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The Power of Writing: The Nexus of Script and Religion in South Asia


CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Guest Lecture in English presented by Carmen Brandt (Bonn)

Besides its linguistic diversity, South Asia also hosts a large number of writing systems. While the emergence of ethnic groups based on linguistic factors is well studied, research on the influence of scripts on identity formation among ethnolinguistic and religious communities is still at the beginning. This presentation will give a preliminary systematic overview on the importance of writing systems in contemporary South Asia as well as focus on the nexus of script and religion in past and present. By presenting some significant examples, it will make apparent that the growing importance of script is often also connected to the formation and spread of religions as well as to the evolution of media technologies, for instance to the introduction of the printing press and computer technology, and access to social media in South Asia. First conclusions in this presentation draw on an extensive comparative study based, among others, on long-term field studies in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.