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Creating an Incorporeal Empire

The Process of “Transcending” the Mysore Kingdom through Interreligious and Intercultural Interaction

The project focusses on intersections and interactions between European and Indian notions of transcendence and immanence through the lens of the colonial encounter in early modern South India. My research will highlight the “process of transcending” during this critical moment in European and Asian interactions and the resultant development of shared vocabulary for actions, materials, sites that have come to be labeled “religious.” 

The intended research would focus on this process as it manifests in the political realm as European political theories of the body politic, both royal and democratic, are mapped onto and revised into colonial vassals’ religio-political worldview. While this might not seem like the most natural place to pursue a systematic inquiry into the processing of “religioid material,” in fact this historical moment provides a rare opportunity to gaze into the negotiation of groups from two (or more) different theological and philosophical traditions as they try to negotiate immanent concerns that are informed by their understanding of the transcendent (i.e. their religio-political ideology is central to their notions of governance). Through a thorough analysis of the colonial moment, we can gain a glimpse into the processes through which different traditions develop the language and ideological tools through which similarities can be expressed, whereby a tertium comparationis is possible.

As the case study, the project would focus on the kingdom of Mysore in southern India from the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 19th century CE, focusing on the period between 1767-1865 CE. This period allows us to see a wide range of interactions (i.e. wide-ranging in duration, nature, and religious traditions involved), which all culminate at the time of king Kṛṣṇarāja Woḍeyar III during whose reign the religio-political ideology of Mysore and his British overlords were forced into conversation as a result of the British Commissioner’s direct rule.