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How do material forms of religious culture reveal the historically contingent nature of translocal practices in the Indian Ocean world from 1300 to 1800?  This seminar explores how contact between cultures and the circulation of objects resulted in patterns of decoding, the displacement of implicit ethnographies of the other, equivalence and refraction in terminology and structure, and the formation of transcultural identities. What are objects and what do they do for different communities who rely on them and use them to structure belief and ritual practice? In what ways are religious objects themselves commodities? How do social histories of religious objects transform and how are they transformed by the communities that use them? A focus on religious materiality in the Indian Ocean world transcends the privileging texts and the written word among historians and religious studies scholars. Textual study alone fails to account for the dynamic intra- and inter-religious interactions that were fostered by material practices. We contend that material practices and objects travel in a way that differs from ideas, dogmas, and texts; access to the latter in their untranslated forms is restricted primarily to the elite. Material objects and practices due to their immediacy, on the other hand, reach out to and are shaped by subalterns—including the poor, the illiterate, and women—who have often been occluded from dominant histories.

We invite applications for the Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Postdoctoral Fellowship from junior scholars in all disciplines that relate to the theme of the seminar and will contribute to the work and discussions of the group. During the year, participants will meet every other week as a reading group to analyze key theories, methodologies, and literatures that situate religious materiality squarely in Indian Ocean studies. In addition, a capstone conference in spring 2016 will convene international “rising voices” to discuss their research, methodology and findings within a community of scholars dedicated to advancing the themes of the Seminar. The applicant’s Ph.D. must have been awarded between July 1, 2010 and July 1, 2015. The Fellow will have no teaching responsibilities, providing ample time to pursue a major research project.

The fellowship pays a salary of $50,000 plus benefits, and provides a research fund of $1,500. The Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow will be provided with an office.Please submit a letter of application, research statement, graduate transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a brief writing sample (maximum 35 pages). To receive full consideration, completed applications must be received by 15 January 2015. Applications will be accepted by electronic submission only; submit applications to: indianocean.world@utoronto.ca

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