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The Quotidian Revolution Religion, Caste, and Gender in the Cultural Politics of Vernacularization in Thirteenth-Century India


February 6, 2014
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Event Category:


bldg 300, rm 300
450 Serra Mall, Bldg 300
Stanford, 94305 United States


Ai Tran

A special lecture by Christian Novetzke (University of Washington). Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and Stanford’s Global Studies Division (formerly International, Comparative and Area Studies). Free and open to the public. Click for Event Flyer.

In 1290 CE tradition remembers that a precocious teenager in India named Jnaneshwar composed in Marathi a commentary and quasi-translation of the famous Sanskrit religious text, the Bhagavad Gita, setting his composition to the rhyme and rhythm of women’s work songs.  Jnaneshwar created this text, called the Jnaneshwari, in order to make the Gita accessible to those who did not have access to Sanskrit, a group he identifies as “women, low castes, and others.” Jnaneshwar was compelled by an ethics of “devotional sharing” or bhakti.  In doing so, Jnaneshwar not only created literature in a new medium but also inaugurated a process that fashioned a pre-modern public sphere from the field of bhakti, a public sphere that engaged the politics of caste and gender, and much more.  By placing the concerns of the quotidian into public culture, vernacularization has continued to reshape social and political life in uneven but continuous ways.  In this presentation I use epigraphy, stone sculpture, film, manuscript illustrations, and the Jnaneshwari to explore the vital historical moment that engendered a revolution of the quotidian, centering new public attention on the cultural politics of everyday life.

Christian Novetzke is associate professor in the South Asia Program, the Comparative Religion Program, and the International Studies Program at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies. His main areas of work include Marathi and Hindi materials, including textual, ethnographic, and visual/filmic sources. He specializes in the study of Maharashtra from the second millennium CE to the present, ranging from the medieval period, through the colonial and modern periods, to the postcolonial era. Novetzke’s first book, Religion and the Public Memory, won the American Academy of Religion’s award “The Best First Book in the History of Religions” in 2009.

For more information, visit his website: here