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|James M. Hegarty - Personal Blog|
Dr James M. Hegarty is fascinated with stories and the reasons why all human groups everywhere tell stories to one another. He is particularly interested in the role of religious stories in South Asia. This is a region that has brought us epic tales of Rama and Sita as well as the life of the Buddha and much else besides. Dr. Hegarty is, by training, a Sanskritist, the language of the very earliest literature that we find in the Indian sub-continent. His particular interest is in the vast and rather extraordinary tale of the Mahabharata. This is an epic story of family intrigue, duty and despair that spans aeons and which has been popular in India from the beginning of the Common Era to the present day. His graduate studies were undertaken at Manchester University with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. During this time, he also spent six months studying at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune and at Pune University. He has lived in India, in Maharashtra and Kerala, where he has undertaken archival research. He has also been active in research networks and projects which have addressed, amongst other things, gender in the Sanskrit epics, the impact of the cognitive sciences on the study of religion, religion, narrative and the formation and transformation of ‘cultural memory’, and religious syncretism in South and South East Asia.
Since arriving in the School of Religious and Theological Studies in late 2003, Dr. Hegarty has been sharing his enthusiasm for Sanskrit literature and language with anyone, and everyone, who will listen. As well as teaching Sanskrit, he has introduced new undergraduate modules in the roles of religion and performance in South Asia (which move from ancient text to televisual adaptations of Sanskrit materials) as well as the making of Hindu and Sikh traditions in the modern world. At master’s level he offers courses in the role of narrative in the transmission and adaptation of religious knowledge in South Asia (these have encompassed materials drawn from everything from Sanskrit literature to the modern Indian novel in English). These courses draw on contemporary literary and anthropological theory in order to explore the role and function of Sanskrit and Vernacular literature in South Asian society.
Dr Hegarty’s lifetime aspiration is to make some progress in answering the question ‘Why do human beings tell and re-tell stories?’ by addressing lots of smaller questions concerning both how scholars approach the study of human social groups and the specifics of the roles and functions of South Asian literature in South Asian society, ancient, medieval and modern.
General Scholarly Activities and Affiliations
Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society
Invited Speaker/Public Lecture Activities
• Invited participant at: Religion, Culture and Cognition Conference, Aarhus University, Denmark (December 2004).
• Invited participant in School of Oriental and African Studies conference Epic Constructions: Gender, Myth and Society in the Mahabharata (July 2005).
• George Washington University invitee to speak as part of SITA programme (South India Term Abroad) at Madurai University, India (February 2006).
• Invited to give Public Lecture at Manchester Metropolitan University: ‘The Mahabharata: India’s Great Epic?’ (December 2006).
• Invited Speaker on Sikh constructions of the Significant Past at Geschichten and Geschichte Religiöse Geschichtsschreibung in Asian und ihre Verwertung in der Religionhistorischen Forschung, Ludwig Maximillians-Universität, Munich, (August 2007).
• European Science Foundation/Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation ‘‘New Perspectives for Asian Studies in the Humanities’, 28-30th May, 2009, Prague, CZ.
• Invited to guest edit special edition of Vilna Acta Orientalia on a topic of my choosing (The Literary Construction of Place as Religious and Social Commentary in Asia).
University of Edinburgh, M.Phil in Sanskrit Studies
University of Birmingham, M.Phil in Sikh Studies
University of Edinburgh, Undergraduate (Asian Studies)
• Invited as visiting research fellow to the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, Canada (September 2007).
• British Academy Travel Grant to attend conference on Cultural Memory and Cultures in Transition at the University of Vilnius, Vilnius, Lithuania (May 2006).
• British Academy Travel Grant to attend conference on Religious Syncretism in South and South East Asia: Adoption and Adaptation, Mahidol University, Bangkok (May 2007).
• AHRC early career grant: K£168, for three years (from Sept 2008): The History of Genealogy, The Genealogy of History: Family and the Narrative Construction of the Significant Past in Early South Asia.
• Fully funded participant in European Science Foundation/Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation network event ‘‘New Perspectives for Asian Studies in the Humanities’, 28-30th May, 2009, Prague, CZ.
• Peer review for AHRC and Member Peer Review College AHRC
• Award for highest graduating mark in year (BA), Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester, 1996.
• Award for excellence of first year of doctoral research, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester, 2000.
Teaching Profile in Detail
• RT1108: Introduction to Sanskrit
• RT6104: Further Elementary Sanskrit
• RT1202: Elementary Sanskrit 1
• RT1202: Elementary Sanskrit 2
• RT1108: Religion, Culture and Society 1
• RT1208: Intermediate Sanskrit
• RT1213: The Making of Hindu and Sikh Traditions in the Modern World
• RT1334: Religion and Performance in South Asia
At Master’s Level:
• RTT113: Language and Texts 1 & 2: Narrative and the Transmission and Adaptation of Significant Knowledge in South Asia
Areas Considered for Doctoral Supervision:
• Studies in South Asian narrative materials in Sanskrit, Pali and north Indian medieval vernaculars. Including:
o Explorations of the role of narrative in the intellectual history of South Asia with particular emphasis on the impact of Vedic modes of thought on subsequent religious and social developments.
o Projects taking up issues in the transmission, adaptation and performance of narrative materials in South Asia.
o Projects taking up issues in the role of narrative traditions in South Asia, ancient, medieval and modern with particular reference to the formation and negotiation of group identities.
o Textually grounded work on the narrative construction of past, place and person in South Asia.
o Projects taking up theoretical and methodological issues in the study of religious narrative in South Asia and beyond.
Since completing my Ph.D. on the role and function of the Sanskrit Mahabharata in early South Asia in late 2004, I have been seeking to extend and expand the range of narrative texts with which I engage. This process is reflected in recent work that takes up both ancient Sanskrit text and contemporary Hindi televisual materials and explores their religious and/or political intentions and functions (with a particular emphasis on their construction of the significant past). The goal of this expansion of my research focus is to begin to examine some of the more general functions of religious narrative in South Asia, ancient, medieval and modern. To this end, I have also commenced work on medieval Sikh texts (in both Punjabi and Sant Bhasha). This work led to an article length publication in a forthcoming edited volume and continues with further work in this area and conference activity in Lithuania, Germany, the U.K. and Thailand. My work on Sikh and Hindu traditions has demonstrated that my functional orientation to the study of religious narrative in South Asia is productive in relation to a wide range of data, and powerful thematic and functional parallels are beginning to suggest themselves with regard to forms of cultural memory and the exegetical function of the narrative construction of past and place in South Asia, (I have also recently published a methodological paper on cognitive and functional orientations to religious narrative as part of activities with a research group at the University of Aarhus, Denmark). I am therefore anxious to develop this work further as a monograph Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination in Early South Asia: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata has been accepted for publication by Routledge.
My work breaks down into four loosely constituted, and methodologically and theoretically interconnected, projects. My new AHRC project, which is undertaken with Dr. Simon Brodbeck takes, forward and extends many of the interests set out below. For details see:-
• The Mahabharata and the Construction of Significant Social Knowledge in Early South Asia
Over the last three decades there has been a confluence of new ideas about narrative which encompasses Literary and Textual Studies, Performance Studies, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Linguistics and Religious Studies and which has even come to include the Cognitive Sciences. The question of why all human beings tell stories is no longer a tangential interest for folklorists but has become pivotal in the study of how human beings make and transform meanings, particularly ideas of past and place, and of self and other. Narrative has become central to theories of personal and cultural memory (R. Werbner, J. Assmann), to theories of the origin and development of language (M. Turner, R. Nair), to new conceptions of history (M. Sahlins, M. de Certeau), to meta-theoretical critiques of how the humanities have proceeded in their researches over the last three centuries (E. Said, R. Inden), and even to human cognition itself (M. Tomasello, M. Donaldson). With the exception of ‘Orientalist Critique’, very little research on early South Asian narrative materials has engaged with these new and exciting interdisciplinary developments.
My recent work seeks to address some of these developments and focuses on the form and functions of the Sanskrit Mahabharata in early South Asian religious discourse. I am interested, in particular, in the role of Vedic ritual and philosophical presuppositions in the shaping of early South Asian conceptions of the cosmic and social roles of narrative activity. Indeed, I argue, across a selection of my recent works (in ‘Encompassing the Sacrifice…’ and ‘What need has he of the waters of Pushkara?’ in particular), that the Sanskrit Mahabharata is, amongst other things, a form of revolutionary Vedic exegesis. Another key aim of this project is to explore the capacity of the Mahabharata to both stimulate and potentially incorporate response to its content as a consequence of its elaborate narrative structure and its thematic ‘interrogation’ of that structure (these are issues that I take up in my ‘Apprenticeship…’ and ‘Extracting the Katha…’ papers - theoretical and methodological issues that pertain to this research are also addressed in my ‘Towards a Socio-Cognitive Approach to Religious Text’). The project thus seeks to answer two basic questions: ‘What did the Mahabharata do in early South Asia and how did it do it? It answers these questions through an analysis of the internal thematics and structural peculiarities of the Sanskrit text. This project has already resulted in the publication of five papers and will culminate in the monograph Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination in Early South Asia: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata, forthcoming in the Routledge Hindu Studies Series.
• To explore the role of Vedic ritual and philosophical presuppositions in the shaping of early South Asian conceptions of the cosmic and social roles of narrative activity.
• To explore the capacity of the Mahabharata to both stimulate and potentially incorporate response to its content as a consequence of its elaborate narrative structure and its thematic ‘interrogation’ of that structure.
• To answer the question ‘What did the Mahabharata do in early South Asia and how and why did it do it?’
• To consider broader issues in the function of narrative activity in human social groups.
Broader considerations of the role of narrative discourse in the shaping of ideas of the significant past (as in, for example, hagiography) and significant place (for example in pilgrimage literature) in South Asia more generally are addressed in two, related projects. The first of these is:
• The Literary Construction of Place as Religious and Social Commentary in Asia
This project, building on a subordinate aspect of my work on the Sanskrit Mahabharata, takes up the notion that the literary construction of significant or empowered place provides important insights into the construction, maintenance and adaptation of forms of social and religious knowledge in Asia. The goal is to provide a range of analyses of how and in what ways the literary construction of place (and often the movement between places) involves not simply the description of concrete locations, but, instead, can often be considerably richer and more complex in its intentions and functions. The core hypothesis is, in short, that the literary construction of ‘place’ can constitute a form of religiously, socially, or politically charged ‘argument’ (if, indeed, we can draw these distinctions). These ‘arguments’ can encompasses some of the following; the exegesis of earlier texts; the interpretation and/or transformation of earlier forms of religious or social practice; strategies for self-legitimation; the construction of ideas of the past, the present or probable futures; ideas of personal, social or cosmic transformation or maintenance; the construction of concepts of self and other; and much else besides. It might even be suggested that, to an extent, at least in the context of South Asia at the beginning of the common era, that it is in and through, amongst other things, the discourse on pilgrimage that forms of authoritative history and geography were generated (as well as the way in which, in later periods, both in terms of textual and material culture, groups vie ‘discursively’ for the symbolic possession of a given empowered place). This project has as its main output a volume to be published as a special edition of the Acta Orientalia Vilnensia to be edited by myself.
• To explore the commentarial functions of the literary construction of place in Asia.
• To begin to enumerate the functional range of forms of fictive and narrative geography in Asia.
• To consider broader issues in the function of narrative activity in human social groups.
The second of the two projects to take up and extend issues arising from my doctoral research is:
• Narrative and the Construction of the Significant Past in Ancient, Medieval and Modern South Asia
This project, again building upon my work on the Sanskrit Mahabharata, considers the role of a broader range of narrative texts in the construction and adaptation of ideas of the significant past. It takes up recent work by Jan Assmann and classic sources such as Vico, Dilthey and Collingwood in order to explore the role of narrative in the construction of ideas of the past in South Asia. This project is ongoing and has thus far resulted in the publication of papers on Sanskrit, Medieval Punjabi, Sant Bhasha and Modern Hindi sources (see my ‘Religion, Epos und Kulturelles Gedächtnis…’ and my ‘kirtan and katha in the asa amdesa…’).
• To apply recent and historic developments in historiography to the study of South Asian narrative data
• To explore the functional range of narrative in South Asian society, ancient, medieval and modern (with particular reference to the construction of communally, politically or philosophically charged conceptions of the significant past).
• To consider broader issues in the function of narrative activity in human social groups.
1. Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination in Early South Asia: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata Routledge, Hindu Studies Series. Forthcoming.
2. Exploring Religious Texts: Hindu Texts, (with Adheesh Sathaye and Simon Brodbeck), Routledge. Forthcoming.
3. The Oxford Companion to Hindu Literature, ed. with Will Johnson, forthcoming for Oxford University Press. Forthcoming.
4. The Literary Construction of Place as a Form of Religious and Social Commentary in Asia, Acta Orientalia Vilnensia (Special Edition), 8, 2006.
Refereed Journal Articles
5. ‘On Platial Imagination in the Sanskrit Mahabharata’ International Journal for Hindu Studies, 13, 2: pp.163-87.
6. ‘Re-thinking the Guru: Towards a Typology of Forms of Religious Domination in Pre-Colonial Punjab’, Religions of South Asia. In press.
7. Religion, Epic and Cultural Memory: The Construction of the Past in Hindi and Sanskrit Mahabharatas, Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft, 15, 2007, pp. 179-199.
8. ‘Extracting the katha-amrita (elixir of story): Creation, Ritual, Sovereignty and Textual Structure in the Sanskrit Mahabharata’, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 14, 2006, p.39-60.
9. ‘Toward an old understanding of philology: Exploring the literary construction of place as religious and social commentary in Asia.’ in The literary construction of place as a form of religious and social commentary in Asia, ed. James M. Hegarty, Acta Orientalia Vilnensia, 8, 2006, pp. 7-14.
10. ‘Encompassing the Sacrifice: On the Narrative Construction of the Significant Past in the Sanskrit Mahabharata’, Acta Orientalia Vilnensia, 7, 2006, pp. 77-119.
11. ‘An Apprenticeship in Attentiveness: Narrative Patterning in the Dyutparvan and the Nalopakhyana of the Mahabharata’ in Epic Traditions: Past and Present, Eds. John Brockington and Danuta Stasik, Rocznik Orentalistyczny, T, LIV, Z. 1. 2001, pp. 33-62.
Chapters in Books
12. Towards a Socio-Cognitive Orientation to Religious Text: A Case Study in Indian Epic Literature’, in Religious Narrative, Cognition and Culture: Image and Word in the Mind of Narrative, Edited by: Armin W. Geertz, Jeppe Sinding Jensen, Equinox Publishing. In press.
13. ‘kirtan and katha in the asa amdesa (Song and Story in the Land of Hope and Fear): Narratives of the life of Guru Nanak as canonical commentary in the Sikh Panth.’ Forthcoming in the proceedings of the fourth Arbeits Kreis Asiatische Religiongeschichte conference, 2005: Kanonbildung in den Asiatischen Religionen und Kanonisierung in der Asiatischen Religiongeschichte, Max Deeg et al ed., Östereichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. In press.
14. ‘What need has he of the waters of Pushkara? Tirtha and the Narrative Construction of Significant Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata’. Forthcoming in Battles, Bards, Brahmins: Proceedings of the Epic Studies Panel of the World Sanskrit Conference 2006, John Brockington ed., Motilal Barnarsidass. In press.
15. ‘The Pedagogic Past: Historical and Geographical Imagination in Eighteenth Century Punjab’,forthcoming in the proceedings of the fifth Arbeits Kreis Asiatische Religiongeschichte conference, 2007 on Historiography in Asia, Oliver Freiberger et al ed., Uppsala Universitet. In press.
16. Simon Brodbeck and Brian Black (eds), Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata, Religions of South Asia, 2.2, 2008, p.246-249
17. Brian Black, The Character of the Self in the Upanishads, The (Oxford) Journal of Hindu Studies, in press.
18. (with Josef Lössl) Oliver Freiberger, Der Askesediskurs in der Religionsgeschichte: Eine vergleichende Untersuchung brahminischer und frühchristlicher Texte, Nvmen. Forthcoming.
19. W.H. McLeod, Prem Sumarag: The Testimony of a Sanatan Sikh, Journal of Punjab Studies, 14, 1, 2007, pp.154-156.
20. Rachel Dwyer, The Poetics of Devotion: The Gujurati Lyrics of Dayaram, Contemporary South Asia, 12, 2003, pp.286-287.
21. Modern South Asian Studies Conference, Edinburgh, September 2000: Paper read: ‘An Apprenticeship in Attentiveness: Narrative Patterning in the Dyutparvan and the Nalopakhyana of the Mahabharata’.
22. Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics and Puranas, Dubrovnik, University of Zagreb, September, 2002: Paper read: ‘In the Court of King Virata: A Carnival of roles in the Virataparvan of the Mahabharata.’
23. The British Association for the Study of Religion: The Study of Religions: Mapping the Field, Oxford University, September 2004: Paper read: ‘Literary Theory and Religious Text: A Case Study in the Narrative Patterning of the Sanskrit Mahabharata.’
24. Religion, Cognition and Culture, Aarhus University, December, 2004: Paper read: ‘Toward a Socio-Cognitive Orientation to Sanskrit Text.’
25. Epic Constructions: Gender, Myth and Society in the Sanskrit Mahabharata, School of Oriental and African Studies, July, 2005: Paper read: ‘Extracting the katha-amrta (elixir of story): Creation, Ritual, Sovereignty and Textual Structure in the Sanskrit Mahabharata.’
26. Cultural Memory and Cultures in Transition, University of Vilnius May, 2006: Paper read: ‘South Asian ‘Epic’ as Public Memory Practice: The Production and Re-production of the Past in the Sanskrit and Doordarshan Mahabharatas.’
27. World Sanskrit Conference, University of Edinburgh, July, 2006: Paper read: ‘What need has he of the waters of Pushkara? Pilgrimage and the Narrative Construction of Significant Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata.’
28. South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion: Syncretism in South and Southeast Asia: Adoption and Adaptation, Mahidol University, Bangkok 2007: Paper read: ‘Adoption, Adaptation and Domination: Religious Syncretism in the Narratives of the Life of Guru Nanak in Medieval South Asia.’
29. Arbeitskreis Asiatische Religionsgeschichte: Geschichten and Geschichte Religiöse Geschichtsschreibung in Asian und ihre Verwertung in der Religionhistorischen Forschung, Ludwig Maximillians-Universität, Munich, August 2007: Paper read: ‘The narrative construction of the significant past in the B40 Janam Sakhi.’
30. Rethinking Religion in India. 21 - 24 January 2008, New Delhi. Paper Read: ‘On Mistaking Names for Things: Provincialising ‘Post-Westernisms’ and Delineating the Function of Imagination in the Study of Religion’
31. Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, Oxford, Jesus College, 14-16th March 2008. Paper Read: ‘The Construction of the Past in the Sanskrit Mahābhārata.’
32. Los Angeles, The American Comparative Literature Association’s 2008 Annual, Long Beach, California, on April 24-27, 2008 (Thursday evening through Sunday noon), Los Angeles, U.S.A. Paper Read: ‘The Mahabharata as Public Memory Practice.’
33. Atlanta, 15th Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, June 22nd-28th, 2008, Emory University, Atlanta, U.S.A. Paper Read: ‘Like Bread-fruit for Mangos: Brahminical Ideology and the Narrative Construction of the Buddha in the Dighanikaya’
34. Kyoto, Kyoto University, The World Sanskrit Conference, September 1st -5th, 2009, Japan. Paper Read: Historical and Geographical Imagination in the Mahabharata, the Nilamata Purana and the Rajatarangini.’
35. Lumbinī, Lumbinī International Research Institute, January 11th-13th, 2010, Nepal: Paper read: ‘From the Public Imagination of Bharatavarsha to the Kaśmīr Valley: Disappearing Bauddhas and the Logic and Power of Pilgrimage in Selected Brahminical Sources.’
- Method and theory in the study of religious narrative
- The Sanskrit Mahabharata in South Asian society
- The role of Sanskrit narrative in the construction of shared, and contested, ideas of past, place and person in South Asia
- The impact of Vedic sources on subsequent forms of religious tradition in early South Asia
- Narrative and performance as forms of religious and social commentary in South Asia and beyond.
- The role of narrative in the creation and maintenance of Sikh identity in early modern South Asia.
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