EXC 2060 A3-23 - Religiöse Sozialreform im Kontext von Unitarismus und Brahmo Samaj: Austauschprozesse zwischen Nordamerika und Bengalen

Funding Source
DFG - Cluster of Excellence
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
Type of Funding
Subproject in DFG-joint project hosted at WWU
  • Description

    Unitarianism plays an exceptional role in the religious history of the nineteenth century. The development of liberal Protestant currents in the United States of America was strongly influenced by Unitarianism, which also manifested in the world of the intellectual élites, for instance at Harvard. The universalist and comparative claim of Unitarianism led to one of the most widely noticed events in recent religious history, the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893. Die social-reformist thrust of many Unitarians was responsible for intensive exchanges with India, especially with the members of the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal. This organisation emerged from a collaboration of Protestant missionaries and Bengali intellectuals and formed one of the most influential intellectual forces in India that was enthusiastically received worldwide. In the USA, Brahmo writings were adopted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and other Transcendentalists, setting path-breaking impulses for the nascent interest in India during the nineteenth century.
    The project will fill some important lacunae in this regard. While pioneering studies were written about the relationship between Unitarianism and the Brahmo Samaj in the 1970s, later research has either taken the perspective of British-American Unitarians or investigated the influence on Unitarian ideas on prominent Brahmos such as Rammohan Roy, without taking into account the Bengali context in its own right. Within the British-American spectrum, on the other hand, the focus rested on Emerson and Thoreau. This is problematic for two reasons: First, because precisely those authors were neglected who were more widely received in Bengal, particularly Theodore Parker; second, the second generation of Unitarians such as James Freeman Clarke or Moncure Conway awaits further scrutiny, especially because it was this generation that engaged in active and direct exchanges with Bengali reformers.
    The exchanges between American Unitarians and Bengali reformers will be investigated within the context of a global religious history. The focus will rest on the period from the 1850s until the 1890s. First, the Bengali translation of the writings of Theodore Parker will be analysed. In order to contextualize the reception of Parker, the Unitarian mission will be closely examined in the light of the fragmentation of the Brahmo Samaj and the different stances of its followers towards the likewise fragmented Unitarians and followers of the Free Religious Association. The dynamics of the intensifying exchanges between the second-generation Unitarians and Bengali reformers will be substantiated by means of concrete case studies.
  • Persons