Friday 31 Oct 2014, 11-13 hrs | LUCIS/GLASS Faculty Roundtable with Jonathan Brown | Who Owns the Canon?

On Friday 31 October, Jonathan Brown led a LUCIS/GLASS faculty roundtable discussion entitled "Who Owns the Canon?". This roundtable was organised by LUCIS in cooperation with GLASS (Global Asia Scholar Series). Panelists: Jonathan Brown, Jonathan Silk, Ineke Sluiter and Kiri Paramore. Chair: Petra Sijpesteijn. Time: 11.00-13.00 hrs. Location: Heinsius room, Leiden University Library.

Who Owns the Canon?

Is the concept of a canon, a fixed and historically located corpus of words spoken by a historical figure, an illusion? The historical processes that lay behind the formation of authoritative scriptures have long been included in debates on how to trace words passed on through time and place to historical figures. Taking this process further, the canon can be viewed as a living text – the (temporary, localized) product of a never-ending process of revision and change at the hands of individuals and groups far removed from the one in whose name the words were spoken. Applied to constantly new needs and insights, the question arises to what extent the transmitted words can be linked to the historical figures who gave their name to them and whether we can speak of canons at all.

Examining the canon as a continuously fluid corpus, this roundtable raised the following questions:

- How do canons come into existence? What forces, external or internal, impact(ed) the formation process and the form of authoritative scriptures? How does this impact claims of historicity?
- Can we identify a situation of "being a canon" or are there only "canonization processes"? Is there an end to the canonization process?
- How does the appropriation of authoritative scriptures by individuals and groups impact the form of a canon?
- How does the use of the canon through time and place impact its meaning and form? What revisions and changes are recognizable in this process?
- Against this background, is it still possible to speak of the words of Socrates, Muhammad, Confucius, the Buddha, etc.?

Jonathan Brown kicked off the roundtable with a brief discussion of these questions by looking at the use of Muhammad's words by Islamicists and other Muslim groups.

Format and panelists

After Jonathan Brown's discussion, three researchers had been invited to deliver 10 minute statements to address the questions above from their own fields of regional experience and expertise. We also invited a larger group of researchers from within and outside of Leiden to take part in the discussion.

1. Professor Jonathan Brown (Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization, Georgetown University)
2. Professor Jonathan Silk (Buddhist studies, Leiden University)
3. Professor Ineke Sluiter (Classical languages and culture, Leiden University) 
4. Dr Kiri Paramore (Asian Studies, Leiden University)

Chair: professor Petra Sijpesteijn (director of LUCIS and professor of Arabic Language and Culture, Leiden University).


This faculty roundtable was organised by LUCIS in cooperation with GLASS (Global Asia Scholar Series).

Practical details

Time: 11.00-13.00 hours.
Location: Heinsius room, University Library
Witte Singel 27, Leiden.

Last Modified: 03-11-2014