32nd DOT in Münster: a thought-provoking experience

The 32nd DOT (Deutscher Orientalisten Tag, i.e., Assembly of the German Orientalists) took place from the 23rd to the 27th September in Münster (W). It was surely the biggest DOT ever and its 1,300 participants made it a bigger event than many (most, I would say) World Sanskrit Conferences. Was it also more interesting than them?

panels etc.: How to articulate our knowledge of the “Orient”?

The 32nd DOT was a multiform conference articulated in sections and interdisciplinary panels. Most sections were direct followers of the classical branches of “Orientalistic studies”, i.e., they focused primarily on the textual production of a cultural area at a certain time (“Indology” as distinguished from “[Modern] South Asian Studies”, “Coptology”, etc.). Other sections seemed to be more directly influenced by the areal studies approach (the already mentioned “South Asian Studies” component of the “Indology and South Asian Studies” section,  “South East Asian Studies”, etc.) and still others focused on different topics (“Art and Archaeology”, “Law”, etc.). In case you were wondering, I did not notice anyone discussing about “Orientalism after Said”. Perhaps the topic is now out of fashion or perhaps the German Orientalists do not want to indulge to new trends.

practical things

I am not completely satisfied with the practical organisation of the conference. Although 1,300 participants are really a lot and I can imagine that the organisation staff has been under a lot of pressure, I would have preferred more chances for interactions, such as common meals and open events. Before you say that meals are expensive, let me suggest to have a catering service bringing food that everyone will need to pay for her- or himself.

Indological panels

I enjoyed all the Indological panels I attended (i.e., Made in Nepal, Adaptive Reuse and Mahāyāna Buddhism in Early Gandhāra). In most cases I got the feeling that real research was being discussed and that the conference was becoming a stimulating workshop. For similar reasons I especially enjoyed the concluding round tables, where one 1) got the sense of the broader picture emerging from the particular details discussed in the papers 2) could gain further reactions and stimuli from the other participants, including the audience.

Indological Individual Presentations

For as much as I can judge it, the quality of the presentations was incredibly good. One could sense that there is (still?) a great German Indology which points on accurate readings of many texts, on precise textual examination of them, on mastery of secundary literature and on earnest presentations which have nothing to share with Infotainment. (As a non-German I would have preferred less reading and more lively interaction, though.) German Indologists are also surprisingly daring as for pointing out mistakes or flaws are concerned. In other contexts (e.g., here) I have deprecated the tendency to always say that a certain paper (or article or book) was “interesting” and “important” without taking the risk to criticise it. During the DOT everyone could assist to real intellectual clashes.

In case you also attended, what did you like/dislike more?

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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