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37 | The Bhagavad Gita – Modern Interpretations, Cross-Cultural Perspectives

This panel explores from various disciplinary perspectives the Bhagavad Gita in modern contexts and as a transnational document. Papers are invited dealing with modes of its reception and with reinterpretations among modern-day philosophers, politicians, spiritual leaders, writers etc.


· Gita Pai University of Wisconsin, La Crosse (La Crosse, WI, United States of America)
· Angelika Malinar University of Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland)


· 07/26 | 15:30-17:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/26 | 17:30-19:00 UTC+2/CEST

Long Abstract

Krishna’s words and his teachings to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita convey some of the principal ideas and debates regarding dharma in ancient India. In its compositional time, this seminal work negotiated conflicting religious-philosophical doctrines as well as the socio-political issues connected to them.

The Bhagavad Gita is also a text that later transcended its own historical, literary, and religious-philosophical contexts and opened itself up to multiple interpretations. During the nineteenth century, the text became an arena for negotiating the hegemonic claims of modern western epistemic parameters of historical and philological analysis (“Orientalism”) vis-à-vis the Indian scholastic and performative traditions, Hindu reformers, and individuals from various backgrounds pursuing their own philosophical, religious, political, and spiritual commitments.

Expanding on studies by Sharpe, Larson and others, this panel examines the classic Indic work as a modern world text from both cross-cultural and intra-cultural perspectives. It explores the history of the Bhagavad Gita’s modes of reception and the continuity and discontinuity that have existed between past uses and contemporary uses in concrete social and political conditions. It also considers the impact the Gita’s appropriation had during the “entangled history” of the colonial-modern period.

Seeking scholars from various disciplines of the humanities, we invite contributions that analyze the Bhagavad Gita as a transnational document and discuss the modes of its reception and reinterpretations among modern-day philosophers, politicians, spiritual leaders, and writers across cultures and regions.