Freitag, 04. Mrz 2016, 17:00 - 18:15 iCal

Wednesday Seminar - Hildegard Diemberger

Sacred Books in a Digital Age:

a Cross-Cultural Look from the Heart of Asia to South America

Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie, HS C
Universitätsstraße 7, NIG 4. Stock, 1010 Wien


Academics and students read many books but they rarely see them for what they are. This lecture will focus on books as objects, on their roles as a technology and medium of communication, and on how, as computers and digital technology are used to rescue threatened cultural heritage, these new technologies are themselves transformed by that heritage. Instead of computers and digital technology rendering books redundant, what books are and how computers are used turns out to be a function of specific cultural context.

Our examples are drawn from recent research in Tibet and NW Amazonia, two areas that would seem to have nothing in common but which have both undergone politico-religious campaigns against their cultural heritage. The indigenous inhabitants of both areas now use digital technology to try to undo the damage inflicted. In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, books were already treated as bodies and persons, the venerated relics of teachers and ancestors with prayer wheels full of text used alongside reading and chanting as devices to activate sacred words. In this context, computer hard discs used to reconstitute shattered libraries take on the character of super prayer wheels.

In NW Amazonia, ritual objects such as stools, cigar holders and gourds are also the relics and body parts of ancestors with mythological narratives as their words. As indigenous peoples use newly-acquired literacy and paper or digital technology to record and publish their sacred narratives for future generations, books and computers take on the status of ritual objects and potent shamans.

Dr. Hildegard Diemberger is a Senior Associate in Research (Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit) at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK. Her research interests are Tibetan cultural area and Tibet-Mongolia interface; local-state dynamics and deals with the impact of radical change on traditional communities; landscape, space and time; local history and memory; changing notions of power and kinship; and debates over continuity, tradition and modernity.

Zur Webseite der Veranstaltung


Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie


Mag. Marie-Therese Hartwig
Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie