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Benares Beginnings: Print Modernity, Book Entrepreneurs, and Cross-Cultural Ventures in a Colonial Metropolis

Ulrike Stark, University of Chicago

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 3:30pm
Allen Auditorum

Scholars of Indian book history have tended to privilege the study of texts, reading, and ideas over materiality and technology. In the focus on “print culture,” questions of global technology transfer, the circulation of material commodities, and the economics of book production have often been overlooked. Ulrike Stark (South Asian Languages & Civilizations, University of Chicago) explores the early decades of printing and publishing in Benares through the dual lens of textuality and technology.

The first part charts the activities of early European and Indian print entrepreneurs in the city. Stark argues that printing in Benares was more variegated than the conventional insistence on the city’s Hindu character might suggest. As new technologies opened up print to Indian agency, print also became a site of cross-cultural interaction between traditional pandits, Western-educated Indians, European Orientalists, and colonial officials.

The second part traces the rise of the famous Medical Hall Press, owned by E.J. Lazarus, a British surgeon-turned-publisher. Firmly embedded in a network of modern urban institutions, the Medical Hall Press successfully combined commerce and culture.

Ulrike Stark's research focuses on Hindi literature, South Asian book history and print culture, and North Indian intellectual history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She joined the Department in September 2005, having taught at the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg for over a decade. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Bamberg and received her Habilitation (German professorial qualification) at Heidelberg University in 2004.

Reception to follow in Gowen M218.

Presented as part of the "Histories and Futures of the Book" lecture series. Sponsored by the Department of Asian Languages and Literature, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and the South Asia Center.