The discovery of Buddhism

Kiste voller alter Postkarten und Briefe

The project focuses on the beginning and development of the scientific study of Buddhism, particularly in the 19th century, and the public discourse on Buddhism. Consequently, Buddhism is not regarded as a primordial entity that was simply ‘discovered’, but rather as a historic discourse in which Buddhism was constituted and continually negotiated against the backdrop of a globalizing world and the realities of colonial encounters.

As the concept of ‘Buddhism’ emerged within that global and colonial context, it was connected to the debates about (world-)religions and thus to the (self-)representations of other religions and related topics. Our research group is particularly interested in the scientific reception of Buddhism and how European and Anglo-American scholars were not only part of a global discourse on Buddhism (as opposed to, for example, a ‘Western discovery’), but how their reception was simultaneously perceived as a catalyst for ‘Western’ self-conceptions (e.g., as ‘Western’, Christian, occidental [abendländisch] etc.).

Principal researcher:
Dr. Ulrich Harlass