Prof. Joseph O’Connell was one of the pioneers in the Western study of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, the devotional tradition that emerged in sixteenth century Bengal and, in subsequent centuries, profoundly shaped the religious culture of Bengal, Orissa, Mathura, and Rajasthan. His interest in the ethics of the Vaiṣṇavas of Bengal and his deep concern for human flourishing have profoundly shaped the field. His recently, posthumously published book, Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism in Bengal: Social Impact and Historical Implications (Routledge, 2019)—a summation of his research—exemplifies his lifelong interest in “the relationship between the ‘transcendent’ intentionality of religious faith of human beings and their ‘mundane’ socio-cultural ways of living”, as he put it. It explores the way Caitanya Vaiṣṇavas’ theology and practice informed their varied engagement with both the non-Vaiṣṇava world and their own religious community, from the early sixteenth century to the twentieth century, and addresses such topics as forms of institutionalisation and identity, attitudes to caste and gender, the negotiation of heterodoxies, engagement with changing political regimes, and the interactions with Muslim.
At this symposium, co-organised by The Gosvāmī Era Research Project and the Bengali Vaiṣṇavism in the Modern World Research Project at the OCHS, scholars from across the globe will gather to discuss the themes of the book and O’Connell’s academic work more broadly.
Speakers include: Dr. Måns Broo, Prof. Ravi M. Gupta, Prof. Brian A. Hatcher, Dr. Rembert Lutjeharms, Prof. Kathleen O’Connell, Dr. Jeanne Openshaw, and Prof. Tony K. Stewart.