The faculty of Theology and Religious Studies hosts a new research centre: the Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture in Asia . The inauguration of the Centre will take place on November 18th during the first edition of a series of Colloquia on Asian Religions. The Centre builds on the successful work of the Institute of Indian Studies that the Faculty hosted since 1953.
With the establishment of the new Centre, the focus shifts from the historical and philological study of Hinduism to the interdisciplinary investigation of religions, culture and history of Asia. The Centre aims at coordinating studies with an interdisciplinary approach through international cooperation. It wishes to contribute new theoretical frameworks and research methodologies to the scholarship of the field.
Director of the new Centre is Rosalind Franklin Fellow Dr. Stefania Travagnin. In September 2013 she joined the Faculty as assistant professor of Religion in Asia. Together with assistant professor of Indian Religions and the Anthropology of Religion Dr. Peter Berger, she initiated the Centre. They envisioned the Centre as a research centre. “The guiding principle of the Centre is that only constructive dialogue and cooperation among scholars can advance knowledge”, says Travagnin. “The Centre will strengthen the international visibility of the Faculty as a centre of excellence for the study of Asian history, religions and culture. It will also enrich the overall strategic component of Asian studies at the RUG through collaboration with the Centre for East Asian Studies Groningen.”
The Centre coordinates five research clusters, which count the participation of scholars based in other institutions in Europe, North America and Asia. This will facilitate a close cooperation between the Faculty and international renowned institutions. The first cluster is Religion, Culture and Society of Indian “Tribal” (Adivasi) Communities, a multidisciplinary platform for scholars working on Adivasi communities. The second cluster , History and Theory of the Anthropology of India, studies various aspects of the development of this sub-discipline.The third cluster, Textual vs. Extra-Textual in East Asian Buddhism, aims at reconstructing the interplay and hierarchy between texts, visual culture/media and performative practices. The fourth cluster, Religion and the Media in East Asia, explores forms and levels of interaction between religions, believers, expressions of religiosity on one hand and social media on the other. The fifth cluster, Critical Concepts and Methods for the Study of Religion in Modern China, aims at the theorization of effective conceptual frameworks and methods for this new field.
The Centre is home of the Colloquium on Asian Religions, which schedules an average of three talks each semester. The Colloquium provides a meeting point for scholars, students and interested public to discuss discursive identities and social functions of religion in Asia, past and present. On November 18th Berit Furhmann (Münster) will give a lecture on the challenges of “two religions”. In this lecture she will explain the cosmological continuities, ritual changes and the process of Christian conversion in a tribal society of Meghalaya, Northeast India. At the end of the colloquium the Centre’s director Stefania Travagnin will officially inaugurate the Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture in Asia with a short presentation and a borrel in the hall of the Faculty, starting at 6 pm.
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Ragnhild Bø, Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Religion and Heritage