CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


" Lives in Transition: Locating Buddhist Relics in the Worlds of Scholarship, Antiquarian Market, Diplomacy, and Religion"

Session 7 Translation and Change

School of Historical Studies at Nalanda University 


This paper explores the possibility of reading the shifting political, social, and cultural locations of objects as processes of translation and change in the field of historical and art historical studies. The study focuses on the journeys and material reconstitutions of ancient Buddhist corporeal relics as they travelled from an archaeological site in British India, Piprahwa Kot, to a new relic temple in Bangkok, capital of the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand) during the late nineteenth century. Mapping the shifting locations of the Piprahwa relics across changing institutional, cultural and political spaces, the paper traces the multiple identities and meanings that accrued around these objects. This study does not ascribe these new identities of Buddhist relics solely to the “inventive” capacity of cultural politics of British colonialism. Moving beyond the binaries of the Orient and the Occident, the metropolis and the colony, it seeks to bring out the complexities of antiquarian collecting and market, connoisseurship, display and scholarship, rituals of state diplomacy and religious reclamations across transnational Southern Buddhist worlds, as constitutive of the new and multiple identities of ancient Buddhist corporeal relics.


Sraman Mukherjee is Assistant Professor in the School of Historical Studies at Nalanda University (Rajgir, India). Graduating from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and the University of Calcutta, he has held post doctoral research and teaching positions at the International Institute of Asian Studies (Leiden), in the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota, at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV, Leiden), and at Presidency University (Kolkata, India). Sraman is trained as a historian of colonial and post-colonial South Asia. His research and teaching interests include transnational geographies of heritage, modern biographies of sites, objects, and monuments, material reconstitution of objects and artifacts, and histories of inter-Asian connections. Sraman has published research articles and book reviews in peer reviewed journals like South Asian StudiesIndian Economic and Social History Review, and Journal of South Asian History and Culture, and has book chapters in edited volumes Buddhism in Asia: Revival and Reinvention (2016), and in the Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary Buddhism (co-authored with David Geary, forthcoming). He is currently working on his first monograph titled Inhabiting Ancient Pasts: Heritage, Histories and the Making of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.