Tamil Buddhism and Civilisational Memory: The Thassian Hermeneutic | Humanities & Social Sciences

Tamil Buddhism and Civilisational Memory: The Thassian Hermeneutic

Tuesday Seminar
Dr Dickens Leonard
Date and Time: 
Tue, 01/11/2022 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
HSS Committee Room (MS 610)

Abstract: This talk would foreground the works of the Tamil intellectual Pandithar Iyothee Thassar (1845-1914), the critical figure of my research focus, in the context of the study of caste in the academia along with the increasing focus on the Dalit critique. I introduce Thass's "millennial reading" of Buddhism from the Tamil archive as resistant practice, critical opposition, and creative historiography against caste (like many others) in the early 20th century. Comparing with other similar figures, I argue that Thass's hermeneutics of "casteless community" (through Buddhism) makes an appeal as it withdraws from caste and Brahminism, by not only distinguishing itself from caste provenance but also indicating a longue durée civilizational memory through textuality. Besides, his works sought to conceive and construct a community against caste in the language domains both in the global and local context by way of a highly scholarly as well as creative engagement with Buddhism and the Tamil literary archive. In the colonial and nationalist context of the 19th and 20th centuries in the Indian subcontinent, his interpretative imaginaire of the History of India—Indhira Dhesa Sarithiram—was a pedagogy that establishes an at once belonging to world-community, and at the same time, to one's own language communities.