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Transnational Encounters and Religion: Following the Threads of Connected Histories (19th-20th Century). Religions on the Move (2/2)

Panel Chair: Philippe Bornet | Monday, August 24, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Inspired by the historiographical model of “connected histories” (Sanjay Subrahmanyam), the panel focuses on the detailed “trajectories” of individual actors and pays equal attention to the different contexts and perspectives entailed. Studies taking clues from this approach include biographical reassessments of travelers, “explorers”, missionaries, pilgrims, scholars, students, tourists, etc. In the context of the study of religions, this perspective can contribute to explore not only the circulation of religious concepts and practices, but also the issues such as the dynamism of “religious identities” and interactions between institutional and individual actors. The variety of contexts and actors display interactions that can be developed in many directions, providing a rich set of examples to reassess binary or unidirectional narratives of change. Bringing together selected cases involving European as well as non-European actors, the panel compares “transnational encounters” that involve religious issues (19th-20th centuries). A respondent will address the issues raised in the panel.

Brian Bocking

Charles Pfoundes and the Forgotten First Buddhist Mission to the West, London 1889

Charles J. W. Pfoundes (b. Ireland 1840, d. Japan 1907) arrived in Japan in 1863 aged 23. He learned Japanese and developed a lifelong interest and admiration for Japanese culture. In 1878 he returned to the UK and in 1889 launched, under the aegis of the newly-formed Kaigai Senkyokai (English name "Buddhist Propagation Society") in Kyoto, a Buddhist mission in London. This forgotten but highly active Japanese Buddhist mission to London, then hub of the global British empire, predates by ten years the so-called 'first' Buddhist missions to the West which emerged on California in 1899 and by almost two decades the alleged "first" Buddhist mission to London of Ananda Metteyya in 1908. New research into the mission, including its confrontations with Theosophy and links to Spiritualism and progressive reform movements offers new insights into the complex, lively and contested character of global religious connections in the late nineteenth century.

Fabienne Jagou

The Chen Jianmin (1906-1987) Legacy: An “Always on the Move” Buddhist Practice

According to his website, Chen Jianmin followed thirty-seven masters before establishing his own school, called “Adi Buddha Mandala”. Chen Jianmin’s Buddhist life impressed a large range of people, from his co-disciples in the 1930s and 1940s to his today’s Taiwanese and American disciples. He first lived among Tibetans in Khams province before spending 25 years in Darjeeling meditating and producing hundreds of Buddhist booklets. He created new Buddhist symbols mixing Tibetan and Chinese traditions, and finally died in the United States. His remains are kept in Taiwan. The aim of this paper is to follow the life of Chen Jianmin and to analyze the way his created Buddhist legacy is practiced and understood among his followers, Taiwanese people mainly, who founded yet another Buddhist identity revealing a mechanism of religion that is “always on the move”.

Adrian Hermann

Writing the Philippines into the Global History of „Religion“: Isabelo des los Reyes y Florentino (1864–1938) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente around 1900

As a case study on the connected histories of the emerging transcontinental networks of indigenous-Christian elites in the colonial public sphere around 1900, this paper focuses on the life, writings and intercontinental activities of the Filipino religious rebel, publicist, folklorist, historian and political activist Isabelo de los Reyes y Florentino (1864–1938) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) he founded in 1902 after his return from Spain. Through an analysis of Isabelo’s monographs La Religion del Katipunan (1899/1900) and Biblia Filipina (1908) as well as articles from early IFI periodicals, connections between religious, social, political and national struggles for emancipation are explored as an example of a history of religion in the age of a global discourse of “religion”. Thus, the paper reconstructs Isabelo’s contributions to the identity politics of a Filipino elite that – through their reception of and involvement in religious and scientific discourses on “religion” – was trying to find a place for itself and the Philippines in a global history of religion.

Maya Burger


Maya Burger will respond to the issues raised in this panel.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

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