AAR Panel Proposal: Vernacular Constructions of Tradition (fwd)

Anne Monius amonius at husc.harvard.edu
Fri Feb 7 22:43:24 UTC 1997

John Cort and Brian Hatcher, who are not subscribers to INDOLOGY, have
asked me to forward this to you.....

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 07 Feb 1997 14:51:57 -0500 (EST)
From: "John E. Cort" <Cort at cc.denison.edu>
To: amonius at husc.harvard.edu
Subject: AAR Panel Proposal:  Vernacular Constructions of Tradition

Dear Colleagues:
     The following is a posting that we have put out on RISA-L in the
context of a possible panel at the fall 1997 meetings of the American
Academy of Religion.  But since we hope that this could generate a larger
yet still focused discussion, we are putting it out over several other lists
in the hopes of reaching as wide an audience as possible, and hence
eliciting as wide an array of responses as possible.


	We are interested in exploring ways in which South Asians over the past two
centuries have been actively engaged in the construction of their own
traditions, and therefore in shaping an understanding of their present.  We
are particularly interested in exploring those articulations that have
occurred within the vernacular, i.e., those addressed at local audiences
rather than at either international audiences or the colonial and missionary
rulers.  We are interested in ways in which such articulations express both
continuity and discontinuity with earlier South Asian expressions.  Examples
are many; among those which readily come to our minds are Dayanand
Sarasvati's Hindi construction of Hinduism in Satyarth Prakash, Atmaramji's
Hindi construction of Jainism in Jain Tattvadarsh, Gaurishankar Hirachand
Ojha's Hindi construction of Rajput history, Kanhaiyalal Munshi's Gujarati
construction of Gujarati Hindu history, Parashuram Chattarvedi's Hindi
construcion of the nirgun-sagun devotional literary tradition, the work of
the Gita Press and its magazine Kalyan, Mritunjay Vidyalankar's Bengali
critique of Rammohan Roy, the Vedic exegesis of Sri Anirvan, and the
activities of groups like the Gaud-deshiya Samaj, Tattvabodhini Sabha, and
the various Hindudharm-rakshani Sabhas.
	This collaborative investigation we expect to lead in many directions, and
to intersect with a number of current academic discussions and debates.  One
such direction is to address what we see as two failings of much
post-colonialist scholarship on South Asia.  The first is the tendency among
many scholars to over-emphasize the role of colonial institutions in
creating and defining much of contemporary South Asian culture, from
religion and literature to kingship and caste.  We see this scholarship, in
its proclivity to blame colonialism for all that ails the subcontinent, as
no more accurate than the earlier proclivity to credit colonial and
missionary forces for all that is good and modern about the subcontinent.
Furthermore, there is a strong tendency in such scholarship to minimize if
not altogether eliminate the agency of South Asians themselves in creatively
constructing their own traditions and their own presents.  The second
failing, one that is especially pronounced in several recent influential
books and articles on the rise of religious nationalism in South Asia, is
for authors to rely almost exclusively on English-language sources.  They
thereby omit from their study most South Asian voices except for those of
academic colleagues writing in English.  But how one can adequately present
such material without a close analysis of the vernacular discourses
themselves remains a puzzle to us.
	Our initial proposal is for a possible panel at the American Academy of
Religion.  But it is obvious to us that we are addressing themes broader
than just religion, and so are intrested in hearing from colleagues in other
fields who might be interested in participating in panels at other venues,
and exploring other avenues of collective thinking on the issues.
        John Cort
	cort at denison.edu

	Brian Hatcher
	hatcher at titan.iwu.edu

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