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CALL. 15.12.2018: [SESSION 2] In and out of the canon: the making of Veda (EASR 2019) - Tartu (Eston




LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Tartu (Tartu, Estonia)


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The construction of a canon of texts and practices is a serious enterprise that requires the work of specialists and interpreters. Religious canons appear rigid and unchanging, and they aim at imposing from above a standard set of beliefs and practices. Yet, as J.Z. Smith has suggested, a canon is a quite flexible reality. It is neither entirely dependent upon the culture from which it emerges nor passively subject to external cultural innovations. From Smith’s point of view, what is crucial in the construction of a canon is the element of closure, which involves the action of interpreters who open, expand and re-close the canon without interrupting the stream of traditional knowledge. Such interpreters have the difficult task to extend the domain of the closed canon over everything hiding all traces of arbitrariness, disruption, and discontinuity. To be in and out of the canon is thus a historical sign of the hidden yet dynamic work of extension of the domain of tradition over new fields, practices and relationships. European philologists received the textual tradition of Indian priestly and scholarly elites through a well-established idea of canon, which they identified with the Vedic corpus of texts. But what “Vedic tradition” has meant in the history of the systematization of sacrificial procedure and techniques as well as textual organization is a question that deserves attention.

This session invites scholars to discuss conceptions of literary, ideological and disciplinary boundaries in the making of the Vedic “canon”. This will permit to reflect on how the definition of Veda has resulted from forcing its linguistic identity, vision of the world and scholarly applications in field as diverse as ritual science, astrology, mathematics, medicine, prosody, etymology, philosophy, hermeneutics, law and politics. In particular, discourses on the Vedic canon and its use in and beyond Vedic times should privilege perspectives on rupture and innovation, along with the historical analysis of the exegetical efforts conducted to validate and disseminate new authoritative worldviews and approaches. While the overall aim of this session is to answer original questions in relation to “canon-making” in Indian history, contributors are invited to consider Vedic studies not just in relation to Indology but as a way to foster methodological debates within the history of religion at large.

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