre Dame graduates. 

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