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Rethinking Relationships between Anthropology, History and Theology in South Asian Religious Studies

Anthropology, history and theology have traditionally employed differentiated theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of South Asian religions. This panel explores recent trends that integrate these different approaches in an interdisciplinary manner.

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Convenors:

· Arun Jones Emory University (Atlanta, United States of America)
· Deepra Dandekar Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Berlin, Germany)
· Sarbeswar Sahoo Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (Delhi, India)

Long Abstract

For most of the 20th century, theological, anthropological, and historical theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of South Asian religions were differentiated. While historical and anthropological approaches were demarcated by temporal boundaries, theological claims were assumed to be grounded in otherworldly and spiritual forces that were considered historically and anthropologically unverifiable. In recent decades, however, scholarship on South Asian religion has increasingly drawn on mutually insightful and shared research methods and theories that cross disciplinary boundaries, with an increasing emphasis on an experiential perspective. Anthropologists nowadays write history to better investigate the present and to provide new conceptual, linguistic and ontological frameworks. Theologians, on the other hand, draw on both social history and anthropology to adequately represent the religious experience of South Asians, and to engage deeply, through phenomenological and other theories, with the South Asian context. Finally, historians have been conducting archival-based and contemporary ethnographies in order to reconstruct the past, as well as using ‘ordinary theology’ that allows more agency and power to spiritual forces that are considered authentic within the South Asian religious context. This panel will bring together scholarship that is informed by transcending disciplinary boundaries in the study of South Asian religions, while also exploring the limitations to such endeavors, wrought through an absence of disciplinary focus.

Presentations