Calamities Workshop: Intro

Calamities and Countermeasures in Pre-modern South Asia

For the program, see: Calamities Workshop: Program


Calamities such as natural disasters, famines, epidemics, and wars with all their corollaries are repeatedly addressed in pre-modern South-Asian literature. They appear as consequences of population growth, urbanisation, or ecological imbalance; as a threat to rulers and political stability; as causing religious transformations; as an expression of divine wrath or failure; as a punishment for adharmic behaviour; as a subject of divination and astrology; as a challenge for physicians; as a stimulus for philosophical breakthroughs; as a theme in poetry; as an apocalypse; as a stress test to communities; as a trigger for social change.


In this workshop, we will bring together experts from various fields who deal with aspects of all kinds of calamities that hit South Asia in pre-modern times. Contributions will address diverse topics, including, but not limited to: notions, concepts, and theories about the causation of calamities; divination (astrological or other) of pernicious events; preventive and reactive countermeasures; social, political, medical, religious and philosophical responses; as well as modern theories on the emergence and historicity of pre-modern catastrophic events, based on epigraphic, archaeological, or other evidence.
To ensure informed discussions, the presentations will be based on pre-circulated papers. For ecological reasons and to facilitate participation, the workshop will be held in a hybrid format, online and in-person in Vienna.


The overarching question for the workshop will be: “How were calamities perceived in pre-modern South Asia, and which countermeasures were developed and executed?” We will aim to establish a better understanding of perceptions of and reactions to critical events in pre-modern South Asia. The results of these examinations will be disseminated in the form of a collected volume based on the papers presented at the workshop.


The proceedings of the workshop will be published in an open-access, peer-reviewed volume. A well-structured time frame and the pre-circulated papers shall ensure a swift and smooth publication process. Additionally, the preparation of circulated papers will enable the contributors to find connections between their articles and other sections in the volume, and thus allow for comprehensive and precise cross-referencing.


Format: hybrid two-day workshop with pre-circulated papers.
Date: November 8–9 2024.
Venue: Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna.
Costs: We will be able to bear some of the accommodation and travel costs but encourage participants to secure funding from their home institution.
Convenor: Vitus Angermeier,

Submit a paper

To participate in this workshop, please submit a title and an abstract of approximately 300 words by March 15, 2024. Kindly send your submission to the e-mail address above, with the subject “calamities workshop submission”.

If your proposal is accepted, we expect to receive a first draft of your paper until September 15. Further details will be circulated with the final programme in April.