Call for papers for 2015 symposium

We invite proposals for papers for the 40th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, which will be held in Edinburgh on 10th-12th April 2015.

The theme this year is ‘dialogue’, by which we mean discussion, conversation, debate, argument, and communication between and within the religious traditions of South Asia. Our purview includes both religions of South Asian origin wherever in the world they are being practised, and those of non South Asian origin present within South Asia. We welcome papers based upon all research methods, including textual, historical, ethnographic, sociological and philosophical.

Presenters are usually allocated one hour for their paper and subsequent discussion, and will normally be expected to pay their own conference registration and expenses. (The Symposium fee, including food and accommodation, will be £190, with a non-residential rate of £65. Registration details will be sent separately.) In some cases financial assistance for speakers may be available.

We also welcome proposals from doctoral students, who will be allocated a 30 minute slot, and offered free registration at the Symposium.

We are delighted to announce our keynote lectures for the Symposium:

Prof. Stephen C. Berkwitz (Missouri State University): ‘So Near Yet So Far: Sri Lankan Strategies for Superseding Indian Cultural Forms’

Prof. Uma Chakravarti (National Fellow, Indian Council of Historical Research): ‘Contentious Dialogues: Three Moments From an Argumentative Past’

If you would like to participate in this exciting anniversary symposium please send a title and abstract (maximum 500 words) to the Convenor, Dr Naomi Appleton, at, by the end of October 2014.

2015 symposium keynotes

We are delighted to announce that Professors Uma Chakravarti and Stephen Berkwitz have agreed to serve as keynotes at the 2015 Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, which will be held in Edinburgh on 10th-12th April.

A call for papers – including requests for postgraduate speakers – will be issued in a couple of months.


40th Spalding Symposium: dates, venue, theme

We are pleased to announce preliminary details of the 40th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions!

Date: 10th – 12th April 2015
Venue: New College, University of Edinburgh
Theme: Dialogue, by which we mean discussion, conversation, debate, argument, and communication between and within the religious traditions of South Asia.

To hear further announcements about this symposium, including keynotes and schedule for submission of abstracts please follow this blog using the button on the right.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Edinburgh next spring.

Naomi Appleton

40th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions

The Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions will be peripatetic from next year. Consequently, the next symposium will be held in Edinburgh, the home of our new Convenor, Dr Naomi Appleton. If you would like to host the symposium in subsequent years, please contact Naomi.

Report on 39th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions

Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions
Sponsored by the Spalding Trust
From Dermot Killingley (Convenor, 39th Symposium, 2014)


The 39th annual Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions took place from Friday afternoon to Sunday midday, on the 25th-27th April 2014, in Luther King House, Manchester. This was the first time since the 1980s that it was not held in Oxford, and also the first time since the 1980s that it was not organised by Dr Anna King, who has retired as Convenor while remaining an enthusiastic participant and committee member, in addition to her work at the University of Winchester.

The move away from Oxford, where demand for conference facilities is very high, was intended to ensure lower cost and greater flexibility in numbers, and this has proved effective, reducing the conference fee from £240 to £170. We were glad to have Manchester University people among the participants, including Jacqueline Suthren Hirst, John Zavos, and Valerie Roebuck. Many participants commented on the pleasantness of the venue and its catering and other facilities. The weather was kind, and there were blossom and bird¬song, including an owl, though there was also a meaningless fire alarm in the small hours of Saturday.

24 people participated, of whom five were from overseas, including two university teachers from India, and two research students from North America. We are grateful to the Spalding Trust for funding which enabled us to subsidise these and also one UK-based researcher. 15 papers were presented, covering aspects of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh traditions, including both text-based studies and fieldwork in the South Asian diaspora. As usual, each paper was scheduled for one hour, including about 15 minutes for questions and discussion. One intending participant had to withdraw his paper as he was unwell and unable to come. Despite the busy schedule, participants enjoyed meeting each other, continuing their discussions and exchanging information and ideas.

Valerie Roebuck filled the traditionally light-hearted Saturday evening slot with a search for the apparently missing cat in Indian literature and art, giving a witty and erudite felinist revision. Catherine Robinson commemorated the often neglected contribution of Indian soldiers in the First World War. Naomi Appleton and James Hegarty presented samples of their ongoing work on interconnected Hindu, Buddhist and Jain narratives, and Alice Collett used epigraphic and other material to show the place of nuns in early Buddhism. Lal Kumar Jha discussed the meaning of vimutti/vimukti and related ideas of liberation in Buddhist and Hindu texts, while Theodore Gabriel looked at non-violence in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Robert Leach, who is doing post-doctoral research in Zürich, examined the history of the pentad Veda Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Pāñcarātra, Pāśupata in the Sanskrit tradition of doxography, and different views on their compatibility or incompatibility. Dhrubajyoti Sarkar, from Kalyani (West Bengal), contrasted Ramakrishna’s position as a rustic ascetic with his fascination with the colonial capital, with its carriages, theatres, photographic studios, water supply, gaslight, and other manifestations of modernity.

In contemporary studies, Anna King looked at the role of Buddhism in peacebuilding in Nepal, and Mahinda Deegalle examined Buddhist extremist movements in Sri Lanka. Eleanor Nesbitt examined the disputed place of vegetarianism and meat-eating among Sikhs. Using field observation, Catherine St-Hilaire from Montreal, who is now researching the Sikhs of Milan, showed the significance of a journey to the Punjab for the self-identity of Birmingham Sikhs, Rupa Pillai from Texas showed how Caribbean Hindus bring their rituals and healing practices to New York, and Martin Wood showed how the tradition of distributing food begun by Jalaram Bapa in Gujarat in 1820 is carried on in London.

I have handed over the work of Convenor with great confidence to Dr Naomi Appleton of Edinburgh University, who has already started planning the 2015 Symposium. At a meeting of the Committee at the end of this year’s Symposium, it was decided to move from year to year to different places where Indian Religions are studied, including eventually both Oxford and Manchester. Next year it will be in Edinburgh.

Dermot Killingley
2 May 2014