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JMI organizes Prof. Gauri Viswanathan’s Lecture on “Animal Life and Alternative Religions in Nineteenth-Century Genealogies of Feminism”

JMI organizes Prof. Gauri Viswanathan's Lecture on “Animal Life and Alternative Religions in Nineteenth-Century Genealogies of Feminism” 1

The Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI),organized the sixth lecture of the Distinguished Lecture Series, “Animal Life and Alternative Religions in Nineteenth-Century Genealogies of Feminism” by Prof. Gauri Viswanathan, Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities and Former Director of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University, on Friday, 3rd September, 2021, 7:30-8:30 PM IST on Zoom. Supported by the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC), Ministry of Education, Government of India, the talk was organized as part of the ongoing academic collaboration with the Department of English and American Studies, University of Würzburg, Germany, and promises to be one in a line of successively pertinent lectures.

The talk was conducted by Ms. Shraddha A. Singh, Ms. Zahra Rizvi, and Ms. Suman Bhagchandani, Ph.D. scholars, Department of English, JMI, and was enthusiastically attended by a large crowd of scholars, students, and faculty from all over the world and across various time-zones.Prof. Simi Malhotra, H.o.D., Department of English, JMI, Indian PI, delivered the welcome address, greeting the invited speaker, faculty, scholars, and students.

She spoke about the talk as a part of the ongoing collaborative project between the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia and the Department of English and American Studies, University of Würzburg, on “New Terrains of Consciousness: Globalization, Sensory Environments and Local Cultures of Knowledge”, supported by the Ministry of Education’s initiative SPARC, “Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration” which aims to facilitate academic and research collaboration between higher education institutes in India and abroad.

She, then, introduced the esteemed speaker, Prof. Gauri Viswanathan, who was greeted by a round of applause. Through her lecture, Prof Viswanathan highlighted the role of alternative spiritual movements, such as theosophy, in the alignment of feminism with animal rights advocacy. She carefully laid out how the cause of antivivisection became a site for critiquing the hegemony of science and a subsequent appeal to women’s rights.

Prof Vishwanathan argued that 19th century women reformers such as Anna Kingsford and Frances Power Cobbe, made the sensation of pain a site of rights and social action. These antivivisectionists laid emphasis on suffering (and not reason) as the qualification of sentient being. In conclusion, the case against animal vivisection by alternative religions became a vital rallying point and brought about a conjuncture between animal rights and feminism.

This was followed by an engaging, in-depth Q/A session coordinated by Ms. Sakshi Dogra, Ph.D. Scholar, Department of English, JMI. The event was brought to an end with a Vote of Thanks by Ms. Saneya.To ensure a wide range of viewership and participation, the event was also live streamed on YouTube, and was attended by over a hundred participants.

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