The scientific career of an Indian monarch who embodied the European Enlightenment will be the subject of the 2012 Five College Jack Pritzen Lecture by Mount Holyoke professor Indira Viswanathan Peterson on March 29 at Mount Holyoke College.
"Scientific Dialogues in Colonial India: King Serfoji II and the European Enlightenment" will be presented at 4:30 p.m. in Mount Holyoke's Dwight Hall, Room 101. Admission is free and open to the public.
Professor Peterson will explore an important aspect of the life of a maharaja educated by German missionaries, who established modern schools, new forms of art, a center for medical research, and a printing press for Indian languages in the early 19th century.
"The scientific career of Serfoji II strikingly illuminates the dynamic participation of Asian sites and individuals in the global and circulatory histories of the production of modern knowledge," said Peterson. Peterson will examine Serfoji II's initiatives in botany, astronomy, natural history, and medicine, highlighting how Serfoji's practice of science was both a product of the Enlightenment and unique to the king and his culture.
Indira Viswanathan Peterson is the David B. Truman Professor of Asian Studies at Mount Holyoke College and a Five College 40th Anniversary Professor. She has a B.A. in English literature from Bombay University, and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard University.
Peterson's publications include the just-completed Serfoji II biography Scholar-king of Tanjore: Serfoji II and the Shaping of Indian Modernity
as well as The Great Temple at Thanjavur: A Thousand Years, 1010 - 2010
(with George Michell, 2010) and Design and Rhetoric in a Sanskrit Court Epic: The Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi
(2003). She has held a number of research fellowships, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, American Institute for Indian Studies, Social Science Research Council, and Rockefeller Foundation.
Peterson has taught within the Five College consortium since 1976, and joined Mount Holyoke College's Asian Studies Program in 1982. She served as professor of Sanskrit at Columbia University from 2002 to 2004. The Five College 40th Anniversary Professorship, which Peterson was awarded in 2008, honors outstanding teaching and scholarship among veteran faculty members, and provides them with an opportunity to work with students at other schools. During the three years of the professorship, each faculty member receives a research stipend, teaches at least three courses on other consortium campuses, and gives a public lecture on his or her work.
The Jackie Pritzen Lectures are named for a longtime member of the Five College staff, Jackie M. Pritzen, who worked with many faculty groups during her 25 years with the consortium. The lectures were initiated in 1996, the year after her retirement, in tribute to the central role that faculty play in furthering cooperation among the five institutions.