Donohon Abdugafurova (Emory University)
Send message to Convenor
- Room B16
- Sunday 13 October, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)
Author:Margarethe Adams (Stony Brook)
Paper long abstract:
While pilgrimage is often framed as a quest, as a removal from the everyday, involving the altering of temporal experience and the sacralization of place, pilgrimage can also reflect everyday realities and societal instabilities. Simultaneously mundane and transcendent, and often undertaken in times of crisis, pilgrimage may offer an opportunity to imagine a different future, a different self, to effect a transformation, to plead for a particular outcome in work or love, or to overcome hardship. With a long history throughout Central Asia, pilgrimage and faith healing continue to be widespread in Kazakhstan, particularly during times of economic and social instability. Many Kazakhstani pilgrims I met, particularly those in gendered, economic, or political positions of precarity, are at an impasse—a stuck place, "a time of dithering from which someone or some situation cannot move forward" (Berlant 2011:4). Cut loose from the socialist past and encouraged to imagine a capitalist future of wealth and prosperity that is out of reach for many, Kazakhstanis access practices such as pilgrimage and faith healing to "open the road," to clear the obstacles from their present path, to navigate a rough patch. In discussions with urban Kazakh women who practice pilgrimage and faith healing, I saw many grappling with what it means to be Muslim, trying on different Muslim personae, experimenting with spirituality while challenging ideas about proper dress and behavior. For many, pilgrimage presents a way of exploring new approaches to old problems, of questioning life choices, and probing an uncertain faith. This paper examines the exploratory "trying on" of different ways of being Muslim, through interviews with faith healers, their clients, and those undertaking pilgrimage in Kazakhstan.
Author:Catherine Ambler (Columbia University)
Paper long abstract:
This paper traces the changing ways in which Persian men of letters enacted and made meaning of devotion to the Twelve Imams (descendants of the Prophet Muḥammad through 'Alī), in 15th-17th century Transoxiana (Central Asia) and Khurasan. In this context, devotion to the Imams was not limited to Twelver Shi`is; Maḥjūb uses the term "Twelver Sunni" to indicate Sunnis who revered the Imams (Maḥjūb, 1984). This paper's main sources are Persian taẕkiras ("mementos") of poets, commemorative works that recorded poets' lives and compositions. The period following the 1507 fall of the Timurid empire (based in Herat), is sometimes associated with political and sectarian rupture in the Persianate ecumene, with Shi`i Safavids in Iran, Sunni Mughals in India, and Sunni Uzbeks in Transoxiana. However, this paper suggests that it is inadvisable to abstract the question of sectarian relations from the discursive traditions through which they were imagined. Taẕkiras refract the social through the poetic, thereby creating different possibilities for the portrayal of sectarian relations than may appear in other forms of writing, such as court chronicles.
In the taẕkiras, as the sacred figures of the Imams were invoked anew, these invocations took on new meanings. In some cases, devotion to the Imams was claimed for Sunnism, as in Dawlatshāh Samarqandī's Taẕkirat al-Shu'arā' (Herat, 1487). However, in other taẕkiras, devotion to the Imams could take on a cast of sectarian ambiguity, appearing in accounts of poets who refused to identify as Sunni or Shi`i. This sectarian ambiguity was sometimes described as vus'at-i mashrab, indicating an openness in one's nature toward all apparent contrasts: Hindu and Muslim, infidel and believer, Sunni and Shi`i. Vus'at-i mashrab has attracted some scholarly attention in the context of the religious syncretism promoted by the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605). However, this paper notes the importance of Transoxiana in this development as well, especially given the role of Mashhad (in eastern Iran) as a liminal space, where the shrine to the eighth Imam attracted poets in this vein. Thus, I argue that expressions of devotion to the Imams came to play a role in the ways in which Persian poets and men of letters cultivated sectarian ambiguity, both gesturing towards and, at the same time, sidestepping sectarian distinctions.
Author:Matthew King (University of California, Riverside)
Paper long abstract:
Few examples of Buddhist literature have circulated more widely in East Asia than The Travels of Faxian (Ch.法顯行傳, Faxian xingzhuan), known more commonly as The Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms (Ch. 佛國記, Foguoji). This is a 5th century CE autobiographical adventure tale authored by a Chinese Buddhist monk named Faxian (法顯, 337-422 CE), one of pre-modern Asia's most ambitious travelers. Motivated by the need for authoritative Indian works to supplement the embryonic monastic world in which he lived, the already elderly Faxian departed from Chang'an across the mosaic of Turkic, Sogdian, Persian, Greek, and South Asian communities dotting what we now call the Silk Road. For fifteen centuries thereafter, The Record was read voraciously in East Asia as an early witness to the golden age of classical Indian Buddhism and as a grand statement about the place of China in relation to the wellspring of Buddhism and the western regions. This paper begins in the 19th century, not in East Asia but in the nascent Orientalist academy in Europe with Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat's translation of the Foguoji into French in 1836. This paper then follows the French translation of the Foguoji along its previously unstudied circulatory route into late-and post imperial Inner Asian intellectual and Buddhist scholastic communities. For example, the Buryat ethnologist Dorji Banzarov (1822-1855) first produced a Mongolian translation from the French at mid-century and the Khalkha monk Lobsangdamdin (1867-1937) produced a Tibetan translation in 1917. I show how in each translation, the Foguoji was heavily supplemented with all current knowledge about classical Indian Buddhism and the Silk Road, which in each case helped legitimate newly emerging social sites of knowledge about Asia: for example, research chairs in Sinology in Europe, Siberian ethnology, and Khalkha scholasticism. Thinking about these sites together, this paper aims to trouble the territorial fixities that continue to dominate Asian humanities (between, most egregiously, the "West" and "Asia," but also between "religion" and "science," or "tradition" and "the modern"). This paper thus explores overlapping conceptual fields that include Western Europe and Inner Asia, that implicate the earliest expressions of an academic study of Asia and Buddhism with the last expressions of monastic scholarship in the dawn of socialist state repression, and which finds seeds for competing modernities in the singular story of an antiquarian Chinese monk walking across Asia in pursuit of the Dharma.