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Interreligious Relations in Early Southeast Asia: Encountering Buddhists, Brahmins and Indigenous Religions

Workshop


CERES-Palais, Raum "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Over the last two or three decades, scholarship on Southeast Asia has largely contributed to the reappraisal of the process of ‘Indianisation’ of the region. Though not standardized and having changing meaning according to Indian and Western academic cultures, this paradigm can be broadly understood as the diffusion and adoption of Indian cultural values to Southeast Asia from the first few centuries following the turn of the Common Era onwards. Critical of this India-centric model, scholars have proposed alternative approaches to the study of interactions between South and Southeast Asia which have oscillated between two poles: that of externalist influence on the one hand and that of the local or autonomous specificity on the other hand.

These reflections are fed by archaeological discoveries and advances in the knowledge of textual and art historical sources which have highlighted a continuum in exchanges between South and Southeast Asia since at least the 5th century BCE. Furthermore, archaeological findings bear witness to the importance of Southeast Asian agency in the diffusion of local models across Asia. In consequence, in the last decade, approaches have encouraged to focus on the circulatory dynamics of transfer of cultural, religious, diplomatic and economic values through maritime trade routes across Asia. Some have even posited a new “Monson Asia” or “Maritime Asia” paradigm which conceives South and Southeast Asia as part of an integral cultural oikumene with a shared background of human, intellectual, and environmental history.

Against the framework of these second-order reflections, the workshop will investigate different levels of relationship between Hindu, Buddhist and non-Indic religions during ancient and early medieval times. It will examine issues related to the multi-directional transfer of mythologies, belief-systems, practices and material culture between the Indian sub-continent and what is commonly referred to as Southeast Asia. In this respect, it aims at shedding further light on the agencies in the spread of religious concepts and material objects, the dialectics between their received and assigned or reinterpreted meaning, and the modifications brought about by their adoption and/or adaptations.

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