Time Frames: A Workshop on Questioning Chronologies in South Asia's Pasts

The Department of History, Shiv Nadar University organized a two day workshop on pedagogy and history entitled Time Frames: Questioning Chronologies in South Asia's Pasts on February 24-25, 2017 where a group of scholars from history, archaeology and anthropology surveyed and interrogated the chronological frames that have been used to study and teach Indian pasts.

This workshop sought to use chronology as a frame to understand questions of pedagogy and the past. Frameworks of chronology are integral to the disciplines of archaeology and history. But scholarship has also acquired a sense of unease about many of the chronological markers that we commonly use to think about the past.

The discipline of history emerged with colonial modernity, and this inheritance has shaped our disciplinary orientations. Syllabi in university departments across the country continue to be framed in response to nationalist imperatives and regional imaginings of the past, despite the spaces of exclusion that persist in such official narratives. Speakers at the workshop attempted to grapple with the question: How can we teach and write histories that attempt to cover the widest geographical and chronological arc, without ignoring the individualized, the local and the particular?

Textbooks and chronological surveys commonly use the periodizations of ancient, medieval and modern. Dividing the past into such discrete units of analysis has led to a situation where scholars retreat into ever smaller enclaves of specialization. How do we enable greater conversations between scholars studying the past and their different specializations? How do we cross over chronological boundaries? Each presentation was framed in response to a particular problematic: in relation to a text, a context, a region, or source where such issues occur. Central to this workshop was the question of pedagogy, the time-frames that we use in curricula, as well as in conversations with a larger public.