Book: Translocal Lives and Religion
Chapter: 1. From Comparative to Connected Religion: Translocal Aspects of Orientalism and the Study of Religion
Introducing the notion of “connected history” and situating it among other related approaches (“global history”, “comparative history”, “entangled history”, “cultural transfers”, etc.), the chapter examines the potentialities as well as the challenges it presents for the comparative study of religions. Building on recent considerations about a critical “comparative religion”, it is argued that a “connected religion” approach has the potential to both criticize classical taxonomies and construct alternative ways to think about concepts and practices about religion. In order to assess the approach, two examples are introduced and contrasted: Looking at F.M. Müller’s involvement with Bengali (Dwarkanath Tagore, Debendranath Tagore, Keshub Chandra Sen), Marathi (Behramji Malabari) and Japanese scholars (Nanjo Bunyu and Kenjiu Kasawara), it is argued that the orientalist project is not only better understood when re-contextualized in this global context, but that it also had consequences beyond the scholarly world, offering opportunities to all involved actors. The second example explores the encounter of a Swiss missionary, Jakob Urner, with specialists of the Vīraśaiva literatures such as Channappa Uttangi. In so doing, attention is paid to the often discordant and oppositional dynamics constitutive of political and religious processes, to the development of scholarly representations (mainstream or marginal), and to their impact on the study of religions as an academic discipline. It is also suggested that such an approach is better carried out in a collaborative framework, since it generally involves dealing with sources that stem from various cultural, institutional or linguistic backgrounds.