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Buddha in Modern Turkey: Discovering and (Re)Inventing Buddhist History, Aesthetics, and Religion in the Turkish Republic (2/2)

Chair: Alexandre Toumarkine | Monday, August 24, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Although Buddhism has been of interest to Turkish intellectuals and scholars and to a certain degree the Turkish public throughout the history of the Republic, the encounter of Turkey with Buddhism has not yet been subject to research. These two panels will focus on exemplary authors, periods, academic disciplines, and topics that shall represent the breadth of engagement with Buddhism in modern Turkey, ranging from literary and philosophical encounters to academic research, to the adoption of religious ideas and practices. The panels shall help draw a historical narrative of the changes this encounter underwent and draw attention to the mediation of interest in and knowledge of Buddhism by Western literature and local actors and institutions. They shall highlight conflicts about the nature of the nation, religion, secularization, and multiculturalism inherent in Turkish society and show how the engagement with a religious Other could be employed to critique or reconstruct identities.

Laurent Mignon

Asaf Halet Çelebi: Buddhism and Resistance

The Turkish poet and scholar Asaf Halet Çelebi (1907-1958) showed interest for belief-systems outside the flexible boundaries of Islam. Merging French surrealist techniques and neo-mystical themes, his exploration of non-Islamic religiosities and Sufism could be interpreted as a form of protest against nationalism and religious orthodoxies. Among non-Abrahamic religions, Buddhism has particularly attracted Çelebi’s attention, as can be witnessed in his poetry, his articles on Indian religions and his 1946 monograph and anthology Pali Metinlerine Göre Gotama Buddha (Gautama Buddha According to Pali Texts). This paper aims at contextualising and analysing Asaf Halet Çelebi’s engagement with Buddhism during a historical period when homogenizing discourses of nationalism and secularism were being imposed by the Turkish state. While attempting to define Çelebi’s understanding of Buddhism, it will also outline how his reading of Buddhism contributed to his critique of fundamentalism and nationalism.

Katja Triplett

Turkish Haikus: Japanese Buddhistic Poetry in Modern Turkey

Since the early twentieth century, there has been a continuous interest for Japanese literature and culture in Ottoman and then republican Turkey. Yet, the Turkish engagement with Japanese literary and cultural products was mediated via translations in Western languages, mainly English and French. During this transfer process, Western interpretations of Japanese culture and particular images of Japan entered Turkish intellectual and literary life, including a discourse which overemphasized the (Zen) Buddhist nature of much of Japanese literature. The aim of this paper will be to explore the transfer of Buddhistic culture through the medium of literary translations and original works in Turkish by focusing on the works of selected poets from the twentieth century.

Arzu Kaygusuz

Geschichte der buddhistischen Studien in der Türkei

Nach den vier deutschen Turfan-Expeditionen, die zwischen 1902 und 1914 in der Turfanoase an der Seidenstraße in Ostturkestan (heutiges Xinjiang) unternommen wurden, haben auch die Forschungen zum zentralasiatisch-türkischen Buddhismus in der Türkei ihren Anfang genommen. Es wurden viele buddhistisch-alttürkische Textfragmente entdeckt, die den Wissenschaftlern nun zur Verfügung standen. In der Türkei wurden die ersten Studien über die alttürkischen buddhistischen Texte von Reşid Rahmeti Arat, Ahmet Caferoğlu und Saadet Çağatay durchgeführt. Es sind fast 90 Jahre seit den Veröffentlichungen dieser ersten Studien vergangen, und es haben sich noch zahlreiche weitere Forscher damit beschäftigt. Ich möchte im Rahmen meines Berichts auf diese buddhistischen Studien, die von 1928 bis heute gemacht wurden, eingehen und über die interessante und wechselvolle Forschungsgeschichte des Buddhismus in der Türkei berichten.


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