Breakdowns and Ruptures in Temple Life

International Workshop 7, 8, 9 December, 2016

Anchored in various contexts of the built and natural environment, temples play a crucial historical role in the making of cultural landscapes in the South and South-East Asian worlds of pre-modern times. The study of temple-life, along with its breakdowns and ruptures, is therefore a way to enhance our understanding of past societies, dynamics and changes.

Breakdowns and ruptures, whether structural, physical, ideological, doctrinal, religious, socioeconomic, or political, may have a significant - potentially transformative - impact, not only on the functioning of religious places, but also on various spheres of activity around them. Man-induced or haphazard, subject to natural forces (including climate and environmental disturbances, such as earthquake, floods), the origins, extent and scope of breakdowns and ruptures can be multiple. Some have left directly visible traces; some are marked in memory, inscribed in stone, or recorded in texts and other types of archives; others are invisible, but perceptible through their aftermath only, and are to be theoretically apprehended.

The facets and possibilities of analysis of breakdowns and ruptures in temple life are numerous. In this workshop, we intend to gather scholars who have a story to tell about such events, ranging from slight divergences to thunderous fractures, in the ‘biographies' of religious places (whether Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic or Jain).

Each presentation will address a case-study or particular approaches in the analysis of breakdowns and ruptures, exploring their traces, dissecting their possible causes and potential effects. A localized breakdown may not say much in itself, but when added to others, situated in a larger context full of similar (or meaningfully dissimilar) instances, it may be seen in another light. Through diverse examples situated in various regional, historical and religious contexts, we hope to examine how breakdowns and ruptures have helped shape the religious landscape; and to provide some material for reflection on different temporalities of events in historical time.