Associate Professor, Buddhism and Jainism
Buddhist Rituals for Newar Girls. Mimesis and Memory in the Kathmandu Valley. Numen Book Series. Leiden; Boston: E.J. Brill. Forthcoming this fall.
In Buddhist Rituals for Newar Girls Christoph Emmrich unfolds the liturgical literature that underlies rites involving girl children among the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, locating these texts historically both within current indigenous Newar discourse on age, gender and religion as well as within the rich culture of ancient domestic South Asian ritual. While much previous scholarship suggests that Newar girl rituals take largely oral forms and point back at tribal substrata, Emmrich shows that their underestimated textual history can tell us more about how these rituals emerge out of old ones, how such processes are driven by mimesis and that the mimetic holds the key to understanding how rituals for Newar girls contain the memory of their own emergence.
Die kurze, die lange und die richtige Zeit. Temporale Formen von Welt und Erlösung im Suttapiṭaka (Engl.: The Short, the Long and the Right Time: Temporal Forms of World and Liberation in the Suttapiṭaka). Heidelberg: HeiDOK. Der Heidelberger Dokumentenserver (URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:16-opus-134821), 2012.
The study asks how thinking about time can contribute towards a better understanding of the Buddhist practice of liberation and Buddhist expectations regarding conduct and the life course. It attempts an answer by testing the usefulness of the thesis, presented by S. Collins and R. Gombrich, that the Buddhist soteriological model leads to a split between person and world, through an analysis of passages that seem to support this view regarding time. In the central section of the study this critique is then expanded to include a systematic discussion of individual Pāli terms denoting time, elaborating their specific soteriological valence within their various contexts. On this basis the work proposes an alternative expanded model of the understanding of time based rather on formal criteria (such as the language analytical distinction of A- and B-series) as well as on literary representations of religious practice in which serial (day-night, year, world age), perspectivist (past, future, present) temporal forms are discussed. It comes to the conclusion that this enables us to better understand how diverse temporal forms are made to work together to jointly and more precisely articulate both the correct timing of religious practice and the urgency to embark on practices that shall shape a life conceived of in a Buddhist way, as oriented towards liberation. The author is currently working on a reworked and expanded English version of the monograph.
Associate Professor, Visual Culture
Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian ‘Calendar Art’, Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.
Gods in the Bazaar is a fascinating account of the printed images known in India as “calendar art” or “bazaar art,” the color-saturated, mass-produced pictures often used on calendars and in advertisements, featuring deities and other religious themes as well as nationalist leaders, alluring women, movie stars, chubby babies, and landscapes. Calendar art appears in all manner of contexts in India: in chic elite living rooms, middle-class kitchens, urban slums, village huts; hung on walls, stuck on scooters and computers, propped up on machines, affixed to dashboards, tucked into wallets and lockets. In this beautifully illustrated book, Kajri Jain examines the power that calendar art wields in Indian mass culture, arguing that its meanings derive as much from the production and circulation of the images as from their visual features.
“[T]here is no doubt that the author has written a most interesting, illuminative and valuable book on the calendar art of India, which is bound to serve as an authoritative source of reference to scholars and lay people alike for a long time to come.” - Singaravelu Sachithanantham, Asian Anthropology
“Gods in the Bazaar is replete with glorious color illustrations, providing a feast for a reader’s eyes and much material for thought. . . . Jain is to be commended for her meticulous research and provocative insights, which mark this study of bazaar arts.” - Joanna Kirkpatrick, Visual Anthropology
“A virtuoso examination of the ‘luminous banality’ of calendar art. In mapping the moral economy of bazaar Hinduism, it provides a history of much of twentieth-century India and predicts much of what might happen in the present century.” — Christopher Pinney, author of “Photos of the Gods”: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India
Associate Professor, Christianity and Hinduism
Liturgy of Liberation. A Christian Commentary on Shankara’s Upadeśasāhasrī (Christian Commentaries on Non-Christian Sacred Texts). Leuven: Peeters; Dudley: Eeerdmans., 2011.
The Upadeśasāhasrī or Thousand Teachings of the great eighth-century sage Adi Shankaracharya is a distillation of the ancient Upanishads, intended for use by teachers and seekers in the Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta. It has been variously interpreted as a major theological treatise, an elevated philosophical exposition, or a guidebook to mystical experience. Liturgy of Liberation offers a fresh reading and commentary on the Upadeśasāhasrī in terms of oral performance and sacramental practice, placing its sacred, scripted dialogues into conversation with the Apostle Paul and other witnesses from the Christian tradition. What results is not merely new appreciation for Shankara and his radical message of non-duality, but also a renewed sense of the scandal of the cross, the subversive power of the word, and the mystery of Christian discipleship. Beyond this, Liturgy of Liberation explores the potential of dialogue itself to disclose the intimate, liberating presence of God at the heart of creation and the core of every human being.
Spiritual but not Religious. An Oar Stroke Closer to the Farther Shore. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005.
Is it possible to be spiritual without being religious? Can spirituality be separated from “the complications of religious institutions”? Convert and theologian Reid Blackmer Locklin thinks not. Combining personal experience with insights from Hindu and Christian traditions, Locklin offers a highly personal guide to religious commitment in a world characterized by religious pluralism. Locklin demonstrates, through his ìspirituality of institutional commitment,î that a religious institution is simply a meeting point of spiritual seekers and teachers, which is both natural and indispensable when seeking holiness. Both an invitation and response, Locklin’s guide is informed by ancient sources as well as contemporary experience. Spiritual but Not Religious? offers a fresh and personally engaging view of the Christian Church as a raft not an obstacle on the journey to the farther spiritual shore.
“Here Reid Locklin demonstrates again the power of a great conversion narrative.” — Dr. Thomas H. Groome, Director, IREPM, Professor of Theology and Religious Education, Boston College
“Locklin renders his own personal journey to faith likewise a path to the crossroads of the spiritual and religious…” — Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Professor of Comparative Theology, Boston College
“Reid Locklin’s journey as a seeker is relentlessly honest, theologically astute, and spiritually enlightening—and full of grace.” — Donald Cozzens, John Carroll University, Author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood, Faith That Dares to Speak, and Sacred Silence
Associate Professor, Zoroastrianism
The Sih-Rozag in Zoroastrianism: A Textual and Historico-Religious Analysis. London: Routledge, 2014. 368 pages. ISBN 978-0-415-81232-0
Focusing on the Avestan and Pahlavi versions of the Sih-rozag, a text worshipping Zoroastrian divine entities, this book explores the spiritual principles and physical realities associated with them.
Introducing the book is an overview of the structural, linguistic and historico-religious elements of the Avestan Sih-rozag. This overview, as well as reconstructing its approximate chronology, helps in understanding the original ritual function of the text and its relationship to the other Avestan texts.The book then studies the translation of the text in the Middle Persian language, Pahlavi, which was produced several centuries after its initial composition, when Avestan was no longer understood by the majority of the Zoroastrian community.
Addressing the lacuna in literature examining an erstwhile neglected Zoroastrian text, The Sih-Rozag in Zoroastrianism includes a detailed commentary and an English translation of both the Avestan and Pahlavi version of the Sih-rozag and will be of interest to researchers and scholars of Iranian Studies, Religion, and History”. (From the publisher’s description. For more details click here.). For those interested in South Asian content, the monograph’s results are also relevant for the understanding of Parsi sources.
L’oroscopo del mondo. Il tema di nascita del mondo e del primo uomo secondo l’astrologia zoroastriana. Simorgh. Milan: Mimesis, 2001. (Engl.: The Horoscope of the World: The Birth Chart of the World and of the First Man according to Zoroastrian Astrology)
Simorgh. Milan: Mimesis, 2001. (Engl.: The Horoscope of the World: The Birth Chart of the World and of the First Man according to Zoroastrian Astrology)
This book is an overview of the history of astrology in pre-Islamic Iran, with a particular focus on the Sassanian period (3rd–7th centuries), when the art of star-telling enjoyed large popularity among the Iranian populations, including among the ruling class. The book highlights the influences that Sasanian astrology received from cultures that were neighbours of Iran (especially the classical world, and India). It focuses in particular on the doctrine of the horoscope of the birth of the world and of the first man, described in a chapter of a Zoroastrian text in Middle Persian (titled “Bundahishn”). The book includes an edition, translation and commentary of this chapter, as well as of Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and Arabic texts that describe the horoscopes of the world and of exceptional characters.
Associate Professor, Hinduism
Self-surrender to God in Śrīvaiṣṇavism. Tamil Cats and Sanskrit Monkeys. London: Routledge, 2007.
Filling the most glaring gap in Śrīvaiṣṇava scholarship, this book deals with the history of interpretation of a theological concept of self-surrender-prapatti in late twelfth and thirteenth century religious texts of the Śrīvaiṣṇava community of South India. This original study shows that medieval sectarian formation in its theological dimension is a fluid and ambivalent enterprise, where conflict and differentiation are presaged on “sharing”, whether of a common canon, saint or rituals or two languages (Tamil and Sanskrit), or of a “meta-social” arena such as the temple. Srilata Raman, a member of the Śrīvaiṣṇava community, argues that the core ideas of prapatti in these religious texts reveal the description of a heterogeneous theological concept. Demonstrating that this concept is theologically moulded by the emergence of new literary genres, Raman puts forward the idea that this original understanding of prapatti is a major contributory cause to the emergence of sectarian divisions among the Śrīvaiṣṇavas, which lead to the formation of two sub-sects, the Teṅkalai and the Vaṭakalai, who stand respectively, for the “cat” and “monkey” theological positions. Making an important contribution to contemporary Indian and Hindu thinking on religion, this text provides a new intellectual history of medieval Indian religion. It will be of particular interest to scholars of Śrīvaiṣṇava and also Hindu and Indian religious studies.
Associate Professor, Hinduism
Re-Figuring the Rāmāyaṇa as Theology. A History of Reception in Premodern India. New York: Routledge. Forthcoming in May.
The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki is considered by many contemporary Hindus to be a foundational religious text. But this understanding is in part the result of a transformation of the epic’s receptive history, a hermeneutic project which challenged one characterization of the genre of the text, as a work of literary culture, and replaced it with another, as a work of remembered tradition. This book examines Rāmāyaṇa commentaries, poetic retellings, and praise-poems produced by intellectuals within the Śrīvaiṣṇava order of South India from 1250 to 1600 and shows how these intellectuals reconceptualized Rāma’s story through the lens of their devotional metaphysics. Śrīvaiṣṇavas applied innovative interpretive techniques to the Rāmāyaṇa, including allegorical reading, śleṣa reading (reading a verse as a double entendre), and the application of vernacular performance techniques such as word play, improvisation, repetition, and novel forms of citation. The book is of interest not only to Rāmāyaṇa specialists but also to those engaged with Indian intellectual history, literary studies, and the history of religions.
Assistant Professor, Islam
Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shiʿism. Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks Series. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
In this study of devotional hagiographical texts and contemporary ritual performances of the Shi’a of Hyderabad, India, Karen Ruffle demonstrates how traditions of sainthood and localized cultural values shape gender roles. Ruffle focuses on the annual mourning assemblies held on 7 Muharram to commemorate the battlefield wedding of Fatimah Kubra and her warrior-bridegroom Qasem, who was martyred at the battle of Karbala, Iraq, in 680 C.E. before their wedding was consummated. Ruffle argues that hagiography, an important textual tradition in Islam, plays a dynamic role in constructing the memory, piety, and social sensibilities of a Shi’i community. Through the Hyderabadi rituals that idealize and venerate Qasem, Fatimah Kubra, and the other heroes of Karbala, a distinct form of sainthood is produced. These saints, Ruffle explains, serve as socioethical role models and religious paragons whom Shi’i Muslims aim to imitate in their everyday lives, improving their personal religious practice and social selves. On a broader community level, Ruffle observes, such practices help generate and reinforce group identity, shared ethics, and gendered sensibilities. By putting gender and everyday practice at the center of her study, Ruffle challenges Shi’i patriarchal narratives that present only men as saints and brings to light typically overlooked women’s religious practices.
J. Barton Scott
Assistant Professor, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Theory
Spiritual Despots. Modern Hinduism and the Genealogies of Self-Rule. Chicago:
Chicago University Press, 2016.
Historians of religion have examined at length the Protestant Reformation and the liberal idea of the self-governing individual that arose from it. In Spiritual Despots, J. Barton Scott reveals an unexamined piece of this story: how Protestant technologies of asceticism became entangled with Hindu spiritual practices to create an ideal of the “selfruling subject” crucial to both nineteenth-century reform culture and early twentiethcentury anticolonialism in India. Scott uses the quaint term “priestcraft” to track anticlerical polemics that vilified religious hierarchy, celebrated the individual, and endeavored to reform human subjects by freeing them from external religious influence.
By drawing on English, Hindi, and Gujarati reformist writings, Scott provides a panoramic view of precisely how the specter of the crafty priest transformed religion and politics in India.
Ingram, Brannon, J. Barton Scott, and SherAli Tareen, eds. “Imagining ‘the Public’ in Modern South Asia.” Special issue of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 38, no. 3 (2015).
In South Asia, as elsewhere, the category of ‘the public’ has come under increased scholarly and popular scrutiny in recent years. To better understand this current conjuncture, we need a fuller understanding of the specifically South Asian history of the term. To that end, this collection surveys the modern Indian ‘public’ across multiple historical contexts and sites, with contributions from leading scholars of South Asia in anthropology, history, literary studies and religious studies. As a whole, the collection highlights the complex genealogies of the public in the Indian subcontinent during the colonial and postcolonial eras, showing in particular how British notions of ‘the public’ intersected with South Asian forms of publicity.
Professor, Comparative Spirituality
Theo-Monistic Mysticism: A Hindu-Christian Comparison (London: Macmillan Press; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1994; Palgrave Macmillan ebook platform 2011).
In response to contemporary accounts of mystic phenomena, this book proposes a creative interpretive framework for understanding mysticism. It postulates and explores various kinds of mystical experience, illustrating how they might be related and integrated within a narrative of spiritual movement and transformation. In this view, radically apophatic, monistic experiences of oneness or unity are connected with “theo-monistic” realizations—experiences which include dynamic and personal elements that are creative and moral, and to which other kinds of mysticism might also be related. This view of mysticism is illustrated through a comparative study of Rāmānuja, Aurobindo, Śaṅkara, Ruusbroec, Eckhart, Boehme, and other Christian and Hindu mystics.
Associate Professor, Islam
The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
“None of that people should be spared, not even the babe in its cradle.” With these chilling words, the Mongol warlord Genghis Khan declared his intention to destroy the Ismailis, one of the most intellectually and politically significant Muslim communities of medieval Islamdom. The massacres that followed convinced observers that this powerful voice of Shi’i Islam had been forever silenced. Little was heard of these people for centuries, until their recent and dramatic emergence from obscurity. Today they exist as a dynamic and thriving community established in over twenty-five countries. Yet the interval between what appeared to have been their total annihilation, and their modern, seemingly phoenix-like renaissance, has remained shrouded in mystery. Drawing on an astonishing array of sources gathered from many countries around the globe, The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation is a richly nuanced and compelling study of the murkiest portion of this era. In probing the period from the dark days when the Ismaili fortresses in Iran fell before the marauding Mongol hordes, to the emergence at Anjudan of the Ismaili Imams who provided a spiritual centre to a scattered community, this work explores the motivations, passions and presumptions of historical actors. With penetrating insight, Shafique N. Virani examines the rich esoteric thought that animated the Ismailis and enabled them to persevere. A work of remarkable erudition, this landmark book is essential reading for scholars of Islamic history and spirituality, Shi’ism and Iran. Both specialists and informed lay readers will take pleasure not only in its scholarly perception, but in its lively anecdotes, quotations of delightful poetry, and gripping narrative style. This is an extraordinary book of historical beauty and spiritual vision.
“The book offers a discerning and sensitive portrayal of the struggle for survival and the spiritual life of a religious community that endured severe persecution and extreme defamation during much of its history. The author in particular succeeds in bringing to light the esoteric spirituality and profound devotion to the living Imam prevalent in the centuries of concealment following the catastrophic Mongol attempt to annihilate Nizari Ismailism, relying on the evidence of fragmentary source material that has only recently been recovered.” — Wilferd Madelung, author of The Succession to Muhammad
“Drawing on an exhaustive array of Arabic, Persian and South Asian sources as well as the scattered results of modern scholarship on the Ismailis, Virani has produced a comprehensive and readable account of the complex, and often obscure, medieval history of the Nizari Ismailis. This book represents a major contribution to modern Ismaili studies.” -Farhad Daftary, author of The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines
“In order to show how the Ismaili Shi’is survived the Mongol onslaught of the thirteenth century, Shafique Virani employs a wide variety of sources in many different South-and South west-Asian languages. Some of these sources provide historically useful information only in the most oblique ways, and Virani’s great achievement is to tease out meaning from what appear to be intractable materials. The resulting reconstruction of medieval Ismaili history is both scholarly and tender, subtle as well as moving.” -Robert Wisnovsky, Director, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University
Arabic translation of The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: Sayf al-Din al-Qasir, Beirut: Saqi Books, forthcoming.