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Orientation 2018


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Women’s History Month speaker to explore significance of 17th century empress Nur Jahan

Feb 27, 2018 |

In honor of Women’s History Month, St. Bonaventure University will host Dr. Ruby Lal, professor of South Asian Studies at Emory University, as the keynote speaker for the 2018 Mary Devereux Lecture.

Ruby Lal Lal will discuss her forthcoming book, “Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan,” at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, in the Robert R. Jones Board of Trustees Room in Doyle Hall. The program is free and open to the public.

In 1611, 34-year-old Nur Jahan, daughter of a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, became the 20th and favorite wife of the Emperor Jahangir, who ruled the vast Mughal Empire. She was an astute politician as well as a devoted partner. When Jahangir was imprisoned by a rebellious nobleman, the Empress led troops into battle and ultimately rescued him.

The only woman to acquire the stature of empress in her male-dominated world, Nur was also a talented dress designer and innovative architect whose work inspired her stepson’s Taj Mahal. Lal’s research contends that Nur’s confident assertion of talent and power is revelatory, and far exceeded the authority of her female contemporaries in Renaissance Europe, including Elizabeth I.

Lal is being hosted by the university’s Women’s Studies Committee and the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies. In addition to her keynote lecture, she will meet with members of the Women’s Studies faculty at a luncheon and engage with students at a tea and dessert reception in the Quick Center for the Arts on March 12.

“I am delighted that Dr. Lal is coming to Bonaventure. She is a top-notch scholar and her contributions to the field of women’s studies, particularly in the South Asian context, are inestimable. Nur Jahan is a fascinating historical figure, and Dr. Lal is ideally suited to tell her story,” said Fr. Michael Calabria, O.F.M., director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies.

Lal holds a doctorate in modern history from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and a master’s degree in history from the University of Delhi, India. 

She has taught history and anthropology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she also served as associate director of the Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality.

Lal’s fields of study include feminist history and theory, and the question of archive as it relates to writing about Islamic societies in the pre-colonial and colonial world. Her first book, “Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World,” published by Cambridge University Press in 2005, won much acclaim, including numerous reviews in major international journals and magazines, such as The New York Review of Books, The Economic and Political Weekly, Revue Historique, and The Times Literary Supplement.

Her second book, “Coming of Age in Nineteenth Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness,” published in 2013, was reviewed extensively in academic journals and magazines with wider intellectual concerns.

The annual Mary Devereux Lecture celebrates Women’s History Month and pays tribute to Mary Devereux, one of the university’s founders. The event is made possible by the general contributions of Dr. Adil and Mrs. Jehan Al-Humadi, the Islamic Society of the Southern Tier and the Visiting Scholars Committee.


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things.  St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #5 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.

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