Dr. Rekha Pande, Head Centre for Women’s Studies and Professor, Department of History, University of Hyderabad, has received the prestigious, Visiting Fellowship in the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London for the year 2018-19. While at Birkbeck, she would work on a project, Medieval misnomer: Female religious experiences and the Politics of time, a comparison of public religious experience by women in the medieval-early modern periods (12th-17th centuries). This is an area on which she has already worked extensively in the context of south India, including female donations to religious establishments, the role of temple dancers (devadasis) and the role of women in religious reform movements. Now, there would be an attempt to bring about a comparative and discursive framework, drawing on the expertise of the co-nominators and other members of Birkbeck’s scholarly community, to examine how Indian and European experiences have differed in, specifically, the area of public female religiosity. The opportunity to work with scholars at Birkbeck and the library resources in Bloomsbury is hoped to form the basis for a collaborative study of these experiences across a long Middle Ages (in Indian scholarship defined up to the 17th century and so also bringing in early modern and modern interests from a European periodisation). At Birkbeck she would have the opportunity to work with historians of the Byzantine Empire (Rebecca Darley), the European Renaissance (Kat Hill) and north European monastic reform (Matthew Champion), of representations of piety in high medieval literature (Anthony Bale and Isabel Davis) and medieval art (Laura Jacobus) and with scholars of modern gendered religious experience (Carmen Mangion and Julia Laite). She would also be able to participate in the cutting edge debates taking place through the Centre for Gender and Sexuality, at Birkbeck, and share discussions with scholars of ageing and the gendered experience of work (e.g. Penny Vera Sanso).
During her time at Birkbeck, she would therefore share her research in these themes with scholars and students at Birkbeck, to offer a public lecture and to research and deliver a keynote address for a colloquium on the subject of public female religious experience. Furthermore, as an experienced and well-regarded teacher, she would use this opportunity to organise a research seminar for Birkbeck Masters and PhD students, focusing on themes in gender history and post-colonialism. This would be of benefit to students taking Masters programmes in a range of departments and inter-departmental courses across Birkbeck, from the MA in Medieval History or Gender, Sexuality and Culture to Medieval Literature and Culture (English) or Contemporary History and Politics. A public lecture, aimed at an audience with a general, non-specialist interest in Indian history and the Middle Ages will also be organized. This would focus on religious spaces and women in pre-colonial India, especially from the perspective of inscriptions and images. A workshop for students on key themes in gender history, rooted in her own work in India, creating a discussion on sources, the political and social role of history and future directions for gender history is also planned.