ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

31 – The Forms, Genres and Languages of Early Modern Indian Philosophy

This panel aims to explore philosophy in early modern India in the vernaculars. It focuses particularly on sources composed in languages different from Sanskrit and in genres different from śāstras in order to explore new perspectives on how philosophical knowledge was conceived and transmitted in the South Asian context.


Rosina Pastore - University of Ghent

Long Abstract

This panel intends to explore an understudied aspect of Indian intellectual history: Indian philosophy in the vernaculars in early modern India. Indian philosophy has been generally studied through a body of technical works (śāstra) composed largely in Sanskrit. Taking as example one of the most famous Indian philosophical schools, Advaita Vedānta, there is still a considerable void in scholarship between the ancient and medieval periods and modernity. Reading recent scholarship on the field, we have still the impression that in the early modern period philosophy stagnated and especially that it was not connected to regional languages (i.e. North Indian bhāṣās). The aim of this panel is to challenge this assumption and to find out how vernacular authors talked about philosophy and sought to position themselves in philosophical matters. In particular, the panel wishes to question the contention that the sources of philosophy can be exclusively systematic treatises or commentaries on earlier texts (Pollock 2011). It especially welcomes, therefore, papers dealing with sources where philosophy intersects with tales and stories and in poetry. Approaches different from trying to find a specific set of doctrines in a text are encouraged, in order to highlight the creativity of early modern authors and thinkers (Malinar 2017). This will also allow to cross the boundaries between philosophy conceived as a highly specialised domain and other concerns, of literary, religious or political nature. This panel invites papers by scholars of any academic stage working on vernacular sources (the interaction with Persian or between Sanskrit and vernaculars is also not excluded). The period ranges from – but is not strictly confined to – 1500 to 1800 CE, with the goal of debating new perspectives on early modern Indian philosophy as expressed multiple literary genres, examined through the suitable methods (philological, historical, analyse du discours, etc.).