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	Poetics and the Past: Revisiting Historiographical Traditions in Early Kashmir

Poetics and the Past: Revisiting Historiographical Traditions in Early Kashmir

Shonaleeka KAUL

17 juin 2014 | 15h-16h30

[Salle 640, 190 avenue de France 75013 Paris]

 

Conférence donnée dans le cadre de l'atelier "Histoires de soi, histoires des autres : questions de traduction et d'historiographie"

 

Traditional scholarly opinion has regarded Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, the twelfth-century Sanskrit chronicle of Kashmiri kings, as a work of history. This essay proposes a reinvestigation of the nature of the iconic text from outside the shadow of that label. It first closely critiques the positivist “history hypothesis,” exposing its internal contradictions over questions of chronology, causality, and objectivity as attributed to the text. It then argues that more than an empiricist historical account that modern historians like to believe it is—in the process bracketing out integral rhetorical, mythic, and didactic parts of the text—the Rajataranginishould be viewed in totality for the kavya(epic poem) that it is, i.e, as representing a specific language practice that sought to produce meaning and articulated the poet’s vision of the land and its lineages. The essay thus urges momentarily reclaiming the text from the hegemonic but troubled understanding of it as history—only to restore it ultimately to a more cohesive notion of historicality that is sensitive to the literary and consistent with textual contents. Toward this end, it highlights the concrete claim to epistemic authority that is asserted both by the genre of Sanskrit kavyagenerally and by the Rajataranginiin particular, and their conception of the poetic “production” of the past that bears a striking resonance with constructivist historiography. It then traces the intensely intertextual and value-laden nature of the epistemology that frames the Rājataranginiinto a narrative discourse on power and ethical governance. It is in its narrativity and discursivity—its meaningful representation of what constitutes “true” knowledge of time and human action—that the salience of the Rajataranginimay lie.

EHESS
CNRS

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