VISCOM: Visions of Community

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VISCOM (Visions of Community: Comparative Approaches to Ethnicity, Region and Empire in Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, 400-1600 CE) is an interdisciplinary project, to which serveral institutes of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna contribute. The IKGA is in charge of a bundle of subprojects on the Tibetan Empire and North Indian Tantrism.

Project Outline

VISCOM proposes a comparative approach focusing on Christian, Islamic and Buddhist examples in the course of the Middle Ages in order to explore the interaction between religious and political visions of community. All three religions were used to legitimize imperial rule, but they also encouraged other forms of community, be they local, regional, civic, or ethnic. Here, interesting differences become visible: for instance, ethnicity played a different role in the three cultural zones.

Was that due to the respective impact of religion, or, in some cases, rather to their lack of impact? How did concepts, perceptions or cultural memories frame the emergence of new communities, and how were they in turn influenced by religious discourses?

How did different forms of community (for instance, regional or ethnic groups and empires) interact? These problems are situated between the fields of history and social anthropology, of European and Asian studies, between religious and political history, between research on discourse and on practicses of community in early and medieval Tibet have been underrepresented in Tibetology. VISCOM aims to fill that niche, and turn these issues into the primary field of research in this project part. Based on in-depth studies of primary literature, the aim is to investigate the decisive elements of the political, religious and narrative contexts of the visions of community that established themselves as a consequence of the Empire and Buddhism. The work is methodologically combined with questions from social and cultural anthropology, and is supplemented by ethnographic data obtained through field research.

Geographic and Thematic Extension of the Project part

The Tibet project part was originally led by Helmut Krasser, the late director of the IKGA. After his untimely death, the FWF guaranteed the continuation of the Tibet project. Through the initiatives of the new project leader Vincent Eltschinger, and in accordance with VISCOM as a whole, the project extended its geographic focus to now include the north-eastern area of traditional Tibet (Amdo) and the Indian border regions to the south of the Tibetan plateau. Since June 2014, a new project member (Nina Mirnig) has been involved in the final phase of VISCOM 1, and has contributed research focusing on individual case studies of tantric communities in Early Medieval India (ca. 600-1200 CE).


P04 subprojects


Languages: EN

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