Disruptions caused by Covid-19 are persisting globally. The Tamil Nadu government order closing down all theaters, parks, swimming pools, etc., is likely to be extended on May 18, when the current order expires. No conferences or public events can be held at this time.
Under these circumstances and with great regret, we have decided to postpone CSRI’s 2020 meeting until further notice. We will certainly be in touch as plans for future CSRI meetings develop, but none will happen this year. Wishing health and safety to all in these troubling days,
The CSRI Executive Committee
A Note on Recent Discussion of CSRI on Social Media
Recently it was implied in a news piece that has been circulating on social media that the conference we had planned at the University of Madras for July, 2019, was sponsored by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and is anti-Hindu. (As indicated above, the conference had already been postponed due to coronavirus.) The original article contained a number of other factual inaccuracies, but we wish only to address these two primary claims.
First, the conference has no connection to USCIRF or any other governmental organizations whatsoever, nor do any of the conference organizers. The CSRI is an independent conference which runs on the voluntary labor of a revolving executive committee of scholars. The University of Madras had not provided or promised any financial support for this or any other conference organized by CSRI, and the conference was to be funded through conference fees.
As for the claim that the CSRI or its conferences are anti-Hindu, we invite those interested to browse the Tables of Content of the volumes CSRI conferences have produced over the years, or (even better) to read the chapters themselves. They are available here. We are confident that those who look at them carefully will find serious scholars employing internationally respected methods of fieldwork, textual analysis, and so forth, in a sincere attempt to sympathetically understand a variety of the religions of India. In these volumes, as in our conferences, there is no particular emphasis on Hinduism, as the claim of an “anti-Hindu” bias implies, and contributors write about all of the major religions present in historical and contemporary India (as well as about their interactions). Among the conference’s regular contributors are Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, and agnostics.
Finally, since many who have criticized the conference appear not to have read the original call for papers for this year’s conference, we invite those with concerns to view it below. We recognize that the proposed theme of the conference, “Containment, Collection, and Arrangement in South Asian Religions,” may seem unusual to those not familiar with the ways that scholars in the humanities and social sciences think. To clarify and simplify, the intent of the theme was to solicit papers answering questions such as, How are the sacred objects in temples, shrines, mosques, and churches arranged and why? How does the arrangement of religious objects affect or alter the experience of the worshipper? How do religious communities collect and arrange their religious scriptures and why? Etc. In answering these questions, we hoped the conference papers would explore common grounds between religions in South Asia, cultivate deeper understanding between them and foster peace and harmony in society.
The CSRI Executive Committee
Below is the CFP for the now-postponed conference
The Conference on the Study of Religions of India (CSRI) provides a forum for scholars engaged in the academic study of religions of India to present their fresh and original research to colleagues. A distinctive feature of this conference is that it offers a leisurely, collegial, and informal setting to pursue critical inquiry into the rich and diverse religious traditions of India, both in their native and diasporic contexts. The Conference is an independent scholarly organization, and conferences are organized with the voluntary labor of scholars and funded through conference fees.CSRI invites proposals for its upcoming Annual Meeting to be held at the University of Madras, India on July 21-24, 2020. The conference theme is "Containment, Collection, and Arrangement in South Asian Religions.” We invite proposals representing a range of disciplinary and methodological approaches that focus on the actual, metaphorical or conceptual storage, movement, or organization of objects and substances of significance in religious texts, ritual practices, institutional structures and/or individual behaviour. Possible topics could include the organization of mūrtis in temple architecture; the disposition of materials in ritual; episodes of hiding, finding or losing sacred objects in Epics and other narrative traditions; philosophical or theological accounts of perception and memory; classificatory schemes that demarcate the structure of the human person (e.g., cakras, faculties), the cosmos and/or social and cultural institutions; monastic traditions of manuscript collection and organization, and so forth. Conference organizers (Brian Pennington, Chad Bauman, Reid Locklin, and Archana Venkatesan) welcome individual paper proposals that articulate a clear argument and its connection to the conference theme of no longer than 250 words, to be submitted no later than February 1, 2020. To submit a paper proposal, click here. Proposals must include a clear statement of a thesis or argument to be advanced and they must be clearly related to the conference theme. Abstracts that do not meet those criteria cannot be considered. The Conference on the Study of Religions of India (CSRI) has been a forum of exchange for scholars engaged in the academic study of the various religious traditions of India in both native and diasporic contexts since the 1970s. It provides scholars a leisurely, collegial environment in which to present their work. Emphasis will be placed on informality among peers. Committed to critical and creative inquiry, the conference is not an advocacy forum for the religions of India and does not endorse or proscribe a particular point of view. Only scholars with terminal degrees in religious studies or related academic disciplines (like Anthropology, Art, Ethnomusicology, Folklore, History, Literature, Philosophy, Sociology, Theology, Women Studies) researching and/or teaching in the area of religions of India are eligible to present, attend, and participate in the conference. Graduate students in advanced standing in any of these disciplines are also welcome to participate in the conference.