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Date(s) - 03/11/2023
All Day

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Call for Papers

International Conference on

‘In the cause of literature and science’: Learned societies in colonial India

This conference investigates the learned societies of colonial India as a site of knowledge production and dissemination. A wide range of such institutions were established in the 19th and early 20th centuries, aiming at the formation and communication of useful knowledge. The Presidency towns led the way. The Asiatic Society of Bengal was founded in 1784, the Literary Society of Bombay (the precursor of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai) was formed in 1804, and the Madras Literary Society was founded in 1817. Significantly, all three of these societies predated the establishment of the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1823. Over time, other urban centres started up learned societies, for example, the Gujarati Vernacular Society (Ahmedabad, 1848), Anjuman-e-Punjab (Lahore, 1865), the Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha (Dharwad, 1890, the Utkal Sahitya Samaj (Cuttack, 1903), and the Assam Sahitya Sabha (Jorhat, 1917). Although the work of some of the larger societies have not passed unnoticed by scholars they have usually only been cherry-picked for what they tell us about the ‘Bengal renaissance’, or the origins of sociology in India, or the varieties of ‘orientalism’. A fuller understanding of these societies and their role in the formation of colonial modernity in Victorian India is not yet available.

Contributions of short research papers are invited for this conference. It is scheduled to be held at IIAS, Shimla, India, tentatively on 3-5 November 2023. Topics might include individual societies and their publications and activities; colonial print culture in English and Indian vernaculars; scientific knowledge production in colonial India, especially agriculture, medicine, engineering, natural history, literature, philosophy, religion, linguistics, archaeology, geography, economics; the connections between learned societies and political, social and religious movements.

If you are interested in contributing to this conference please submit a synopsis of 250 words and a short CV to and kindly copy your mail to by 15 July 2023. Successful applications will be notified by 30 July 2023. Travel and accommodation expenses will be covered for all participants as per government regulations. The IIAS will publish the papers of the conference.

Click here for the conference concept note.