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Material Texts: Religion, Mobility, Responsibility (5-7 October 2023)

Published onMay 19, 2023
Material Texts: Religion, Mobility, Responsibility (5-7 October 2023)

How do material texts – e.g. manuscripts, maps, inscribed objects, printed books, newspapers, ephemera, and forms of handwork – shape the communities in which they circulate? In what ways are texts’ meanings conditioned by the material assemblages and social infrastructures in which they are encountered and used? How do the lives of material texts become enmeshed with those of their makers and keepers over time? 

This material texts workshop features research talks as well as hands-on sessions with curators from Universiteit Leiden’s Special Collections, the Musuem Volkenkunde, and Amsterdam's Black Archives. It focuses on the lives and uses of material texts from a range of periods, regional contexts, religious traditions, and disciplinary perspectives. The aim is to initiate new conversations around the analysis of these primary sources that are receptive to the following set of questions:

Religion: Many religious traditions produce, venerate, and care for texts. How have religions engaged with texts in ways beyond their semantic content alone? How does the history of ritual engagement with religious texts condition their status as archival sources? What are the resources within religious traditions that suggest methods and forms of analysis for scholarly interpretation and archival practice? 

Mobility: Material texts were often on the move, whether as representatives of transregional traditions, the works of itinerant makers and diaspora communities, or valuable commodities in colonial economies. How do these sources record histories of mobility and the critical reception of global publics? How did a text change when it was mediated through networks of distribution and entered new contexts of reception? 

Responsibility: Scholars may encounter significant and sometimes sacred texts in their research, which may be of questionable provenance or acquired by colonial or imperial regimes and their agents. What are the responsibilities of scholars and archivists to the texts that they study and preserve? Can care for these materials and concerns for their preservation intersect productively with care for communities and calls for repatriation?

Confirmed Speakers and Presentations:

Peter Bisschop (Leiden University): Material Texts from South & Southeast Asia in the Leiden Collections

Elizabeth Cecil (Florida State University): Pūrṇavarman’s Prints: Territory and Inscription in Early West Java

Mitchell Esajas (Black Archives Amsterdam): Making Hidden Histories Visible

Laxshmi Greaves (Cardiff University): Why Label them? Inscribed Visual Rāmāyaṇa Narratives on Early South Asian Temples

Sonia Hazard (Florida State University): Printing is a Land-Relation: Christianity and Cherokee Media Theory in Nineteenth-Century Cherokee Nation

Hedi Hinzler (Leiden University): The Balinese Manuscript Project

Aaron Hyman (Johns Hopkins University): Seville Papered Over, or The Culture of Religious Debate in early Seventeenth-Century Spain

Berthe Jansen (Leiden University): Himalayan Ritual Texts and Artefacts in Context: The Materiality of the Van Manen Collection

Olli-Pekka Littunen (Leiden University): The Life of a Material Text – How a Palm-Leaf Manuscript Traveled from Varanasi to Nepal and Beyond

Solimar Otero (Indiana University): Juramentos and Firmas: Narrating Assemblages in Afro-Cuban Material Religious Culture

Pranav Prakash (Oxford University): A Reckoning with Persian Purāṇas: Exploring the Ethos of Textual Production in Early Modern and Colonial South Asia

Sanjukta Poddar (Leiden University): Texts and Textual Strategies: Vanguards of Caste Advocacy in Colonial-Era North India

Annachiara Raia (Leiden University): Portable Islam: The Circulation of People, Booklets and Ideas in 20th-century East Africa

Martijn Storms (Leiden University Library): Exhibition and Discussion of Maps from Leiden’s Special Collections

Martin Tsang (Independent Scholar): Texting Afro-Atlantic Religion: The Production and Circulation of Ritual Knowledge in Afro-Cuban Libretas

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