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Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi

by Kelley Reardon

As part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Tim Dobe, Th.D. and Sumathi Ramaswamy, Ph.D. for a conversation on “Visualizing the Muslim Gandhi.”

 

The John Hope Franklin Center, Duke India Initiative, and Duke Islamic Center hosted the event, which discussed the connection of Gandhi to Islamic culture. Dr. Dobe is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College and a current visiting fellow at the Duke Islamic Studies Center. Dr. Ramaswamy is a James B. Duke Professor of History and International Comparative Studies at Duke, Co-Director of Duke’s India Initiative, and President of the American Institute of Indian Studies.

 

 

Dr. Dobe discussed how there is often a focus on Gandhi’s Hinduism and western influence, but less attention on his ties to Muslim culture. In his earlier years, Gandhi was often depicted in art as “a man of the people,” and he was known to put immense effort into dressing appropriately to fit in with his surroundings. For instance, there are images of Gandhi in a suit while he was training to be a lawyer, and images of him in traditional Indian dress when he returned to India.

 

Furthermore, Dr. Dobe shared many works of Khwaja Hsan Nizami, who studied Gandhi and is known for his literary pieces. Nizami even predicted that Gandhi’s legacy would extent to the year 2050, when there would be a landscape of ethics and non-violence and nearly all Muslims would be vegetarian.

 

Dr. Ramaswamy shared artistic depictions of Gandhi later in life, when he would go without clothes and present himself nothing but a loin cloth. Artists depict this stage of Gandhi’s life in different ways—for instance, the modern Indian painter Maqbool Fida Husain did not shy away from painting Gandhi’s unclothed body. Meanwhile, Sayed Haidar Raza, who was also a modern Indian painter, rarely showed Gandhi in his paintings. Yet Raza’s work is still a reflection of his perspective on Gandhi.

 

As Ramaswamy explained, “there is no single way in which Muslim artists respond to Gandhi’s barely clothed body.” There was also the potential that artists were worried about allowing their faith to stand in the way of their art. However, the limitations that faith may have had on an artist’s work can be difficult to determine.

Blood Letters Highlight Video

Highlights from Professor Xi Lian’s talk as part of the Wednesdays at the Center series at the John Hope Franklin Center.

“Blood Letters” is the first authoritative biography of Lin Zhao, a poet and journalist executed in 1968 at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The only Chinese citizen known to have openly and steadfastly opposed communism under Mao, she rooted her dissent in her Christian faith and expressed it in long prophetic writings done in her own blood, at times on her clothes and on cloth torn from her bed sheets. Miraculously, Lin Zhao’s prison writings survived, though they have only recently come to light. Drawing on these works and others from the years before her arrest, as well as interviews with her friends, her classmates, and other former political prisoners, Xi Lian tells the story of a young woman whom the late Noel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo called “the only voice of freedom left for contemporary China”.

Xi Lian is a Professor of World Christianity at Duke University’s Divinity School. Professor Lian’s research is focused on China’s modern encounter with Christianity. His first book, The Conversion of Missionaries (1997), is a critical study of American Protestant missions against the backdrop of rising Chinese nationalism in the early twentieth century. His second book, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (2010), winner of the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award, examines the development of missionary Christianity into a vibrant, indigenous faith of the Chinese masses. One of his current research projects looks beyond grassroots Christianity and examines the emergence of Protestant elites and their prominent, if also precarious, role in the search for civil society in today’s China.

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Asian Pacific Studies Institute.

Events

Conversations with Duke’s Religious Life Leaders

Speaker: Fr. Michael Martin, O.F.M Conv.

This conversation will feature Father Michael Martin of the Duke Catholic Center. The discussion will include the role of faith leaders, creating community, and examining religiosity on campus.

Fr. Michael Martin, O.F.M. Conv was named Director of the Duke Catholic Center in August 2010 by Bishop Michael Burbidge, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, NC. Since 2001 Fr. Mike served as President of his high school alma mater, Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore, MD. In his role as President, Fr. Mike was the catalyst for transformational growth in all facets of school leadership, advancement, enrollment, finances, personnel and facility planning. A lifelong educator, Fr. Mike was Principal of Archbishop Curley prior to being his tenure as President. He holds a S.T.B. degree in Theology from the Pontifical Theological Faculty at St. Bonaventure-The Seraphicum in Rome, Italy, a M.Ed. in Catholic Education Administration from Boston College, as well as his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from St. Hyacinth College-Seminary, Granby, Massachusetts. As a member of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, he has held a variety of teaching, coaching and administrative positions since his ordination in 1989 including an adjunct faculty position at Xavier University in Cincinnati. He has served on a number of boards and commissions and is a highlighted presenter on strategic issues facing Catholic schools today and the important role of advancement in sustaining the mission of Catholic education. In 2007 he received the Pro Eccelsia et Pontifice medal for service to the Church from Pope Benedict XVI.

This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies. A light lunch will be served. Parking is available in nearby Trent Rd. and Erwin Rd. parking decks. The series provides 1-hour parking vouchers to guests.