Kavita Datla received her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1997. She then pursued her master’s degree at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and completed her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. Unfortunately, Datla passed away in July 2017 after a hard-fought battle with a rare form of cancer. She was an associate professor at Mount Holyoke College at the time of her death and was promoted to full professor posthumously.

In her honor, the University of Michigan Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS) hosts an annual lecture series to honor Kavita’s work and her passion for research in India, enabled by a generous donation from the Datla family and friends.

This year, on October 6, Syed Akbar Hyder, from the University of Texas, Austin, gave the Datla Memorial Lecture on Urdu’s Intoxicated Mirror: Maharaja Kishan Parshad and Indian History at CSAS. Inspired by Kavita Datla’s pioneering work on Osmania University, Hyder explores the legacy of Maharaja Kishan Parshad “Shād” (1864-1940), the illustrious prime minister of the princely state of Hyderabad.

“Apart from being a committed educator and a visionary behind the university, ‘Shād’ cultivated a style of history writing informed by Perso-Urdu poetic sensibilities that challenged parochial readings of religion, region, gender, and beauty,” says Akbar Hyder. “Through his intervention in developing several literary genres, he navigated challenging issues of nationalism and colonialism, bringing Hyderabad into a conversation with the larger world of letters.” 

Maharaja Kishan Parshad was an Indian noble who served as Prime Minister of Hyderabad twice. In 1892, A proponent of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (culture of the central plains of Northern India), Pershad wrote Urdu and Persian poems influenced by Sufism. He was a patron of poetry, paintings, and music. 

Syed Akbar Hyder is an associate professor of Asian Studies and Islamic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also affiliated with the university's program in comparative literature. His research interests are anchored in comparative aesthetics, devotional literature, and the politics of canon formation in Urdu, Hindi, and Persian. His forthcoming publication is A City, an Island, and a Jail: Qurratulain Hyder on the Move.