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Oslo symposium in commemoration of Paul Olav Bodding’s Santali research

March 1, 2014 - 00:00

The symposium “Belief, Scholarship and Cultural heritage: Paul Olav Bodding and the Making of a Scandinavian-Santal Legacy” will bring together prominent scholars on the Santals and related peoples of Central India, Bangladesh and Nepal alongside literary, heritage and minority and indigenous rights professionals and church leaders from South Asia and Europe.  The symposium, commemorating the 150th anniversary of his birth, is the first ever to address comprehensively the diverse and enduring legacy of the scholar-missionary Paul Olav Bodding (1865-1915).

This symposium will primarily interrogate Bodding’s scholarship as a linguist, ethnographer and collector from the vantage point of contemporary European and Indian scholarship on the Santals and related Adivasis and of the Santals’ own civil society organizations. Papers and other contributions analyzing the earlier and contemporary importance of the Bodding legacy – the pinnacle of the Lutheran Santal Mission’s pastoral enlightenment project – and the Northern Santals’ ethno-nationalist and other movements are welcome. This also includes its more controversial aspects, caused by an exceedingly complex language politics (including the divisive issue of script).  This politics is reflecting different and partly competing political, social and cultural Santal-led and supported mass movements and the particular center-state-tribe construction in post-colonial India. We also welcome contributions that move beyond simplistic assertions of faith-colored scholarship to more subtle yet rigorous textual analyses of Bodding’s influential magazine Pera Hor, his popularized books on missiology, the biography Sona and his beloved hymns and Bible translations.

Finally, we invite contributions (papers and inputs to panel discussions) on a revitalized custodianship and collaborative uses of the Santal Bodding Collection in a digital and post-colonial era. Contributions on the digitalization efforts of the Santal mission and those of the successor missions (in Denmark, Norway and the US) are invited. So are comparative papers on the management (including digital repatriation) and uses of other ethnographic and manuscript collections in Norway and abroad.


The sessions may address:

1.            The Santal Mission in the broader historical and contemporary context of Indo-Scandinavian relations – including the former colonies of Denmark-Norway in South Asia, trade linkages, external missions in Asia and Africa and Scandinavian-Indo relations after Independence

2.            Revisiting Bodding’s scholarship: his mentors and gurus; the linguist, ethnographer and collector

3.            Revisiting Bodding as theologian, bible translator, hymnologist and administrator

4.            Museums of cultural history, national libraries and missions as custodians: towards a post-colonial digital era

Excursions to the Bodding collection’s manuscript section and to the ethnographic sub-collection form part of the programme.   


Partners and organizers

This symposium is a three-way partnership between University of Tromsø, University of Oslo and National Library of Norway. The vision and early initiative to this event came out of the Scandinavian-Santal Heritage Initiative headed by Professor Tone Bleie (UiT). As organizers, we hope this landmark symposium will offer policy guidance and concrete recommendations for future collaboration with likeminded museums, research bodies and the rightful stakeholders to the Santal – Bodding Collection in South Asia.  The University of Tromsø and the University of Oslo by the Museum of Cultural History are the organizers of this symposium. 



The conference venue in Oslo is the restored historic Professor Residence in Karl Johansgt. 47, located just across from the Museum of Cultural History.    


The deadline for submitting proposals for papers with abstracts is March 1st. Deadline for registration as participant is August 15th.  There is no registration and conference fee.

Symposium organizers

For submission of abstracts and further information, contact Profs. Tone Bleie and Øivind Fuglerud: tone.bleie@uit.no; oivind.fuglerud@khm.uio.no.  Detailed programme and other practical details will be available online from March 2015.       

Oslo symposium in commemoration of Paul Olav Bodding’s Santali research


March 1, 2014