Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai is organizing a public lecture by Gauri Viswanathan, Class of 1933 Professor in Humanities and Director of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University, on the role of Theosophy in making classical Sanskrit texts available to a range of nineteenth-century readers in Britain and India, and influencing their perceptions of Hinduism in both metropole and colony. The lecture will demonstrate how Sanskrit terms and concepts drawn from Hinduism were adapted in Theosophical writings and were also re-presented in subsequent translations of classical Hindu philosophy. Professor Viswanathan will also address Theosophy’s most famous exponent, H.P. Blavatsky’s appropriation of Sanskrit, and M.K. Gandhi’s encounters with Theosophical writings as two significant moments in Theosophy’s mediation of Hinduism. While her talk draws largely from the archives of the Theosophical Society’s International Headquarters in Chennai, it will also touch upon the historical significance of Mumbai, both as a transit-point for Blavatsky and Gandhi and for the cosmopolitanism of Theosophy’s belief system.
About the Speaker: Gauri Viswanathan is Class of 1933 Professor in Humanities and Director of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University. She has published widely on education, religion, and culture, nineteenth-century British and colonial cultural studies, and the history of modern disciplines. She is the author of Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India and Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief. Professor Viswanathan has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, National Endowments for Humanities, and the Mellon Foundation, and has been awarded the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching for 2017-2018. Her current research examines genealogies of secularism and theories of enchantment, including research for a book on Theosophy and H.P Blavatsky’s peregrinations in India and Tibet.