Pan- vs. The World: How Forgotten International Religious Events and Fellowships Conceptualised ‘Asia’ and the ‘World’, c. 1890-1950

Authors: Sophie-Jung Hyun Kim*, Freie Universitaat Berlin
Topics: Third World, Religion, Political Geography
Keywords: pan-movements, pan-Asianism, religion, world order
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Governors Square 17, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Existing literature on Pan-Asianism commemorate a set of famous figures and events. Rabindranath Tagore, Okakura Tanzen, and the Bandung Conference, to name a few, are often at the forefront of this regionalism. Parallel to these events emerged pan-movements led by lesser-known anti-colonial activists and pacifists who turned to religion as their medium of communication and diplomacy. Their use of religion, however, was not rooted in the civilizational discourse that underpinned early Asianism. Neither did they promote a geopolitical alliance driven by one specific religion. These transnational actors’ vision was global; yet their perception of ‘the world’ often privileged a specific geography. This paper untangles the conflated spatial units of pan-movements and the world, by examining the forgotten religious events of international scale spearheaded by South Asian actors in the first half of the twentieth century. These include the World Congress of Faiths (Chicago, 1933; London, 1936; Oxford, 1937; Cambridge 1938; Paris, 1939), the London Convention of Religions (1946), the All-World Gandhi Fellowship (New York, c. 1930s), and the Inter-Asian Relations Conference (Delhi, 1947). Who was invited, and excluded, to these ‘world’ fellowships? How did the geography of the world called upon at these events differ from other Pan-movements of the period? Where were these conversations held? In asking these questions, this paper will address the relationship between pan-thinking and world-thinking ideas, while showing how ‘faith’ served as a vehicle of spatial imagination.

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