Third Lecture in Ashoka History Monsoon 2020 Webinar series
October 21 @ 1:40 pm - 2:45 pm
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Herewith the abstract and bio pertaining to Annu Jalais’ talk on 21 October, titled Rethinking a pan-Asian Nonhuman: the ‘travelling monk with tiger’ from Dunhuang caves to the Bengal delta:
The paintings of the ‘travelling monk with tiger’ found in the Dunhuang caves, China, believed to be from the Tang and Song dynasties, raise questions as to the symbolism of the tiger and its supposed relation to the spread of Buddhism to that part of the world. Through a keen study of the image of the tiger in pre-Buddhist times and the symbolism of the tiger in ancient China, this presentation will suggest that Dunhuang paintings of ‘monk with tiger’ need to be understood in a more ‘cosmopolitan’ light. Blending scholarship in anthropology and religious studies focusing on nonhuman tigers with scholarship in history and art history, this presentation highlights how the trope of the ‘travelling monk with tiger’ might have just as much to do with the arrival of Islam in the Tang dynasty than with the spread of Buddhism. But beyond this, the paper will also look at how the image of the tiger has been deployed in political contexts all through Asia, both in pre-modern as well as in modern times.
Annu Jalais is an anthropologist working on the human / animal interface, on migration and Bengali identity and on environmental questions focusing particularly on Bangladesh and India. She is the author of Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans(Routledge, 2010) and the co-author of The Bengal Diaspora: Rethinking Muslim Migration(Routledge, 2015) and is Assistant Professor at the South Asian Studies of the National University of Singapore.