The Expert Witness Programme

6 - 9 January 2016

with Sabih Ahmed, Philippe Calia, Başak Ertür, Malavika Jayaram, Avi Singh, Bhrigupati Singh and Mayur Suresh


The Expert Witness Programme is a rehearsal towards an imaginary retrial based on select evidence from the archives of the Bhawal court case. It explores how the domains of both law and theatre frame the larger question of how we define who we are and who defines what evidence is.

Bhrigupati Singh will speak to Zuleikha Chaudhari about asceticism and the reinvention of the self. Mayur Suresh will discuss the parallel universes of the court file. Or, how to take a picture through the looking-glass. Başak Ertür will ruminate on jurisfiction, and the drama and tedium of legal reconstruction. Sabih Ahmed will share thoughts about the archive’s own performativity, and ask what constitutes the event proper in its staging and re-staging of history. Philippe Calia will talk with Zuleikha Chaudhari about the photograph-as-proof, and how visual evidence is not found but produced. Malavika Jayaram will explore the administrative fantasy of biometric technologies, and the implications of the body-as-password for our understanding of the truth about identity. Avi Singh will take on the question that the original trial set aside: If the sannyasi is in fact the kumar, then who was cremated in Darjeeling?




6 January 2016, 5 – 7pm

Bhrigupati Singh (via Skype) and Mayur Suresh


7 January 2016, 5 – 7pm

Başak Ertür (via Skype)


9 January 2016, 3 – 7pm

Sabih Ahmed, Philippe Calia, Malavika Jayaram (via Skype) and Avi Singh

About the witnesses


Sabih Ahmed is a senior researcher at Asia Art Archive, and a member of AAA’s Research+ team since 2009. Stationed in New Delhi, he oversees digitisation projects in the country alongside other research initiatives. Sabih completed his MA at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and has organised and participated in numerous conferences and workshops internationally.


Philippe Calia is an artist and photographer, currently based in Bombay. Since 2013, he has been a member and photo editor at PIX Quarterly, New Delhi. In 2015, he co-founded the BIND Collective.


Başak Ertür is a lecturer at the School of Law at Birkbeck, University of London and a fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University. She is currently working on a book on political trials, performativity, and sovereignty as it is articulated through spectacles and spectres. Her research revolves around critical legal thought, political violence and memory. Başak is the editor of Manual for Conspiracy (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2011) and the co-editor of Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward Said (Verso, 2008).


Malavika Jayaram is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, working broadly in the areas of privacy, identity, free speech and internet policy. For the last few years, she has been looking at the evolution of big data and e-governance projects in India – particularly the world’s largest biometric ID project – and their implications for development, freedom, choice and informational self-determination. Previously, Malavika practised law in London and Bangalore. She has been a fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore since 2009, and was a fellow with the Institute for Technology and Society in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 2014-15.


Avi Singh is a lawyer who is admitted to practice law in California and India. He studied in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, and has extensive experience appearing before the international tribunals in Arusha and The Hague. Currently, Avi is practicing in New Delhi, where he specialises in white-collar regulations, particularly those with cross- border implications. He is a faculty member at IUC and UC Hastings JD program.


Bhrigupati Singh is an anthropologist, interested in issues of religion, politics, media and popular culture. He completed his PhD at Johns Hopkins University in 2010 and is currently an assistant professor at Brown and a faculty fellow at the Watson Institute. Bhrigu’s recent book, titled Poverty and the Quest for Life: Spiritual and Material Striving in Contemporary Rural India (University of Chicago Press, 2015), was awarded the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences.


Mayur Suresh is lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He is completing his PhD at Birkbeck's School of Law, University of London. His thesis is based on an ethnography of terrorism trials in Delhi. Prior to a career in academia, Mayur practiced law in Delhi for several years.




The research and documentation for this project are supported by the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, with additional funding for public programming from Asia Society India Centre.