John MacGregor Murray (1745-1822): Persianate and Indic Cultures in British South Asia

Journée(s) d'étude - Mardi 28 mai 2019 - 10:00This workshop proposes to examine European engagement with Persian language and textual culture in South Asia. In Mughal India (1526-1857) and in the Princely States emerging with the decline of Mughal central power, Persian language established itself as a lingua franca used by a large number of Muslim and Hindu literati, as well as by European adventurers and officials. During this period, Persian emerged as an important idiom for the expression and reception of Hindu knowledge and traditions. Persian was the official language of the Mughal government and remained so under the British rule until the late 1830s, and even until the last decades of the century in some Princely States. During the colonial period, British officials commissioned a considerable number of Persian works dealing with Indian religions, sciences, history and society. These studies and translations composed by Hindu and Muslim scholars and secretaries (munshi) played a key role in early British understanding of South Asian cultural and natural environment. However, these texts have never been perceived as a coherent corpus by researchers. Some of these texts were translated into English and contributed to the emergence of the field of Indian studies and Orientalism. The texts and the translations produced for the British appear chiefly over an eighty-year period, going roughly from the 1770s until the 1850s. These texts were written for members of the British administration, such as Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal (1772-1785). They were also compiled for other Europeans, such as the French General Claude Martin (d. 1800), who served in the East India Company and under the Nawab of Lucknow.This workshop will look at an emblematic and little-known figure, that of John MacGregor Murray (1745-1822). Born into a Scottish military family, John MacGregor Murray was educated in Scottish Law at Edinburgh University. Unable to make a living as a lawyer, John Macgregor Murray turned to India and obtained a commission as a cadet in the Bengal Army in 1770. He rose steadily through the ranks of the Bengal establishment until being named colonel and was conferred a baronetcy in 1795 as a reward for his service before leaving India in 1797. In the meantime, he had succeeded his father as head of the MacGregor clan. John MacGregor Murray was an avid commissioner and collector of Persian literature. From the late 1770s onwards, he gathered a vast collection of manuscripts, many of which were original texts. These manuscripts, mostly held at the Berliner Staatsbibliothek, have drawn very little attention but are exceptional in their span. Compiled by Hindu and Muslim munshis, they deal with matters such as Indian religions, customs, law, botany, medicine, agronomy, etc. These texts were based on written and oral sources in vernacular languages and Persian. Most strikingly, John MacGregor Murray was able to assemble a collection of Persian volumes dealing with the religion, law and ethnography of Buddhist Arakan, a region nowadays divided between Myanmar and Bangladesh. While in India he developed a keen interest for the Gaelic and Scottish historical and cultural heritage and was active in the foundation of the Highland Society of Scotland at Edinburgh in 1784. Standing on the threshold of different cultures, he was described by a contemporary as “a Highland Chieftain elevated by Oriental ideas”.

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Bodies and Artefacts: Relics and other devotional supports in Shia societies in the Indic and Iranian worlds

Journée(s) d'étude - Lundi 27 mai 2019 - 10:00Programme (En anglais) 10:15 - Welcome Address by CEIAS Director10:20 - Opening remarks by Michel Boivin, Annabelle Collinet, Sepideh Parsapajouh  10:30 - Karen Ruffle (University of Toronto), EHESS-IISMM Invited ProfessorPresence in Absence: The Formation of Reliquary Shiism in Qutub Shahi Hyderabad In this presentation, I will present relics as indexical forms of remembrance that are powerful manifestations of the “presence in absence” of the Shiʿi saints and Imams. Relics assumed a defining role in shaping a specific form of religious material culture that would find spiritual and political valence among the diverse religious and ethnic polities of the Deccan region of South-Central India during the Qutb Shahi period (ca. 1496-1687 c.e.). I show how the Qutb Shahi sultans encouraged the translation of Shiʿism from an essentially Persianate form into an Indo-Shiʿi idiom through several complex processes of translation and indigenization that transformed the ritual-devotional, literary, architectural, and reliquary material practices into systems that were mutually intelligible to a diversity of Hindu and Muslim communities, alike. Panel 1 – Manuscript as devotional medium Chair : Pierre Antoine Fabre, EHESS-CéSor 11:00 - Mounia Chekhab Abudaya, Qatar Museum (Doha)Pilgrimage certificate as instrument of devotion: example of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha.Dated ah 21 Muharram 837 (September 6, 1433 ce), the pilgrimage certificate MS.267.1998, from the Museum of Islamic Art’s collection in Doha, was made for a pilgrim named Sayyid Yusuf bin Sayyid Shihab al-Din Mawara al-Nahri, who undertook the ‘umra. With a length of 666 cm, it features the major Islamic sites, alongside inscriptions from the Qur’an and texts written in Arabic and Persian related to the pilgrimage with the name of the pilgrim and his six witnesses inscribed at the end. This presentation will aim at introducing the scroll’s textual and visual content and in particular its possible use as an object of devotion transporting the viewer to the illustrated sacred places and providing blessings through the physical contact with these images. 11:30 - Zahir Bhalloo, Free University Berlin"From Sehwân to Masqat. Manuscripts of Sindhi elegies (marsiyâ) among the Lawâtiya of Oman"Manuscripts containing Shiʻi devotional poetry, in particular Sindhi elegies (marsiyâ) of Sâbit ʻAli Shâh (d. 1800) of Sehwân on the martydom of Husayn (d. 680), were abandonded in the late nineteenth century by the majority of South Asian Khoja followers loyal to the Shia Imami Ismaili spiritual leadership of the Aga Khan. These manuscripts continue to be used, however, as devotional supports by the dissident Twelver Shiʻi Khoja minority known as Lawâtiya that settled in Masqat. In this paper, we will examine how these manuscripts become part of the Khoja satpanth religious tradition in South Asia and their contemporary role among the Lawâtiya of Oman. 12:00 - Olly Akkerman, Free University BerlinA Neo-Fatimid Library in the Making: The Social Lives of Arabic Manuscripts among the Alawi Bohras of South AsiaThe Bohras, a small but vibrant Ismaili community in India that is almost entirely closed to outsiders, hold a secret Arabic manuscript culture, which is enshrined and preserved in royal archives or khizānāt. This paper will investigate the materiality of the khizāna and the social role of its manuscripts. As secret objects that are part of a living manuscript culture, I argue, these manuscripts are central to the identity of the community. Beyond their function as carriers of knowledge, the paper will examine how the books of the khizāna are understood among the Bohras as devotional supports and relics, embodying the direct and unbroken link between the community and the Fatimid past. 12:30 - Lunch break Panel 2- Body and its imprint in devotional rituals Chair : Rémy Delage, CNRS-CEIAS  14:00 - Daniel de Smet, CNRS-LEMThe foundation of the shrine of al-Husayn’s head in the last decades of Fatimid Egypt: its political and religious implicationsOne of the last Fatimid caliphs, al-Zâfir, transferred to Cairo the relic of al-Husayn’s head, previously discovered in a miraculous way in Ascalon by the Armenian Fatimid vizier Badr al-Jamâlî. In 1154, eighteen years before Saladin put an end to the Fatimid Empire, the shrine of al-Husayn was officially opened and its devotion was overtly promoted by the regime. Although our sources about this event are scarce, I will try to cast some light on the political and religious implications of the introduction of this Shi’i cult shortly before the final triumph of Sunni Islam in Egypt. 14:30 - Sepideh Parsapajouh, CNRS-CéSor Some reflections on the geography of corporal relics in Twelver Shia IslamIn Twelver Shia Islam, considering the plurality and multiplication of the venerated figures, the holy places are also innumerable. In this presentation, I focus on the places of devotion that are supposed to contain the bones (corporal relics). I will try to present them in a schematic framework and to discuss some factors (liturgical and emotional) for explaining the importance of some of them, as well as some aspects of their transformations and changes over time. 15:00 - Delphine Ortis, INALCOThe body of the malañg renunciant and his emotions in the devotional rituals of Qalandarī (Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan)To shed light on the place of the body and emotions in Shia devotional rituals, we will take the renunciant qalandarī or malañg as the subject. Indeed, to progress on the path of Lāl Shahbāz Qalandar, he must put his body and emotions to the test. We wonder what roles do the body and emotions play in this learning of devotion? And what does the transformed body of malañg represent? 15:30 - Annabelle Collinet, Musée du LouvreTaʿziyeh and dasteh: ʽAlam, costumes and objects of Moharram's devotional theatre and processions in Iran since the Qajar periodDuring the ceremonies related to the commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Ḥosayn and his companions, the bodies of actors and believers carry signs that identify the devotional figures celebrated. These objects (armour elements, weapons and sculptures) visually concentrate the story and figure invoked. In the theatre as well as on the banners, they represent the words declaimed, sung or inscribed that relate the drama. The objects worn and carried today are very similar to those identifiable for the Qajar period and are largely inspired for the costumes, from safavid period productions. Made of forged steel and damascened with precious metals, these objects show the durability of models with a strong visual identity and the recurring use of this metal for Shia devotional objects. 16:00 - Coffee break Panel 3- Circulation of Material Culture between Shiism and Sufism Chair: Hélène Zwingelstein, CéSor-EHESS 16:30 - Michel Boivin, CNRS-CEIAS Body in absence: the Mawla jo qadam in Sindh between Shiism and SufismA number of papers have been devoted to the qadam-e rasul in South Asia, or the Prophet Muhammad’s footprints which are visited by devotees. Amazingly, the scholars did not pay attention yet to the qadam-e mowla, namely places where Ali’s footprints can be found, or his horse’s footprints. Such sites can be found in many Sufi sites in the Indus Valley, although they can also be arranged as separate places of devotion, as it is the case in Hyderabad, Sindh. The paper will investigate how the qadam-e mowla can inform us about the interaction between Shiism and Sufism both in Shia and Sufi places of pilgrimage. 17:00 - Hasan Ali Khan, Habib University (Karachi)The Qalandariyya Sufi Order of Sehwan (Pakistan) (film 35 mn, Hasan Ali Khan, Shabbir Siraj, Nofil Naqvi) in its relationship with Popular Shia devotionThe ethnographic film 'Shahbaz Qalandar' explores the vital role of the Qalandariyya Sufi Order in the city of Sehwan’s religious life, in its relationship with Shia devotional culture. It deals with the diversified contemporary spiritual life and religious practices of the city of Sehwan in Pakistan, including the popular collective ritual at the shrine, the dhammal, and other aspects of Qalandari piety and popular culture, which are solely built around the tragedy of Karbala. The film screening will be preceded by a short talk on the structural commonalties of the Qalandariyya with similar communities in Turkey and Iran, such as the Alevis and Ahl‑i Haqq (Yaresan).  18:00 – General discussion 

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“Conversion” Religions and Multi-Religious Entanglements in South Asia (8th to 19th c.): Contexts and Perspectives

Journée(s) d'étude - Jeudi 25 avril 2019 - 09:00Religious conversion and coexistence are concepts at the forefront of contemporary political debates in the subcontinent. Political actors are currently mostly busy wielding distinctions such as indigenous vs. foreign and playing a dangerous game of exclusion and assimilation. Our one-day conference gathers together senior and junior scholars working on a common project which explores a longue durée history of practices and concepts when religious plurality thrived in one of the most travelled maritime regions of the world: the Indian Ocean and south India. From antiquity until the late eighteenth century, this region was a crucial link in a unified world economy and maritime culture. It was also the theater of encounters and circulation of religious actors, objects and ideas between the Mediterranean and West Asian Messianic religions - which we are accustomed now to call, with a Muslim term, Abrahamic - and Indian religious traditions and philosophical systems. We are in particular interested in multi-religious community formation and its effects on political dynamics in the region. State-building, development of new or refurbished local cults, the flowering of multilingual literary forms were only some of the consequences of the early modern political and cultural innovations directly linked to a certain degree of socio-religious mobility created in the multi-religious context of the immediate pre-British colonial period. The hardening of communal boundaries however started also precisely at this moment, and the colonial rule only quickened the creation of “fixed” social and religious categories of caste and religion. In the process the category of Abrahamic religion (Christian, Muslim, Jews) slipped through the British colonial knowledge grid into a “western”, non-Indian religion and thus conceptually unworthy of studying in the “area studies” context. Through this move a whole range of pre-colonial knowledge forms were left invisible and discarded. The final assault on multi-religiosity came from the 19th century revivalist/nativist and purifying efforts of the social and religious reformers who thus tried to cut down inter- and intra-religious networks in the name of ancient history, immobile orthodoxy and new ideological constructs of nation-state and Hinduism. 

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Hélène Kessous lauréate du prix de thèse du musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac 2019

Prix et distinctions -Hélène Kessous a soutenu sa thèse intitulée « La blancheur de la peau en Inde. Des pratiques cosmétiques à la redéfinition des identités » au sein du Centre d'études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud à l’EHESS et sous la direction de Catherine Servan-Schreiber. C'est après une (...)(...)

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3e conférence Lévi-Strauss : "L'anthropologie et la paix universelle", par Heonik Kwon

Conférence - Jeudi 17 octobre 2019 - 17:00La conférence Lévi-Strauss sera prononcée cette année par Heonik Kwon professeur d'anthropologie au Trinity College (Université de Cambridge), et aura pour thème « L'anthropologie et la paix universelle ».Heonik Kwon (Université de Cambridge) est un anth (...)(...)

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