Report on the 41st Symposium

Spalding2016The 41st Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions was held at St Michael’s College, Llandaff, and hosted by Drs Simon Brodbeck and James Hegarty of Cardiff University. The theme was “narrative”, and the papers ranged from the portrayal of animals in biographies of the Buddha to the competing narratives of M. A. Jinnah’s nationalist vision.

The keynote speakers this year were Professor Phyllis Granoff (Yale University) and Professor Rupert Gethin (University of Bristol). Professor Granoff opened the Symposium with a paper exploring narratives of conversion in early Buddhist and Jain scriptures. The paper spoke to some of the key themes that ran through the whole weekend, including the role of stories in religious teachings, the relationship between narrative and doctrine, and the ways in which narrative gaps or slippages invite further investigation. On the second day of the Symposium, Professor Gethin presented his exploration of how the narrative frames of early Buddhist suttas of the Dīgha Nikāya inform our reading of the – often formulaic – doctrinal renditions therein, again speaking directly to the question of how narrative and doctrine inter-relate.

In addition to the two keynote speakers, there were ten excellent papers by scholars from as far afield as Vancouver and Delhi, and three postgraduate speakers also offered work-in-progress papers, giving us a window into emerging research in the field. A special mention must be made of the very thought-provoking after-dinner paper delivered by Professor James Laine (Macalaster College) about the controversial response to his 2003 book on the 17th century Maratha king Shivaji, which included a temporary ban in Maharashtra and an attack on the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune. We also particularly enjoyed hearing from our two visitors from Miranda House at the University of Delhi, Drs Saswati Sengupta and Sharmila Purkayastha, who gave a rich and challenging portrait of colonial-era Bengal and the use of narratives of the goddess Lakṣmī to lay the blame for horrendous famines on local women.

All the papers were of high quality, and there was also an impressive level of coherence to the Symposium overall. This led to extensive discussions of common themes, including how we speak of genre, and the varied uses of narrative in teachings, conversion, entertainment, exemplification of doctrine or philosophical argument, expressing or establishing identities, drawing audiences into different worlds, and providing competing accounts of significant times, events or people.

The Symposium also benefited from the wonderful surroundings and food of St Michael’s College, and the warm and efficient hosting of Drs Brodbeck and Hegarty. Generous coffee breaks and evenings at the local pub ensured that the conversation spilled out from the papers and panels. We are grateful to the Spalding Trust for their continued support of this Symposium, which enabled us to invite our keynote speakers and offer our postgraduate contributors a free place.

Naomi Appleton (Convenor, Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions)

2016 Symposium draft programme

We are pleased to announce the draft programme of papers for the 2016 Spalding Symposium, which will be held at St Michael’s College, Cardiff, and convened by Drs Simon Brodbeck and James Hegarty of Cardiff University. Registration details will be circulated shortly.

Friday 15th April

2.00-3.15pm Registration, tea and coffee in St Michael’s College reception area

3.15-3.30 Welcome, announcements

3.30-4.30 Opening Keynote Lecture: Prof. Phyllis Granoff (Yale University) – ‘Narrating Conversion: Some Reflections on Buddhist and Jain Stories’

4.30-5.30 Dr Vijay Ramnarace (Cardiff University) – ‘Narrative Marketing: Evolving Accounts of the Miraculous Naming of a Pre-Modern South Asian Theologian’

5.30-5.45 Comfort break

5.45-6.45 Dr Brian Black (Lancaster University) – ‘Narrative Connections between the Upaniṣads and the Mahābhārata

6.45-7.45 Dinner in St Michael’s College Dining Hall

7.45-8.45 After Dinner Paper: Prof. James W. Laine (Macalester College) – ‘Good Guys and Bad Guys: Narrative Constraints and the Epic of Śivaji

Saturday 16th April

9.00-10.00 Dr David Fiordalis (Linfield College) – Framing Buddhist Narratives, Creating a Narrative World: The Hundredth Tale of the Avadānaśataka

10.00-11.00 Drs Saswati Sengupta and Sharmila Purkayastha (Delhi University) – ‘Of Famines and Females: the Politics and Poetics of Lakṣmī Bratakathās of Bengal’

11.00-11.30 Tea and coffee

11.30-1.00 Postgraduate Papers:

Sander Hens (Ghent University) – ‘From Foolish King to Rajput Hero: Reworking the Life Story of Prithviraj Chauhan during the Delhi Sultanate Period’

Noor van Brussel (Ghent University) – ‘Revenge, Hatred, Love and Regret: the Employment of Narrative Empathy in a Regional Purāṇa’

Jacek Skup (Jagiellonian University, Krakow) – ‘The Narratives of Nation Building: Nationalism, Secularism and Religion in M. A. Jinnah’s Speeches’

1.00-2.00 Lunch in the St Michael’s College Dining Hall

2.00-3.00 Dr Eviatar Shulman (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) – ‘Aśvaghoṣa’s Viśeṣaka: the Saundarananda and its Pāli “Equivalents”’

3.00-4.00 Dr Elizabeth M. Rohlman (University of Calgary) – ‘Narrative Discourse and Intertextual Engagement in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa’s Frame’

4.00-4.30 Tea and coffee

4.30-5.30 Dr Christopher R. Austin (Dalhousie University) – ‘Narrative Streams in Ravivarman’s Ocean: Theatre and Theology in the Pradyumnābhyudaya

5.30-6.30 Keynote Lecture: Prof. Rupert Gethin (University of Bristol) – ‘Narrating the Dharma: Frame Stories in the Dīghanikāya

6.30-7.15 Free time

7.15 Dinner in St Michael’s College Dining Hall

Sunday 17th April

9.00-10.00 Dr Reiko Ohnuma (Dartmouth College) – ‘Animal Doubles of the Buddha’

10.00-11.00 Dr James Madaio (New Europe College, Bucharest) – ‘Scriptural Hermeneutics and Narrative Examples in Advaita Vedānta: the Reading of Stories to Determine Dharma

11.00-11.30 Tea and coffee

11.30-12.30 Dr Adheesh Sathaye (University of British Columbia) – ‘The Cultural Power of Proverbial Verses within the Prose Tales of Śivadāsa’s Vetāla Collection’

12.30-1.00 Closing discussion

1.00-2.00 Lunch, followed by departure

Call for papers: 2016 Symposium

We invite proposals for papers for the 41st Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, which will be hosted by Cardiff University at St Michael’s College, Llandaff, on 15th, 16th and 17th April 2016.

The theme this year is ‘narrative’, by which we mean written or orally transmitted accounts of event that are real or fictive. This could include topics ranging from the narrative portions of Vedic literature to oral histories of the partition of India. Our purview includes 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 any and all research methods, including textual, historical, ethnographic, sociological and philosophical.

Presenters are usually allocated forty minutes for their paper and twenty minutes for discussion, and will normally be expected to pay their own conference registration and expenses. The Symposium fee, including food and accommodation, will be £175, with a non-residential rate of £75. 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 twenty minutes for their paper and ten minutes for discussion, and offered free registration at the Symposium.

We are delighted to announce our keynote speakers for the Symposium, and the provisional titles of their papers: Phyllis Granoff, the Lex Hixon Professor of World Religions at Yale University (‘Narrating Conversion: Some Reflections on Buddhist and Jain Stories’), and Rupert Gethin, Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol (‘Narrating the Dharma: Frame Stories in the Dīghanikāya’).

If you would like to give a presentation, please send a title and abstract (maximum 500 words) to the Convenors, Simon Brodbeck and James Hegarty, at, by 7th December 2015.

The 40th Anniversary Spalding Symposium

The 40th Anniversary Spalding Symposium

The 2015 Spalding Symposium, held in Edinburgh on 10th-12th April, was a wonderfully stimulating experience as always. With two excellent keynote lectures, from Professors Stephen Berkwitz and Uma Chakravarti, nine other full-length papers, and three postgraduate presentations, there was a real richness of scholarship and conversation. It was a great personal pleasure to welcome all the speakers and other contributors to Edinburgh, and there was even some sunshine!

A particularly notable part of the weekend this year was a series of reflections on the history of the Symposium, to mark the fact that this was the 40th symposium. We had a message from our founder, Professor Karel Werner, and a lively and touching set of reminiscences from our most recent Convenor, Dr Anna King. (A version of these will shortly be added to our website.) Dr Dermot Killingley, long-serving member of the committee and convenor of our 2014 symposium, followed up with some comments making clear Anna’s own contributions to the success of the Spalding Symposium over the past decade and more.

Looking ahead to next year, we have provisional dates – 15th to 17th April 2016 – and a venue in Cardiff. Simon Brodbeck and James Hegarty will be hosting the Symposium with a theme of “narrative”. Keynote speakers will be announced shortly, and a call for papers will be circulated in a few months.

Spalding Symposium programme and extra events

The programme for this year’s Spalding Symposium (slightly adjusted from the last version) can be found below. Booking is still open (follow this link: but please note that residential bookings can only be taken until Friday 6th March.

In the days leading up to the Symposium there will be two extra events that are open to all:

Public Lecture by Professor Stephen Berkwitz (Missouri State University) – ‘Locating ‘True Buddhism’ in the Modern World’ (Thursday 9th April, 5.30-6.30pm, Martin Hall, New College, University of Edinburgh)

Story of Story in South Asia project roundtable (Friday 10th April, 1.30-3.00pm, Senate Room, New College, University of Edinburgh) With project researchers Naomi Appleton (University of Edinburgh) and James Hegarty (Cardiff University), invited participants Brian Black (Lancaster University) and Jonathan Geen (Western University, London, Ontario), and other participants from the Symposium. All are welcome, but please let Naomi Appleton know if you plan to attend as space is limited. (More information on the project can be found here:

Symposium Schedule

Papers will be in the Martin Hall and refreshments in the Rainy Hall. Both are on the first floor of New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh EH1 2LX. A lift is available.

Friday 10th April

3.00-4.15pm Registration, tea and coffee in the Rainy Hall

4.15-4.30 Welcome, announcements

4.30-5.30 Opening Keynote Lecture: Professor Stephen Berkwitz (Missouri State University) – ‘So Near Yet So Far: Sri Lankan Strategies for Superseding Indian Cultural Forms’

5.30-6.30 Elizabeth Harris (Liverpool Hope University) – ‘Art, Liturgy and the Transformation of Memory: Christian rapprochement with Buddhism in post-independence Sri Lanka’

6.30-7.30 Dinner

7.30-8.30 Jessie Pons (Ruhr Universität Bochum) – ‘Visual Dialogues:
 The Archaeology of Inter-Religious Encounters in Pre-Modern India’

Saturday 11th April

9.00-10.00 Jonathan Geen (Western University, Ontario) – ‘Dialogue through Myth: Jain Forays into ‘Hindu’ Mythology’

10.00-11.00 Brian Black (Lancaster University) – ‘In dialogue with Krishna, in dialogue with the Bhagavad Gita

11.00-11.30 Tea and coffee

11.30-1.00 Postgraduate papers:

James Morris (St Andrews University) – ‘Hinduism and Japanese Religion’

Anja Pogacnik (University of Edinburgh) – ‘The Changing Marital and Familial Lives of Leicester Jain Women’

Lucian Wong (University of Oxford) – ‘Bhadraloka and Brāhmaṇical Polemics Against Vaiṣṇava Deviance’

1.00-3.30 Lunch and free time to explore the city

3.30-4.30 Martin Fárek (University of Pardubice, Czech Republic) – ‘Christian or Colonial? Debates about the Nature of Inter-Religious Dialogue in Nineteenth Century India’

4.30-5.30 Deborah Nadal – ‘Cows under crossfire: Interreligious debate on the economic exploitation of Indian cattle’

5.30-6.00 Tea and coffee

6.00-7.00 Keynote Lecture: Professor Uma Chakravarti (National Fellow, Indian Council of Historical Research) – ‘Contentious Dialogues: Three Moments From an Argumentative Past’

7.00-8.30 Reception and dinner in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Spalding Symposium

Sunday 12th April

9.00-10.00 Lisa Wessman Crothers (College of Wooster, USA) – ‘Testing the Good Woman: Dialogue, Deception, and the Marriage of Amarā in the Bodhisattva Career’

10.00-11.00 Nathan McGovern (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) – ‘Brahmanical vs. Non-Brahmanical: Rethinking a Fundamental Dichotomy in Early South Asian Religion’

11.00-11.30 Tea and coffee

11.30-12.30 Hephzibah Israel and Matthias Frenz (University of Edinburgh) – ‘Dialogue and Narrative: Negotiating Religion, Language and Identity in Conversions to Christianity in South India’

12.30-1.00 Closing discussion

1.00-2.00 Lunch, followed by departure

Booking now open for Spalding Symposium 2015

Booking for the Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions 2015 is now open. If you follow the link below you can register and pay, either as a residential guest (£190 including a room for two nights and all meals) or a non-residential guest (£65, no accommodation, all meals). A variety of day-rate options are also available. Accommodation is limited so book early to avoid disappointment.

The Symposium will be held at New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh, UK, 10th-12th April 2015, and will have the theme “dialogue”. Professors Uma Chakravarti and Stephen Berkwitz will be our keynote speakers, supplemented by an impressive range of papers from other scholars (see draft programme below).