Ritual, Text and Body Within the Study of South Asian Religion

Monday, 22nd January 2018 – Aarhus-OCHS Workshop – Oxford
OCHS Library and Campion Hall

“Ideas do not produce ritual; rather, ritual itself produces and shapes ideas, or even experience and emotions.”
– Walter Burkert, 1972.

The purpose of this workshop is to discuss new research and insights into the relationship, overlap and interplay between ritual performance, the uses of texts and body, within South Asian religions in historical and contemporary time, in South Asia and beyond (e.g. in diaspora). In particular, we would like to focus on the conferred authority or ’meaning providers’ given to the text compared to the ritual performance in a given religious community and in what way the body (embodiment, corporality) plays in this relation. In other word’s we will like to discuss the triple interrelationship between text-ritual-body both on an ontological and a performative level. Focus can be on elite and laypeople, local and pan South Asian traditions, esoteric practices and the exoteric temple cults, between generations, between gender, between keeping up tradition and reinventing tradition, between the institutional and the individual level, and between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Thus, we are interested in discussing new research with the possibility of reframing the relationship between text and ritual taking the body into account as well. Therefore we welcome papers having theoretical, methodological as well as empirically grounded considerations. Every contributor will have between 20-30 minutes for his or her presentation followed by a discussion.

Śākta Traditions Symposium

Monday, 27 November 2017 -10:00am to 4:00pm
OCHS Library

Hinduism cannot be understood without the Goddess (Devī/Śakti) and the goddess-oriented Śākta traditions. The Goddess pervades Hinduism at all levels, from aniconic village deities to high-caste pan-Hindu goddesses to esoteric, tantric goddesses. Nevertheless, these highly influential forms of South Asian religion have only recently begun to draw a more broad scholarly attention. Taken together, they form ‘Śāktism’, which is by many considered one of the major branches of Hinduism next to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. Śāktism is, however, less clearly defined than the other major branches and sometimes surprisingly difficult to discern from Śaivism in its tantric forms. These sometimes very complex and challenging forms of Śākta religion provide a test case for our understanding of Hinduism and raise important theoretical and methodological questions with regard to the study of religious traditions in South Asia as well as to the more general and comparative study of religion.

This Śākta symposium is a contribution by a number of scholars to the Śākta Traditions project and its endeavor in tracing developments in the history of goddess worship among the orthoprax brahmans, among the tantric traditions and at village level in South Asia. Thus, the symposium acts as a historical exploration of distinctive Indian ways of imagining God as Goddess (and goddesses), a survey of important origins and developments within Śākta history, practice and doctrine in its diversity, as well as an insight into the fascinating Śākta religious imaginaire and ritual practice that may be considered distinctive and thus sets ‘Śāktism’ apart from other forms of South Asian religion.