Cities, Utopias, and Theosophy, Nov. 17-18, 2016

Dr. Smriti Srinivas, UC-Davis, Anthropology

Dr. Smriti Srinivas, UC-Davis, AnthropologyThis lecture explores how gardens or urban greens have been imagined and produced in cities. I focus, in particular, on the Theosophical Society in its international headquarters in Madras [Chennai] in south India, and the ways in which it nurtured a specific context for South Asian garden design. Theosophy—a unique example of religious transculturalism that bridged South Asia, Europe, and North America—has received detailed attention: on the one hand, its articulation of religion with ideas of race, nation, or gender bore a complex relationship to imperial legacies; on the other hand, its foregrounding of spiritualist cosmologies inspired critiques of them.  In my talk, I turn to an occluded aspect of Theosophy’s history: its role in spatial production in South Asia and what may be thought of as the utopian dimensions of green spaces.

Smriti Srinivas is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include South Asia and Indian Ocean worlds,religion, cities and urbanism. utopias, cultures of performance, the body. She is the author of Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City, (2003) and In the Presence of Sai Baba: Body, City, and Memory in a Global Religious Movement, (2008) as well as A Place for Utopia: Urban Designs from South Asia (2015).

Public Lecture

“The Garden and the City: Urban Designs, Theosophy and South Asia”
Thursday Nov. 17, 7:30 pm, Legacy Art Gallery


“Cities of the Past, Cities of the Present, and the City as Utopia”
Friday Nov. 18, 10:30 am, Sedgwick C168


Smriti Srinivas. 2015. “Introduction: Placing Timelines” in Srinivas, S. A. ed. Place for Utopia: Urban Designs from South Asia. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 1-10.

Smriti Srinivas. (with Mary Hancock). 2008. “Spaces of modernity: Religion and the urban in Asia and Africa” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32 (3): 617-630.