A nexus of ideas

We are pleased to introduce the first in a new series of blogs for the Faculty, aimed at everyone from new students to graduates, staff (both administrative and academic), those from outside the Faculty and beyond.

The Faculty of Oriental Studies is spread across several locations within Oxford itself. This has sometimes hindered communication among its members regarding the sharing of research interests/expertise and publication announcements. As our courses include language, literature, history and culture, bridging fields such as art and archaeology, history, literature, philosophy, religion and modern social studies, there also follows a rich influx of ideas and the opportunity for an engaging and dynamic exchange of specialist knowledge. Our principal areas of study range from the Islamic World, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Eastern Christianity, Egyptology and Ancient Near East to South and Inner Asia and East Asian Studies, and within this diverse and rich environment, are situated our students and colleagues from all around the world. I hope that you benefit as much as I from working within this unique environment and feel as privileged for the exposure this offers to the cultures and learning corpora throughout Oriental Studies.

As part of our efforts to celebrate our rich and diverse community, the Faculty has now run three Research Conversations. This is a series of informal events, held at lunch time once per term, where the aim is to provide an opportunity for all members of the Faculty (academic staff, the administration team and students) to learn about current research being undertaken by their colleagues and tutors. Some of these ‘conversations’ have been recorded (either video or audio) and are now linked to the Faculty Website homepage.

We were extremely proud to see that the third in this series with Professor Zeynep Yürekli-Görkay and Dr Paul Wordsworth attracted so many attendees that several people ended up sitting on the floor.

This occasion gave me cause for reflection on the word nexus: As you may be aware, this is a term often used in an IT sense, when ‘logging-in’ to emails remotely. However, nexus can also mean ‘a connection or series of connections, linking two or more things’ (e.g. the nexus between industry and political power) or ‘a central or focal point’ (e.g. the nexus of our government is No. 10 Downing Street).

In our Research Conversations series, we have a forum for the exchange of ideas, the sharing of work undertaken, the chance to offer support, and the experience of surprise and delight in new and unimagined avenues of thought and enterprise. Not only as members of the University of Oxford but, as part of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, we belong to an exciting, unique community, and however far-flung its centres and administrative buildings, its areas throughout the world where the soil is dug, its archives probed and cultures imbibed, we have this once per term chance to build a nexus of ideas.

Our next Research Conversations event will be on 28 February 2017 (Tuesday of Week 7) at 1pm in the Faculty Board Room (third floor of the Faculty Building, Pusey Lane, OX1 2LE) and will include a conversation between:

Dr Lama Jabb will be in conversation with Dr Richard Williams about his research on ‘Tibetan Literature as a Confluence of the Oral and the Literary’, discussing the creative interplay between the spoken and the written word in Tibet throughout its literary history. While highlighting the deep oral and vernacular roots of Tibetan literature in general, it will focus on the oral and textual roots of modern Tibetan literature in particular, and its continuing dynamic interaction with living traditions of oral poetry.

Dr Bihani Sarkar will be in conversation with Professor Diwakar Acharya about ‘Heroic Śāktism: the cult of Durgā in ancient Indian kingship’, focusing on the influence of the cult of the warrior goddess on practices of political power, ideas of heroism and the formation of the post-Gupta Indian kingdom between the 3rd and the 12th cent. CE.

I very much hope that you will be ‘logging-in’ then.

Mary-Louise Aitken