Friday, March 30, 2012

Danna Agmon Breakfast Seminar 4/13

Please join us for our last event of the 2012 spring semester on Friday, April 13: a breakfast seminar with Danna Agmon (History, Virginia Tech). We begin at 9 AM in Rome 771 (801 22nd St. NW). Breakfast will be served.

Her paper is pre-circulated; please RSVP to me [] and I will send you a copy. A brief bio and abstract are below.

Paper title:
Striking Pondichéry: Religious Disputes and French Authority
in an Indian Colony of the Ancien Régime

The French colony of Pondichéry, India, was roiled by religious struggles early in the eighteenth century. Colonial French authorities repeatedly attempted to restrict the practice of Hinduism in the town, and local laborers, artisans, and merchants responded with recurring work stoppages in 1701-1715. Again and again, Tamil workers emerged from these conflicts with the upper hand, as the strikes resulted in near-complete French capitulation and a removal of the religious restrictions. This article demonstrates that the administrators of the Compagnie des Indes and French Jesuits in Pondichéry could not agree on how to address the workers' demands to practice their religion in the Catholic-ruled town. Fundamental conflicts between Company officials and missionaries about the priorities of colonial rule, coupled with a strong corporate local labor system, allowed native actors a surprising measure of control over the development of this Indian Ocean colony and posed a significant challenge to French authority.

Danna Agmon received her PhD in History and Anthropology from the University of Michigan in 2011. In the fall of 2012 she will join the faculty of the History department at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include French empire in the Indian Ocean, the intersection of early modern commerce and religion, and the mediation of cultural encounters. Her book manuscript, "An Uneasy Alliance: Traders, Missionaries and Tamil Intermediaries in Eighteenth-Century French India", reveals how French officials, traders and missionaries in the colony of Pondichérry, India, relied on a cadre of Tamil men employed as commercial brokers and religious interpreters. Her research has been supported by a Bourse Chateaubriand Sciences Humaines et Sociales, the Council of European Studies, and the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. In 2008-2009 she was a fellow at the University of Michigan's Institute for the Humanities, and in 2010 she was a junior fellow of the International Society of Eighteenth Century Studies.

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