Critical Indology series launches with Buddhist lecture (updated location info)

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Critical Indology Lecture Series

This new lecture series presents scholars whose work is indebted to the study of the history, languages, and cultures of South Asia through the textual testimony of the region, and who at the same time in their work critically reflect on that debt, the baggage, and responsibilities that come with it, engage critically with the history of the field, and aim at establishing the field itself as critical towards contemporary economic, social, political, and intellectual developments. The lecture series title evokes the ‘untimely’ name of a field that has dissolved into ‘South Asian Studies’ without having unfolded its full potential as a ‘kritische Wissenschaft’. In this sense, an Indology that sets out to be critical reacts to its own conditions, to both its Orientalist past and its submerged historical place within South Asian Studies, by a scrupulous and self-critical attention to the text and by neither reducing the literatures it studies to region or to religion, but rather subverting the dichotomies of territory and periodization, the religious and the secular. This series will – theoretically, methodologically, paradigmatically – propose not just new ways of reading old texts, but new ways of reading old ways of reading.

Inaugural Lecture by
Max Deeg (Cardiff University):
The Buddhist Creation of an Indian Dynasty: Harsa of Kanauj in Xuanzang’s Record of the Western Regions (Xiyu ji) and Its Chinese Context
Friday, January 24, 2014, 4-6pm, Jackman Humanities Building R.318

It is certainly not an exaggeration to call Xuanzang (*602?-664) the most influential and most famous Buddhist individual of the Tang period (618-907). He is hailed as a traveler, a translator, a philosopher, and as a founder or patriarch of a Buddhist school, the Faxiang zong ? the latter not very long-lasting in China but leaving a stronger legacy in Japan. Considering his importance and despite the close relationship he had with the Tang emperors Taizong (*598, ruled 626-649) and Gaozong (*628, ruled 649-683) it is rather surprising to find that, other than reading his record and his hagiography as a historical narrative for the study of Indian Buddhism and history, little work has been done to position him in the political and social context of his time, the early decades of the Tang dynasty. The talk will address the didactic aspect of Xuanzang?s Datang xiyu ji (Record of the Western Regions [of the Period] of the Great Tang). It will examine how and for what end Xuanzang portrays the North Indian ruler Harsa (Harsavardhana Siladitya) of Kanyakubja / Kanauj and his dynasty, the Puspabhutis in a way which is at odds with the South Asian sources about this king. A contextualization of his description in the Chinese context of the mid-7th century will show that Xuanzang projected Harsa as an idealized Buddhist king who was, however, not superior to the Chinese ruling house of Tang but used smartly as a surface of moral projection (‘speculum’) to educate and admonish the Chinese emperor Taizong for whom the Record was written.

Max Deeg is Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religious and Theological Studies at Cardiff University, Wales, UK. Deeg received his PhD in Indian Studies and his professoral degree (Habilitation) in Religious Studies from the University of Würzburg, Germany. His research focuses on the transmission of Buddhism in Asia and the cultural exchange processes between India, Central Asia and China.

For further information please contact Christoph Emmrich at

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