Re (Visiting) History, Nation and Culture through Autobiography, Biography and Memoirs

National Conference


Re (Visiting) History, Nation and Culture through

Autobiography, Biography and Memoirs

12-13 January, 2018

Sponsored by ICHR, a two-day National Conference on “Re (Visiting) History, Nation and Culture through Autobiography, Biography and Memoirs” was organised on 12-13 January, 2018 by the Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The IIS University, Jaipur with the following objectives:

  • To contest and debate the conventional patterns of reading the non-conventional literary sources
  • To explore whether such writing, that are the products of memories, feelings and emotions can be read as significant texts of history in the light of new literary and cultural theories
  • To debate on the emerging trends, challenges and modern approaches in reading the narratives 

            The conference comprised of eight sessions of which the last session was conducted in three parallel sessions. A total of 131 delegates from across different states participated in the conference and 59 papers were presented in various sessions. The resource persons participating in the Conference came from renowned institutes like Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi; SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai; Central University of Gujarat, Gujarat; Amity University, Rajasthan and St. Xavier’s College Jaipur.

A brief report on the proceedings and discussions during the conference is as follows:


The Inaugural Session of the conference began with lamp lighting by Dr. Giles Tillotson, Dr. Ashok Gupta, Dr. Raakhi Gupta, Dr. N.K. Jain, Dr. Sharad Rathore, Conference Secretary and Dr. Sucharita Sharma, Organizing Secretary followed by Saraswati Vandana. This was followed by a welcome note by Dr. Ashok Gupta, Honourable Vice Chancellor, The IIS University, Jaipur, who extended his hearty welcome to all the delegates, invited speakers, scholars, and resource persons who had gathered to discuss various nuances on history, nation and culture. He acknowledged the presence of the delegates from Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi, which imparted a pan-India flavour to the conference. He expressed his gratitude on behalf of The IIS University for being chosen by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to organize the Conference at such grand level.  He expressed his confidence that the deliberations at the conference will help us in debating the conventional patterns and examining whether non-conventional writing can be read as historically significant texts in light of new theories.

Dr. N.K Jain, Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences faculty presented the aims of the Conference, which was the examination of History and its relationship with some aspects of English Literature within the wider context of History. He stated that the History, today, is not merely a chronological account of wars fought by the kings but includes almost all aspects of the lives of people along with the evolution of society, economic life, cultural history and philosophical literary tradition. He concluded with the hope that the conference would be a fruitful endeavour to deliberate on the issues.

            The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Giles Tillotson, Consultant Director, FOR Research Publications and Exhibitions at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in The City Palace at Jaipur. In his address, he discussed his study on the Memories and Diaries through which he has researched about the cultural milieu during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II. He also discussed his study on the pamphlets on the history of Rajasthan. 

The vote of thanks was delivered by the Conference Secretary, Dr. Sharad Rathore, wherein she expressed a token of gratitude to Dr. Ashok Gupta, Dr. Raakhi Gupta, Dr. N.K. Jain, Prof. Dilbagh Singh, Dr. V.K. Vashisht, Dr. Sucharita Sharma for their guidance and planning in the organisation of this conference. She also acknowledged the efforts and cooperation of research scholars, technical and support staff and media in the successful organisation of this Conference.

            The opening session of the Conference was followed by a half-an-hour break for High Tea, after which the second session of the Conference was conducted.


Session II: History through Non-Conventional Literary Sources

            The theme of the second session was “History through Non-conventional Literary Sources” and was chaired by Dr. V.K Vashishtha, Former Professor, MDS University, Ajmer. The speakers for this session were Dr. U.C. Chaudhary from the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur and Dr. Balaji Ranganathan from the Central University of Gujarat, Gujarat.

The research paper of Dr. Chaudhary was on, ‘Autobiography as a source of Modern Indian History’ under which he examined the autobiographies of Jawaharlal Nehru and M.K. Gandhi as highly informative sources of Indian History. Dr. Ranganathan presented a paper on, ‘Revisioning History: Constructing the Past and literary Sources’, wherein he examined the idea and the role of the source within history and the validity of the literary sources within the historical process. In this regard, he highlighted the importance of archival and private sources on the basis of two memoirs on the revolt of 1857 namely, the ‘Magistrate of Agra’ and ‘Majha pravas’.

            Paper presentations were made by the faculties from across various institutions in Jaipur, Dausa and Haryana on topics ranging from History, to History and Literary Criticism and Autobiographical Narratives. They involved the scholarly and enriching studies as ‘Jorasankar Dhare:  The Autobiography of Rabindranath Tagore as a Mode of Artist’s Self Portrayal’ by Dr. Neelima Vashishtha, formerly at UOR, Jaipur; ‘History and Literary Criticism: Reconstructing a More Responsible History’ by Dr. Dev Vrat Sharma from Government Arts College, Dausa; ‘A Study of the Pain of Three Generations of Australian Aboriginals in Sally Morgon’s Autobiography My Place by Dr. Shruti Rawal’ from The IIS University, Jaipur. Other papers included studies titled as ‘The Autobiographical Person’ in Thomas Roe’s Journal: Early Modern Diplomacy and Transculturality’ by Dr. Abhimanyu S Arha from University of Rajasthan, Jaipur and the ‘History vis-à-vis literature: Postmodern Historical and Literacy Theory’ by Dr. Sarita Prabhakar from the Govt. College Jaipur.

Session III: Revisiting History through Memoirs

The sub-theme for the session was “Revisiting History through Memoirs”. The session was chaired by Dr. Sanjukta Das Gupta, Former Professor from University of Calcutta, Calcutta and the speakers for the session were Dr. Sangeeta Sharma from University of Rajasthan, Jaipur and Dr. Ameena Kazi Ansari from Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi.

Dr. Sangeeta Sharma presented a paper on ‘Exploring an Alternative Discourse on Partition (Voices of Sikh Migration in Jaipur)’ which enumerated various advantages and disadvantages of oral history methodology and analyzed the colossal loss of identity and space. Yet, it was reiterated that they are not just morbid narratives of revenge and hate but of hope, determination and enterprise of the Sikh community. Dr. Ansari’s paper was on ‘The Art(e) Facts of History: Re-Looking Partition in Aanchal Malhotra’s Remnants of a Separation’. Through the work of Aanchal Malhotra, this paper examined the role and significance of personal memory in constructing the history of nation and people. It highlighted how the personal memory evoked by object/artefact is not only symbolic of the earlier existence of refugees, but also their resilience and resurgence.

Faculty papers presentations expounded on several memoirs from across Kashmir, Rajasthan and U.S.A. They included ’Cultural Life of Rajasthan as Delineated in the Travelogue of Louis Rosselet’ by Dr. Vinita Parihar from JNV University, Jodhpur; ‘The Tiger Ladies: A memoir of Kashmir’ by Dr. Dilruba Rasool from GDC (Boys) Anantnag, J&K; ‘Sri Indradatta swadheen ke sansmaron mein swatantrata sangharsh by Dr. Archana Dwivedi from Govt. P.G. College, Jhalawar; and ‘A Re-Reading of Steve Jobs through Historical Lens: An Insight into the Evolution of Technology’ by Dr. Divya Walia, Freelance Academic Editor at Uvocorp.


Session IV: Reconstructing History through Biography

            The fourth session was conducted on the sub-theme of ‘Reconstructing History through Biography’ chaired by Dr. Ameena Kazi Ansari, Professor of English Literature at Jamia Millia Islamia. The session witnessed an enlightening talk by Dr. Malashri Lal, Former Professor of Literature and Women & Gender Studies at the University of Delhi. Her talk, titled ‘Oral Autobiography & Women’s History: Glimpses of Chamba, Himachal’, focused on the construct and understanding of women’s issues and culture in the Chamba region. It raised some crucial questions pertaining to the correct ways to approach the historical literature orally collected from these women and its instrumentality in conducting research about the past, present, and future of the female community.

            The session also included informative paper presentations on a variety of topics, ranging from Russian disintegration to Black oppression to the city of Jaipur itself. These were ‘Multiple Narratives of History: Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-Hand Time’ by Dr. Rama Hirawat from Subodh Boys’ PG College, Jaipur, ‘Insertion or Omission: Capturing Historical Consciousnesses in Wright’s Black Boy’ by Dr. Bhumika Sharma from the Central University of Rajasthan, Ajmer, ‘Preserving Truth: Biography of  Sunity Choudhuri’ by Dr. Manjula Jagatramka, an independent researcher from Mumbai, and ‘The Making of Jaipur City and its Cultural Life Through the Biography of Sawai Jai Singh of Amer’ by Monisha Raj Soyal of The IIS University, Jaipur.


Session V: Formation of Nation and the Role of Memory

The theme for the fifth session was, ‘Formation of Nation and the Role of Memory’ and was chaired by Dr. Manishri Lal, Former Professor from the University of Delhi while the resource persons for the session were Dr. Arvind Sinha from JNU, New Delhi and Dr. V.K. Vashishtha from MDS University.

Dr. Sinha presented a paper titled as, ‘A French account of the weaving industry of the Eighteenth Century: Legous De Flaix on the Coromandel Textiles’ in which he had examined the account presented by the military engineer Legous De Flaix as a valuable source of historical value to examine the economic history of the early modern India. His study provided a unique account of the ways in which an engineering mind provided a number of unknown aspects of Indian textiles and highlighted the ways in which memoirs serves as a useful primary source of history because the kind of information provided by them cannot be explored from any other source. Dr. Vashishtha’s paper with the title, ‘Maratha Soldiers’ talked about the camp life and society in Rajputana Status as revealed from the Travelogue of T.D Broughton, 1808-1810’. In this paper, he presented a study on the reflections of the Broughton on the social life of the Rajputana in early 19th century in the context of caste and communities, festivals celebrated by the Hindus and Muslims and the camp life of the Maratha soldiers through the travelogue of Thomas Duer Broughton.

The papers of the faculty presented during the session included ‘Historicizing Memory: Reading The Prisons We Broke as Socio-biography’ by Pratibha Biswas; ‘Revisiting Past through memory: Analyzing The Foot Prints of Partition’ by Anam Zakari presented by Dr. Namita Singh; ‘On the Hill Tracks and Side Trails: Reading Parimal Bhattacharya as an Alternative History of Darjeeling’ by Dr. Somdatta Bhattacharya and ‘Sister Nivedita: Inclusions and exclusions in History-A hypothetical study’ by Chanda Asani. 


Session VI: Panel Discussion on History and Non-Conventional Literary Sources

The sixth session of the Conference was a session of discussion on History and Non-Conventional Literary Sources. The session was moderated by Dr. Rima Hooja, Director, Library, Archives & Research, MSMS II Museum City Palace, Jaipur while the speakers on the panel for discussion included Dr. Arvind Sinha, Former Professor, Dept. of History, JNU, New Delhi; Dr Neelima Vashishtha, Former Associate Professor, Dept. of Fine Arts & Paintings UOR Jaipur; Dr. Balaji Ranganathan, Chairperson, Center for Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, Central University of Gujarat, Gujarat and Dr. Santosh Gupta, Former Head, Dept. of English, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

Dr Ahuja began the session by explaining that how one views disciplines, constructs the way one looks at the world. She also threw some light on what an accurate account is, which is remembered on the basis of something that influences us. The first speaker Dr. Sinha defined history as not simply the study of humans, but also the study of non-human entities. It could be studied in two ways- speculative and deductive through various sources, the nature of which varies from one region to another. Dr. Vashishtha, the second speaker suggested the need of corroboration for all facts like autobiographies, memoirs and biographies so that they are not misleading. Third speaker Dr Ranganathan also reiterated the idea of corroboration and suggested the need to focus on accuracy when looking at various sources whether related to History or Archaeology. The final speaker, Dr Gupta examined the significance of non-conventional sources like autobiographies, letters written by people in the light of controversies and other oral narratives. Thus, the panel suggested that these non-conventional sources should not be taken as actual evidences, without corroboration of facts and examination of their accuracy.


Session VII: Autobiography and Discourses on Culture and Society

The theme for the seventh session was, ‘Autobiography and Discourses on Culture and Society’ and was chaired by Dr. Arvind Sinha from JNU, New Delhi and the resource person for the session was Dr. Sanjukta Das Gupta from the University of Calcutta, Calcutta.

 Dr. Gupta’s paper titled ‘Colonial India, Gender and Identity: Reading Amar Jiban (My Life) 1876, The First Autobiography by an Indian Woman’ critiqued this text in the perspective of women’s lives in Colonial India, particularly the colonial Bengal. This text was a first step taken by a Bengali woman from a village in East Bengal in enabling the stifled female voices to be heard.

The faculty paper presentations undertaken during this session included papers with the title of, ‘An Autobiography by Nehru as a document of History’ by Dr. Nighat Fatima; ‘History, Truth and Literature: A reading of the Dalit Women’s Autobiographies by Putul Sathe; ‘Kanhade Prabandh mein varnit Sanskrit upadan’ by Dr. Pranav Dev; ‘Constituting social discourse through autobiographical narratives’ by Dr. Ravi Bhushan; ‘Resisting Racial Refinement In Australia: A Study of I’m not Racist, But…’ by Ruchi Sharma; ‘Revisiting National and Culture through the Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru and the lectures of Sun Yat-Sen’ by Dr. Etee Bahadur.


Session VIII

The eighth and the last session of the Conference was conducted in three parallel sessions and served as a useful platform for the students and scholars to present their papers on the subject of the Conference. In this regard, Session ‘A’ was chaired by Dr. Putul Sathe, Associate Professor, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai involved discussion of scholarly papers on the theme of ‘Autobiography and History’, wherein research papers were presented that majorly dealt with women issues, journalism and freedom through the autobiographies. Session ‘B’ was chaired by Dr Vinita Parihar, Professor JNVU, Jodhpur in which papers on the theme of ‘Biography and History’ were discussed. Session ‘C’ was chaired by Dr. Dev Vrat Sharma, Associate Professor, Govt. College, Dausa and involved a discussion on the theme of ‘Socio-Cultural Discourses and Memoirs’. In all three Parallel Sessions, 25 papers were presented by research scholars and students.

Valedictory Session

The Valedictory Session marked the closure of the two day National Conference. The session started with the experience sharing by the delegates. Prof Arvind Sinha (JNU), Radha Devi (Janmmu and Kashmir), Muneer Ahmad Malik (AMU) AND Nilanjana Ghoshal (IIT, Hyderabad) deliberated upon the issues raised and complimented the organizers for the event. This was followed by a formal Vote of Thanks by the Organizing Secretary, Dr Sucharita Sharma.