Intensive seminar with Veena Das

A three-day intensive seminar with anthropologist Veena Das

Speaker: Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University
Date and Time: 25th -27th March, 2019, 13:00-16:00 each day
Location: University of Pardubice, Historical Building, Legií Square.  (

Everyone is welcome and participation is free. There will be a reception at the Historical Building on 25 March, as well as dinner at local restaurants each night of the seminar.

We ask that you register by 11 March by emailing Joe Wiinikka-Lydon<>. In your email, please let us know if you plan to attend any of the dinners. Attendees will need to pay for their own meals. Please direct any questions to Dr. Wiinikka-Lydon.

Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University in the United States. Her research covers a range of fields. She is passionately interested in the question of how ethnography generates concepts; how we might treat philosophical and literary traditions from India and other regions as generative of theoretical and practical understanding of the world; how to render the texture and contours of everyday life; and the way everyday and the event are joined together in the making of the normal and the critical. Her work on collective violence and urban transformations has appeared in many anthologies. Her most recent books are Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (2007) Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty (2015) and three co-edited volumes, The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy (2014), Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium (2015) andPolitics of the Urban Poor (forthcoming). Her graduate students are working on a number of issues in different parts of the world and her work is deeply informed by her heady interactions with them. For more information, please click here<>.

Seminar overview:
March 25: Ethics, Moral Subjectivity, and Life Taken as a Whole
What is the relation between ethical action and life lived as a whole? Rather than thinking of ethics as embedded in individual action that stands in a discrete relation to lived life, I argue that the braided nature of the relation between first-person, second-person and third-person invites us to think of the difference between contexualism and relativism as it pertains to ethical sensibility and difficulty of reality. Taking my examples from both, long time ethnography among urban Indian families and literary texts, this paper considers the complex relation between durability of relations and the ephemerality of moments that get woven into the texture of everyday life.

March 26: Inordinate Knowledge
In his brilliant characterization of what he considers to be “inordinate knowledge”, Stanley Cavell describes it as “excessive in its expression” and contrasts it with knowledge that is mere or bare or pale or intellectualized, uninsistent, inattentive, distracted, filed, archived. As I understand it, the adjectives he uses point to a region of knowledge within which the subject has yet to discover which aspects of knowledge matter to her and where her attachments lie.  I present two case studies of catastrophic events and their folding into everyday life from two different contexts with a view to asking how moral subjectivity is produced within a relational matrix in which obligations to the dead are constructed through different rhythms of   revealing and concealing.

March 27: Commonality and Particularity in Ethical Life
On this lecture, I explore an idea that underlies the discussion of morality in many Hindu and Jain texts – viz., that ethical life in general is impossible (a strong formulation) or is extremely difficult (a somewhat weaker formulation.) Could one then ask if ethics are always particular? What is the grammar of the particular in ethical action? I suggest that the notion of descent rather than an ascent into the higher realms provides one way to think of ethical life that is based less on the ability to judge actions and more on the ability to acknowledge and endure the difficulty of reality.