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Representation of the Religious Other

Session Chair: N.N. | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

S.M.Mehboobul Hassan Bukhari

The ‘other’ in South Asian Islamic Discourse

Popular narrative to discuss Islam revolves around colonial/modern categories. Colonial classification posits modern dialectics of ‘other’ such as Said’s (1978) critique of Western classification of Muslims as ‘Orient’, Rippin’s (2005) identification of modernity as ‘internal’ to Islam and Lewis (2003) declaration of failure of ‘Muslim modernism’. Interestingly, all representative ‘styles’ of Islam, no matter traditionalists or secularists, hesitate to contest the premises of global capitalist market. In other words, these ‘styles’ partake in the maintenance of global capitalism. This paper hypothesizes that the ‘other’ has disappeared in theorization and practices of south Asian Muslims in postcolonial milieu. It investigates the discourse by using Deleuze’s ‘Control Societies’ as a starting point which culminates into Hardt and Negri’s ‘Empire’. Both texts postulate capitalist market as a model to illustrate new form of imperial sovereignty. Furthermore, this study seeks to unpack the presumptions of Muslims’ arguments and map out their socio-political ramifications.

David Bradna

The Conceptualization of Shintō in the Western Literature

This paper intends to present the results of testing Balagangadhara’s hypothesis that Asian religions like Buddhism, Taoism, Shintō, etc. are not real entities but a product of a western, i.e. secularized theological framework. 1) Engelbert Kaempfer fabricated the very existence of Shintō as an individual system in the late 17th century on the basis of the biblical theory: Shintō was supposedly the original Babylonian monotheism (while Buddhism the idolatry originated in Egypt). This idea was uncritically accepted by the Enlightenment intelligentsia, and secularized into a – on theology independent – ethnographical fact. The fabrication of individual systems also brought about pseudo-debates concerning the religious freedom, and combination of practices. At the end of the 19th century, Chamberlain transformed these originally intriguing questions into a neutral description of the Japanese religious life. The current debates on Shintō (i.e. the non-existence of Shintō as an independent religion in pre-modern Japan) kindled by the Japanese historian Kuroda can be perceived as a direct heir of the theologically biased conclusions. 2) The idea that Shintō was the original Babylonian monotheism (“corrupt” by Buddhism) possessing the knowledge of a Supreme Being remained the mainstream in the primary western literature until the 1840’s, when von Siebold transformed it into the “original Japanese monotheism”. As lately as the 1860’s Shintō became the “original Japanese religion”. Abandoning one definiendum of Christianity after another made, in the last two decades of the 19th century, many scholars conclude that Shintō was not a religion. The following debates on whether Shintō was or was not a religion, however, took place purely at the level of the definition of Christianity, and the western cultural intuition. Even though those debates remained inconclusive, they eventually began to be ignored: state that has not changed until the present.

Benjamin Weineck

Political Economies of Religious Difference: Some Thoughts on Alevi History in the Ottoman State

Political economy constitutes the idea that the political is guided by economic rationalities of order – an order to be pursued through a variety of dispositives and asynchronous measures which act upon the population seeking to enhance their productivity or to discipline dissent. In this perspective, an approach to a political economy of Alevi history asks for the specific contexts, in which signifying Alevis as religiously different or generally uncivilized (medeniyetsiz) was necessary according to a certain political knowledge about the population. This presentation thus tries to fathom the governmental ratio of persecuting Alevis due to religio-political dissent and of accommodating them as part of the wider population. Such an approach to Alevi history in the Ottoman Empire would not focus on Alevi religious history but would rather ask for the dynamics and ever shifting importance of religion and religious difference for ‘early modern’ government in contexts of religious pluralism.

Bulent Senay

Bucovina Monasteries and Representation of the Religious Other

This paper looks at the unique paintings on the exterior walls of some of the 15th century Orthodox monasteries in Southern Bucovina (northeastern Romania) in the context of religious representation and otherisation. The ‘Other’ has been depicted in human discourse in many ways and forms – conversation, meta/narratives, plays, war, politics, religion. The representation of the other in religious language, art and culture has thus always made an interesting research subject. One might delve deep into literary and cultural theory, or even psychological and psychoanalytic studies, to explore the notion of otherness and othering, or perhaps turn to postmodern philosophical discussions to explore ‘alterity’ or to modern philosophical discussions to consider the concept of alienation. The Christian and Islamic places of worship and the faith routes represent one of the most important examples of the cultural heritage.


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