Author Archives: Gary Hausman

Medicine, Religion and Alchemy in South India (Siddha conference)

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference on Medicine, Religion and Alchemy in South India: Resources and Permutations of Siddha Traditions and Siddha Medicine that convened at Tübingen University, Germany, 25-27 July 2019. The conference brought together scholars from Austria, France, Germany, India, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States who met in Hohentübingen Castle to discuss developing research in Siddha traditions.

Tubingen, Germany

View of Tübingen from Hohentübingen Castle

The conference was divided into four panels. Panel 1: Siddha Essentials, Essences included a paper by V. Sujatha (a sociologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India) on medical syncretism in contemporary Siddha; a paper by Brigitte Sébastia (from the French Institute of Pondicherry) on a Siddha manuscripts Endangered Archives Programme archival preservation project; and a paper by T. Dharmaraj (from the Cultural Studies Department at Madurai Kamaraj University) on Tamil Buddhism as practiced by Dalits.

Boat ride in Tübingen

Siddha conference participants

Panel 2 focused on Colonial Transformations, and included a paper by Christèle Barois (an Indologist from the University of Vienna) on the Usman Report as a resource for Siddha medicine; a paper by D.V. Kanagarathinam (a historian from Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India) on the historical emergence of Siddha as a distinctly identified medical ‘system’; and a paper by Gary Hausman (South Asian Studies Librarian, Columbia University) on the history of Siddha clinical and pharmaceutical research in 20th century Madras State, India. The report by Christèle Barois is of special interest for librarians; volume two of the Report of the Committee on Indigenous Systems of Medicine, Madras (1923) which consists of original testimony of indigenous Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani practitioners in multiple vernacular South Asian languages and scripts is being translated under an ERC-funded Ayuryog Project: Entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South India, and will be published Open Access online in the near future (2020).

Brahmananda Swamigal, Siddha expert, Coimbatore

Panel 3 of the conference was on Alchemy and Medicine, and included a paper by Ilona Kędzia (Tamil/Sanskrit Lecturer at Universität Hamburg) on textual references to alchemical medicine in the works of Siddhar Yākōpu; a paper by Justus Weiß (University of Tübingen) on an ethnographic study of plant life forces (muligaikappu) in the Siddha cosmos and pharmacology; and a paper by Roman Sieler (University of Tübingen) on the role of mercury in Siddha medicines. Tamil Siddha texts are often composed in an esoteric parīpāṣai (‘twilight language’) with coded, hidden meanings, so such ethnographically informed textual research is especially important.

Kavadi dancers, Palani, India

Kavadi Dancers, Palani Temple

Panel 4 of the conference, on Religion, included a feminist engagement by Kanchana Natarajan (Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi) on Siddha views of women with positive connotations (e.g., the goddess Valai as first generative principle) as well as negative views; a paper by Nina Rageth (Department of Religious Studies, Universität  Zürich) on “Kaya Kalpa Yoga,” a specific technique of a Hindu Guru organization in Coimbatore district, India based on traditional Tamil rejuvenation practices (kāyakaṟpam); and a paper by Layne R. Little (Religious Studies, University of California Davis) on narratives of commodification and cultural loss relating to the navapashanam (“nine poisons”) icon of the god Murugan reputed to be secreted away  in the Palani Murugan Temple, India.

Kudos to Universität Tübingen, and the main organizer Roman Sieler, for a most intellectually stimulating conference.

South & Southeast Asia Columbia Libraries Newsletter Launched

The first issue of a South & Southeast Asia, Columbia University Libraries Newsletter has been launched. Those interested in subscribing to future newsletter mailings, and in viewing archived newsletters, can visit the following link. The newsletter will provide periodic updates of South/Southeast Asia library acquisitions and developments at Columbia University Libraries.

Joel Larus Book Fund Established at Columbia University

This year, South Asia collection development at Columbia University was enriched by a new charitable book fund, for acquiring materials related to India’s foreign policy following independence, including issues of national security and maritime affairs. The Joel Larus Book Fund is being distributed from the Community Fund of Sarasota County on an annual basis. Joel Larus is a political science specialist with South Asia expertise, and a Columbia University alumnus (Ph.D., 1960).  We are grateful to Joel Larus for his contributions to the Columbia University library collections.

SAMP Open Archives Initiative

Columbia University is one of 23 institutions that has joined the South Asia Materials Project Open Archives Initiative. The SAMP Open Archives Initiative will create and maintain a collection of open archives materials in all academic disciplines for the study of South Asia. For more details, see the SAMP OAi business plan.

The SAMP OAi has a position opening for a Program Coordinator. Applicants should preferably have either an MLIS degree or an advanced degree in Asian Studies.

Ethnographic Video Online–Volume 3 added

Columbia University Libraries access to Ethnographic Video Online has been expanded to Volume III, which emphasizes indigenous issues and perspectives, with much content created by indigenous film makers. Volume III currently contains nearly 100 hours of content and footage from the Oceanic regions of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. The collection will continue to expand with films from Australia, the Americas, Africa and Asia. Volume III complements the video material already available in Volume I and Volume II.

Afghan Titles Available in Microfilm Format

A collection of materials originally published in Afghanistan has been preserved in microfilm format, and is available for lending from CRL (the Center for Research Libraries). MEMP (Middle East Materials Project) and SAMP (South Asia Materials Project) contributed funds to preserve these materials from the Library of Congress–Islamabad office. (Columbia is a member of both organizations) These materials include holdings from 1924 through 2010 and cover the last years of the monarchy’s rule in Afghanistan, civil war, foreign invasion, and the rule of the Taliban.  The collection of materials includes general newspapers, cultural periodicals, and the publications of organizations as diverse as the Lawyers Association, trade unions, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Information and Culture.  The titles were published in a variety of cities in Afghanistan and are written in Pushto, Persian, and Dari.

CEIC India Enhanced Datasets

Web CEIC Data Manager is a subscription database of economic, financial and  industrial time-series indicators that covers over 117 countries and regions. It is available to Columbia University affiliates by online access.

CEIC chart on declining public sector undertaking in pharmaceutical sector

From CEIC dataset on India’s pharmaceutical sector

The India Premium module of CEIC has been expanded with enhanced datasets on India’s pharmaceutical sector including: detailed sector-wise operational indicator statistics; detailed breakdowns looking at the performance of six state-owned public sector pharmaceutical companies relative to the overall industry; data for assessing growth prospects of the pharmaceutical sector in relation to the availability of tertiary education courses; enhanced data series on the maximum sale price of prescription drugs set by regulatory policy; and related statistics on the monitoring and enforcement of this price ceiling, with cases of overcharging. These statistical datasets make it possible for users to evaluate the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in the Indian economy.

Other new data series in the CEIC Indian Premium Database include enhanced chemical and petrochemical statistics, expanded tourism statistics, expanded cement statistics, enhanced foreign trade statistics, enhanced metal and steel statistics, and enhanced transportation, post and telecom statistics.

Himalayan Times Archive (1947-1963)

A digital archive of the Himalayan Times, an English language newspaper published in Kalimpong, India is available from Heidelberger historische Bestände — Digital for the years 1949-1963. The newspaper provides historical material on social and political developments in the Eastern Himalayas after World War II.

5th South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshop

Columbia University participated in the 5th annual Cooperative Collection Development Workshop for South Asian Resources on October 17th, 2014, in Madison Wisconsin.

Overview of previous workshops:
At the 1st Cooperative Collection Development Workshop in 2010, 20 participants focused on monographic subject profiles for materials received from the Library of Congress Delhi office. 52 profile categories were decreased so as to free up funds to commit to 186 additional categories. The main focus of the new categories was on lesser covered subjects nationwide. Columbia specific deletions in 2010 included several English, Bengali, and Nepali language subjects. Columbia specific additions included a range of subjects including Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Manipuri, Marathi, Panjabi, Sanskrit, and Tamil languages.

The 2nd Cooperative Collection Development Workshop was held in 2011, and focused on serial literature profiles. There were 19 participants. Based on a detailed comparison of highly subscribed and lesser subscribed serials, it was discovered that of the slightly more than 4700 serial titles offered by the Library of Congress Cooperative Acquisitions, less than 10% of the titles were held by 10 or more institutions, and almost 70% of the titles were subscribed by five or fewer institutions. The goal of the workshop was to effect a 10% reduction (in number of titles) in each member’s serials subscription, and to increase by a 5% addition of new titles starting with the next serial renewal cycle.

The 3rd Cooperative Collection Development Workshop, in 2012, focused on local specialization of collections. 18 institutions committed to collect in specialized areas that simultaneously support local needs and contribute uniquely to the national collection. As an outcome of this workshop, Columbia committed to collecting art catalogs from South Asia.

The 4th Cooperative Collection Development Workshop, in 2013, focused on the theme of how to communicate the success, value, and impact of cooperative collection development to external groups including faculty, administrators, and the broader library community. The workshop included two in depth presentations on comic books collections and on diasporic Jewish materials, and a working group was created to draft a vision statement for the collective.

The 5th Annual South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshop focused on the theme of collection assessment and promotion, and revisited SACAP monographic profiles to examine continued overlap and specialization and to identify possibilities for collaboration. For purposes of the workshop, participants divided into “regional groupings” (SAC-East/Borrow Direct, SAC-West, and CIC) and into “affinity area” groups. (Affinity areas include a) language materials, b) subjects, c) geographic regions, d) miscellaneous including formats). Discussion was based on updated 2014 spreadsheets including data on participant costs and data based on region and subject affinities. There was also discussion devoted to collection assessment tools, such as OCLC WorldShare Collection Evaluation’s expert mode features.

More details of all five workshops are available at the South Asian Cooperation website.