Episode 93: Women and the Tamil Epics

Guest: Andrea Gutierrez, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Asian Studies
Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History

statue_of_kannagiMale-dominated narratives, male authors, and male-centered agency and priorities have been the norm throughout history, until the latter half of the 20th-century. So it’s no surprise that in ancient literature and epics, if you consider something like Homer’s Odyssey or other classics, even the Ramayana, the story of King Rama in early India, you see male authors telling the stories, adventures, and histories of men. In the Tamil literature of South India, however, we see something different.

Guest Andrea Gutierrez introduces us to epic South Asian poems from the beginning of the first millennium that past the Bechdel test, when women’s narrative critiqued, cajoled, narrated, and provided guidance for the devout.

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Episode 82: What Writing Can Tell Us About the Arabs before Islam

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Ahmad al-Jallad, University of Leiden

TaymaniticIn most world history survey courses, Arabia is introduced for the first time only as backstory to the rise of Islam. We’re told that there was a tradition of oral poetry in Arabic, a language native to central Arabia, and that the Qur’an was the zenith of this oral tradition. New evidence, however, suggests that Arabia was linguistically diverse, that the language we’ve come to know as Arabic originated in modern day Jordan, and that the looping cursive writing system that’s become the language’s hallmark wasn’t the original system used to write it. What to make of all this?

Guest Ahmad al-Jallad co-directs archaeological/epigraphic projects in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, uncovering new inscriptions thousands of years old, and shares his research that’s shedding new light on the writings of a complex civilization that lived in the Arabian peninsula for centuries before Islam arose.

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Episode 67: How Jews Translate the Bible and Why

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Leonard Greenspoon, Professor of Near Eastern Civilizations and Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University

Saadia Gaon (882-942) is considered the father of Judeo-Arabic literature; his translation of the Bible into Arabic enabled the large portion of Judaism living in Arabic speaking lands to engage with the sacred texts.

Any student of a foreign language knows that the process of translating a text can be laden with unexpected choices about words, sentence structure, and phrases that don’t make sense in the target language. Now imagine the added pressures of translating a sacred text whose language is well known and imbued with religious significance and symbolism. Our guest Leonard Greenspoon from Creighton University has done just that with translators of the Jewish Bible over the centuries.

In this episode, Dr. Greespoon takes us on a fascinating journey into a Jewish perspective on how and why translating the Bible is necessary, and how and why it matters.

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Episode 64: Monumental Sculpture of Preclassic Mesoamerica

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: Julia Guernsey, Professor, Department of Art and Art History

Santa-Leticia-El-Salvador-potbelly6401-e1419783523709The Preclassic period of Mesoamerican history (1500 BC – 200 AD) has left fascinating historical clues about what life was like in the form of monumental sculptures hewn out of boulders commonly called “pot bellies” (barrigones in Spanish) due to their distinctive shape. Yet, despite the fact that writing emerged during this time, the pot bellies lack any sort of description of historical context.  Who built them and why?

Professor Julia Guernsey from UT’s Department of Art and Art History has recently published a book in which she combines the methodology of history, art history, and archaeology to offer a new look into this mysterious period at the beginning of recorded history in the Americas.

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Episode 47: Indian Ocean Trade from its Origins to the Eve of Imperialism

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Susan Douglass, doctoral candidate, George Mason University

Ibn Battuta was a pilgrim who left his native Morocco for Mecca in 1325 and traveled over 73,000 miles before finally returning home thirty years later.

Every American schoolchild knows that Columbus sailed west to reach Asia with the hope of finding precious metals, expensive fabrics, and exotic spices: all goods that were being traded in the Indian Ocean, and had been for millennia. Ancient Greek texts describe an active Indian Ocean economy. Some scholars have even linked the peopling of Australia to a slow, methodic collecting of resources along the coastal route from east Africa.

In the first of a two part episode guest Susan Douglass, author of the Indian Ocean in World History web site, describes the murky beginnings of trade and travel in the Indian Ocean basin, and the cultural exchanges and influences that the trade had in the days before the Europeans arrived.

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Episode 17: The Buddha and His Time

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Keely Sutton, doctoral student, Department of Asian Studies

"Buddha Amoghasiddhi with Eight Bodhisattvas [Tibet (Central regions)] (1991.74)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1991.74 (September 2008)

Buddhism is unquestionably one of the world’s major faith traditions, but its origins are somewhat shrouded in mythology and legend surrounding its founder, Siddharta Gautama, the historical Buddha. Who was he? When and where did he live? And what were the social currents and forces in his own time that shaped his worldview and led him to renounce the world in an effort to save humanity from itself?

Guest Keeley Sutton from UT’s Department of Asian Studies helps us understand the historical Buddha and the era in which he lived.

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Episode 15: The “Era Between The Empires” of Ancient India

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Patrick Olivelle, Professor, Department of Asian Studies

The 6th century late Gupta period Dashavatara temple Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh at sunset.

Ancient, or Classical, India (300s BC-400s AD) was a seminal period in history. Nearly everything that is associated with classical India, the epics such as the the R?m?ya?a and the Mah?bh?rata, and great temple architecture, came out of this period. Great kings like A?oka left their mark on the classical world. Moreover, this was the period when oral traditions were written down, and the classical Vedic religion began to take on a form that we understand as Hindusim.

Guest Patrick Olivelle from UT’s Department of Asian Studies describes the Maurya and Gupta Empires and the flourishing period of South Asian history “between the empires.”

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