Beyond Familiar Boundaries

Collaborative Studies of Bhakti Across Limits of Language and Region

Beyond Familiar Boundaries

Beyond Familiar Boundaries

150 150 Regional Bhakti Scholars Network

organized by Jon Keune and Gil Ben-Herut

Madison South Asia Conference - Oct 20, 2016

This year’s symposium follows a more experimental format to push us out of our comfort zones and off familiar research paths: collaborative teams who intentionally cross boundaries. Using the RBSN listserv, scholars have located colleagues who shared a common interest to study intentionally from transdisciplinary, cross-regional, and inter-linguistic angles. Having committed to collaboration, each team sets a research agenda and presentation style that suits its peculiar needs. The freedom engendered in this approach makes it difficult to anticipate final outcomes, but the format encourages innovation by requiring participants to go beyond familiar linguistic and regional boundaries.

Our tentative program includes eight collaborative teams who explore a variety of issues. For example, some teams study topics with explicit ties across conventional boundaries, such ritual uses of bhakti for demonic deities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and a pandit-poet who composed both poetry and philosophy in both Marathi and Sanskrit. Other teams explore a common topic from distant locations, such as gendered discourse surrounding female Śaiva poet-saints in Kashmir and Tamil Nadu, and bhakti inflected literatures and practices at sufi dargahs in Andhra Pradesh and Delhi.

These collaborations arose because this symposium offers scholars an arena in which to experiment and discover new connections. The topics dealt with by the teams are as diverse as they are path-breaking and adventurous. Nonetheless, these partnerships all revolve around the basic concerns that drive the RBSN: to understand what “bhakti” signifies in various contexts and its relation to society, thought, literature, and politics in South Asia.

7:30 – 8:30

Light Breakfast

8:30 – 8:35

Welcome and Opening Comments

8:35 – 9:25

Anand Venkatkrishnan & Jon Keune
Punditry and Poetry, Sanskrit and Marathi

9:25 – 10:15

Dean Accardi & Karen Pechilis
Engendering Bhakti Networks in Kashmir and Tamil Nadu

10:15 – 10:30

Coffee Break

10:30 – 11:20

Afsar Mohammed & Anand Taneja
Devotion and Ethical Life: Looking at Dargah Literary Culture

11:20 – 12:10

Manpreet Kaur & Sohini Pillai
Bhakti on the Peripheries: The Pothī Prem Ambodh at the Court of Guru Gobind Singh and Vishnudas’s Pāṇḍavcarit at the Court of Dungarendra Singh

12:15 – 1:45


1:45 – 2:35

Anne Monius & Gil Ben-Herut
South to Mt. Meru: A Comparative View of the Early Tamil and Kannada Saiva Literatures

2:35‐ 3:25

Elaine Craddock & Rich Freeman
Demonic Dynamics in the Deep South: Tamil Nadu and Kerala

3:30 – 3: 45

Coffee Break

3:45 – 4:35

Archana Venkatesan & Philip Lutgendorf
In the Company of Commentators: Trust and Travail in Translating Bhakti Classics

4:35 – 5:25

Harshita Kamath & Arun Jones
Bhakti and Religious Creativity

5:30 – 6:30

Madison South Asia All‐conference Reception

Madison Ballroom


Informal Dinner

540 State Street