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Shows a Western interpretation of a worshipper in South Asian (Thai?) headdress

South Asian Religions through Colonial Eyes

3-4PM, Friday, November 30
First floor of the Museum Library

South Asia has long been branded a spiritual land in the colonialist imagination; whether marveling at unfamiliar beliefs or deriding “heathen” practices, literature of the period frequently sensationalizes the region’s religious cultures. Travelogues such as those of Reginald Heber and Louis Rousselet emphasize hook-swinging, “suttee,” and Kālī-worshiping Ṭhugs. Social analyses such as those of Alexander Duff and John Welsh Dulles fixate on caste and lavish deity worship. Artists, too, are enchanted with religious imagery, with Emily Eden portraying the princely perspective, John Griffiths depicting premodern Buddhist cave-temples, and Tyra Kleen deftly capturing the movement of Hindu temple dancers in Bali. In browsing through these works, we’ll consider how sets of common tropes come to define South Asian religious life for colonial consumption.

You are invited to join South Asian Studies Librarian, Dr. Jef Pierce, along with Head of the Museum Library, Deb Stewart, and Museum Library Programming and Instruction Intern, Marah Blake, to view and discuss these items from the Museum Library's Locked collections. This informal program is open to all Penn students, faculty, and staff, as well as Penn Museum Members and visitors who have paid admission to the Penn Museum.