IMC 2013: Sessions

Session 810: Visions of Community, VII: Enclaves of Learning - Religion, Ideologies, and Practices in Europe, Arabia, and Tibet

Tuesday 2 July 2013, 16.30-18.00

Sponsor:Sonderforschungsbereich 42 'Visions of Community: Comparative Approaches to Ethnicity, Region & Empire in Christianity, Islam & Buddhism, 400-1600', Universität Wien / Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
Organiser:Rutger Kramer, Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
Moderator/Chair:Walter Pohl, Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, Universität Wien
Paper 810-aManagers of Knowledge: Hijras and Madrasas in Medieval South Arabia
(Language: English)
Eirik Hovden, Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie, Universität Wien
Index terms: Islamic and Arabic Studies, Literacy and Orality, Local History, Monasticism
Paper 810-bThe Enlightened Activities of Buddhist Masters: The Religious Establishment(s) of the Sakya School in Southern Central Tibet
(Language: English)
Mathias Fermer, Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
Index terms: Anthropology, Mentalities, Monasticism, Social History
Paper 810-cMonks on the Via Regia?: Smaragdus of Saint-Mihiel between Ideal and Reality
(Language: English)
Rutger Kramer, Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
Index terms: Mentalities, Monasticism, Religious Life

In all major religions, communities may be found that exist for the purpose of safeguarding the knowledge and propagating the practices upon which the culture they operated in were founded – from the monasteries that dotted the religious landscape of the Christian west, to the the Sakya institutions of Tibetan Buddhism, and the hijras and madrasas in South Arabia. These communities all had a central place in their respective societies, but were also kept isolated in order to guard the knowledge they keep against outside contamination. In reality, however, they all also interacted with the world around them, and depended upon its secular wealth as much as the world depended on their spiritual prowess. In spite of these apparent similarities in the social, religious and economic functions of such communities, it has proven to be surprisingly difficult to find a definition that fits all of them, due to the fact that there are also major differences between them – differences that only become apparent when they are looked at in a comparative context. This session aims to do just that. First, Eirik Hovden will showcase a specific type of enclave existing in Yemen, hijras, and show how they had found a peculiar balance between their religious heritage and the wide array of social and economic responsibilities they also carried. Moving further eastwards, Mathias Fermer will then present the way the activities of the spiritual masters of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism provided a blueprint for monastic life that also is both strikingly similar and surprisingly different from the European situation. Finally, Rutger Kramer will provide a comparative perspective by presenting the vision of monastic communities as described by the Carolingian abbot Smaragdus, who simultaneously fulfilled the roles of participant and observer in the monastic world of the early 9th century. As will be shown, all these enclaves of learning were shaped as much by the needs of the community around them as by forces operating from within, and by analysing the interplay between these, surprising observations are brought to light.