Session Abstract: This panel brings into conversation four case studies of socio-religious transformations in India, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and the city-state of Bukhara beween the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. It looks at how each of them dealt with the intrusion of imperialism and Western hegemony, and resulting changes, by drawing on indigenous resources and mobilizing translocal networks. Employing a comparative historical approach, the panelists focus particularly on conceptualizations of religion, including ideas about religious reform, knowledge production, ethics, and politics. How did people in different parts of Central, South, and East Asia imagine other Asian societies, histories and cultures? Were there attempts to construct a pan-Asian identity distinct from the “West”? Which commonalities and differences can we observe in debates about universal religion, science, education, and aesthetics? How were religious traditions reinterpreted, redefined, and revived across Asia, and how were these debates received in other Asian contexts? By discussing translocal developments across Asia side by side, and by prioritizing the local over the colonial or European Archive, our panel aims at giving voice to a number of understudied figures and movements. Collectively, this panel decenters the colonial gaze and provincializes developments in Europe by focusing on people, ideas, and institutions that were affected by Western imperialism, but exerted their agency in drawing on local vernacular institutions, languages, traditions and modes of communication to cope with new challenges. Working together, the panelists go beyond Eurocentric ideas about religion, tradition, and modernity in Asia, and instead showcase (trans)local approaches, shared concepts and indigenous networks.
Paper Presenter: Daniel Sheffield – Princeton University
Paper Presenter: James Pickett – University of Pittsburgh
Paper Presenter: Maria-Magdalena Pruss – Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient Berlin
Paper Presenter: Xiaomin Zu – University of Southern California