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Mahabharata and Classical Hinduism Seminar

Call for Proposals

The Seminar’s call for papers for its third year is on "Regional, Vernacular, and Performative Mahābhārata Traditions" 

This session would be devoted to texts and traditions of Mahābhārata performances such as theater, dance, and recitation, and vernacular language textual traditions, with a focus on the religious uses of these traditions.  Modern retellings in pulp, graphic, and film formats are also relevant to this area of inquiry.  

In response to the 2023 Presidential Theme, we also include a call for proposals on the Mahābhārata’s depictions of serving or marginalized classes – the dasis, the sutas, the hunters and butchers and fisher-folk, emphasizing their roles as exemplars of wisdom and dharma.  We are also interested in proposals that consider the literal and figurative "handcrafting" of Mahābhārata , by authors ancient or modern who contribute in original ways to leave their mark on retellings of epic narratives.

In an effort to encourage diversity in seminar participants, those who presented papers in our 2022 meeting are unlikely to have proposals accepted for the 2021 meeting. We seek to include the best proposals we receive.

Statement of Purpose

The Mahābhārata and Classical Hinduism Seminar seeks to facilitate the academic exchange so necessary to progress through a format similar to a workshop, with pre-circulated papers. This seminar will bring together philologists, Indologists, ethnographers, scholars of performance theory and practices, and generalists taking on the daunting task of incorporating India’s great epic into their coursework on Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or Yoga. Over the course of the five-year seminar, we hope that these varied approaches will prove mutually illuminating and raise new questions. The seminar’s scope includes not only the Sanskrit text, but also dramatic and fictional retellings, regional and vernacular versions, etc. We will select papers by asking the following four questions, which will change somewhat according to each year’s topic: Does the paper shine a new light on some previously underappreciated aspect, episode, character, or form of the epic? Does the paper either represent or respond to the most current trends and arguments in Mahābhārata studies? Does the paper help to demystify the Mahābhārata, helping non-specialists who are intimidated by its length and complexity to incorporate it into their teaching or scholarship? Does the paper provide a model for interdisciplinary practice (e.g., Does it bridge the gap between philology and new forms of critical textual analysis or between ethnography and history of religions?).


Steering Committee Members





Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members