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Dr James Hegarty 


 

Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahābhārata

The Sanskrit Mahabharata is one of the greatest works of world literature and pivotal for the understanding of both Hindu traditions and wider society in ancient, medieval and modern South Asia. This book presents a new synthesis of philological, anthropological and cognitive-linguistic method and theory in relation to the study of narrative text by focusing on the form and function of the Mahabharata in the context of early South Asia.

Arguing that the combination of structural and thematic features that have helped to establish the enduring cultural centrality of religious narrative in South Asia was first outlined in the text, the book highlights the Mahabharata’s complex orientation to the cosmic, social and textual past. The book shows the extent to which narrative is integral to human social life, and more generally the creation and maintenance of religious ideologies. It highlights the contexts of origin and transmission and the cultural function of the Mahabharata in first millennium South Asia and, by extension, in medieval and modern South Asia by drawing on both textual and epigraphic sources. The book draws attention to what is culturally specific about the origination and transmission of early South Asian narrative and what can be used to enrich our orientation to narrative in human social life more globally.

Routledge, London, 2012.

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415558631/

 

The History of Genealogy: the Genealogy of History: Family and the Construction of the Significant Past in Early South Asia, Religions of South Asia, 5, vols. 1 and 2, 2011.

An edited volume that presents a series of studies of the role of genealogy in the construction of the significant past in South Asia (encompassing epigraphic and textual sources).

Religions of South Asia, 5, vols. 1 and 2, 2011.

http://www.equinoxpub.com/ROSA/article/view/15152

Edited with Dr. Simon Brodbeck (SHARE)

 

‘Etymology, Genealogy and History in Early South Asia’

This paper explores the relationship between etymology, genealogy

and the literary exploration of the past in early South Asia. By means of a close reading of a range of materials drawn from the Atharvaveda, Brahmanas and Upanishads, as well as the Nirukta, the Brihaddevata and the Mahabharata, it demonstrates that there is a progression from etymology, to expanded etymology (narratives spun from the details of etymologies), to full accounts of birth and descent, that is to say, genealogy, and, from there, to larger-scale historical accounts. The paper thus shows that etymology played an important part in the formation of consensus understandings of the past in early South Asia.

Religions of South Asia, 5, vol. 1, 2011, p. 103-127.

https://www.equinoxpub.com/journals/index.php/ROSA/article/view/15159

Article in The History of Genealogy: the Genealogy of History: Family and the Construction of the Significant Past in Early South Asia

‘On Platial Imagination in the Sanskrit Mahabharata’,

This paper argues that the Mahābhārata is a self-conscious intervention in the religious imagination of early South Asia. It further suggest that the text seeks to constitute itself as the authoritative  ‘reflective’ or ‘theoretical’ resource in early South Asian religious discourse and that this strategy is intimately related to antecedent Vedic forms of knowledge and practice. The paper shows how, by imagining significant places, the Mahābhārata naturalised a wide range of religious practices and ideologies that were distinctly non- or post-Vedic whilst establishing the capacity to legitimate or transform these new practices in Vedic terms and often by Vedic means.

International Journal for Hindu Studies, 13, 2009, pp. 163-187.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/8132753j1071t833/

 

‘Re-thinking the Guru: Towards a Typology of Forms of Religious Domination in Pre-Colonial Punjab’

This paper explores the role of hagiographical tradition in the formation of Sikh identity and in shaping the attitude’s of Sikhs to non-Sikhs in eighteenth-century Punjab. The paper focuses on Sikh hagiographical literature. I suggest that, by inserting Nānak and his work in a range of dramatic scenarios, Sikh hagiographies of the early C18th develop a perspective on the Guru and the austere devotional ideals of his verse that considerably widens their social appeal and cosmic scope, and establishes an arena for the formation and adaptation of forms of religious identity amongst Sikhs. The paper suggests that this form of analysis may serve to enrich and broaden the productive scholarly dialogue concerning the social and political life of the suffix ‑ism, the designation ‘religion’ and the development of a wide variety of, by turn, cherished and vilified definitional perspectives in South Asian studies.

Religions of South Asia, 3.2., 2009, pp. 183-202.

http://www.equinoxpub.com/ROSA/article/view/9501

 

Religion, Epic and Cultural Memory: The Construction of the Past in Hindi and Sanskrit Mahabharatas,

This paper reflects a deep interest in the way in which social groups put together ideas of their shared past. In South Asia, an enduring resource for the fashioning of ideas of the significant past has been the religious epic, the Mahābhārata. From at least the Guptan era (329-650 C. E.) to present, the story of two feuding branches of one family, and their horrific mutual slaughter, has been "good to think with". In this paper, I will take up two particular examples of this textual tradition, one a contemporary Hindi source, the other, an ancient Sanskrit text. My goal is to shed light upon the form and function of the construction of the past in the two texts.

Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft, 15, 2007, pp. 179-199.

http://www.zfr-online.de/072.html

 

‘Re-thinking the Guru: Towards a Typology of Forms of Religious Domination in Pre-Colonial Punjab’

This paper explores the role of hagiographical tradition in the formation of Sikh identity and in shaping the attitude’s of Sikhs to non-Sikhs in eighteenth-century Punjab. The paper focuses on Sikh hagiographical literature. I suggest that, by inserting Nānak and his work in a range of dramatic scenarios, Sikh hagiographies of the early C18th develop a perspective on the Guru and the austere devotional ideals of his verse that considerably widens their social appeal and cosmic scope, and establishes an arena for the formation and adaptation of forms of religious identity amongst Sikhs. The paper suggests that this form of analysis may serve to enrich and broaden the productive scholarly dialogue concerning the social and political life of the suffix ‑ism, the designation ‘religion’ and the development of a wide variety of, by turn, cherished and vilified definitional perspectives in South Asian studies.

Religions of South Asia, 3.2., 2009, pp. 183-202.

http://www.equinoxpub.com/ROSA/article/view/9501

 

The literary construction of place as a form of religious and social commentary in Asia (incorporating an introduction ‘Towards an Old Approach to Philology: exploring the literary construction of place as religious and social commentary in Asia’.

An edited volume taking up the role of geographical understanding in the formation and negotiation of religions knowledge from Iran to China.

Acta Orientalia Vilnensia, 8.1, pp. 1-14.

http://www.leidykla.eu/mokslo-darbai/acta-orientalia-vilnensia/acta-orientalia-vilnensia-2007-8-1-tomas-free-access/

Edited and introduced by myself.

 

‘Towards a Socio-Cognitive Orientation to Religious Text: A Case Study in Indian Epic Literature’

Religious Narrative, Cognition and Culture contains contributions dealing with religious narrative and cognitive theory written by some of the world’s leading scholars in the fields of cognitive science, narratology and comparative religion.

At the heart of the volume are five papers which serve as sequels to each other. The first paper by the American biologist and semiotician Terrence W. Deacon explores the neurological processes and possible genetic foundations of how language emerged in Homo sapiens. This is followed nicely by the Canadian evolutionary psychologist Merlin Donald’s contribution which describes the possible phylogenetic routes in the development of language and culture. His bio-cultural approach is a major theme in the book. The third paper by the British psychologist Chris Sinha brings us to the bridge between neurological and communicative levels. In it he describes the complex interrelations between the ontogenesis and the sociogenesis of cognitive processes and demonstrates how they relate to reason, representation, figuration and imagination. The fourth contribution brings us to the level of narrative. It is by the Indian narratologist Rukmini Bhaya Nair in which she argues for a combination of neurology, narratology and a reworked speech-act approach that focuses on narrative rather than simply sentences. The final keynote is by the Finnish cognitive scientist of religion Ilkka Pyysiäinen. He brings us full round to religious behavior by showing how the psychology of ritual helps make narrative beliefs possible. 

These five contributions are followed by papers from Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and American scholars of religion covering religious narratives and emotional communication, gossip as religious narrative and area studies of religious narrative and cognition in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Georgian Orthodox Church, Indian Epic literature, Australian Aboriginal mythology and ritual, and modern religious forms such as New Age, Asatro, astrological narrative and virtual rituals in 3D cyberspace.

In Religious Narrative, Cognition and Culture: Image and Word in the Mind of Narrative, Edited by: Armin W. Geertz, Jeppe Sinding Jensen, Equinox Publishing, 2011, pp.121-131. 

http://www.equinoxpub.com/equinox/books/showbook.asp?bkid=256

 

‘Hagiography and the Religious Imaginary in Eighteenth Century Punjab’

Religious imaginary is a way of conceiving and structuring the world within the conceptual and imaginative traditions of the religious. Using religious imaginary as a reference, this book analyses temporal ideologies and expressions of historicity in South Asia in the early modern, pre-colonial and early colonial period.

Chapters explore the multiple understandings of time and the past that informed the historical imagination in various kinds of literary representations, including historiographical and literary texts, hagiography, and religious canonical literature. The book addresses the contributing forces and comparative implications of the formation of religious and communitarian sensibilities as expressed through the imagination of the past, and suggests how these relate to each other within and across traditions in South Asia. By bringing diverse materials together, this book presents new commonalities and distinctions that inform a larger understanding of how religion and other cultural formations impinge on the concept of temporality, and the representation of it as history.

Time, History and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia, Routledge, 2011, pp. 133-150.

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415595971/