Freitag, 12. Mai 2023, 15:15 - 16:45 iCal

Translation as religious practice

Translation as religious practice – Translating religious practices. Roberto Nobili (1577–1656) as missionary translator between culture, religion and societies


14. Jahresvortrag des Vereins "Sammlung De Nobili - Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Indologie und Religionsforschung"

Seminarraum 1 des Instituts für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde
Universitätscampus, Spitalgasse 2, Hof 2.7, 1090 Wien


Giulia Nardini | Abteilung Geschichtswissenschaft, Fakultät für Geschichtswissenschaft, Philosophie und Theologie, Universität Bielefeld



The missionary life of Roberto Nobili (better known as Roberto de Nobili), S.J., in South India in the seventeenth century is characterized by a pivotal work of translation, negotiation and accommodation. The vast literature produced by him constitutes a twofold translation: his Latin treatises are aimed at translating, explaining and narrating Tamil customs for the Roman superiors; the Tamil catechisms translate the Latin Catholic doctrine for the local Tamil community. This multi¬directional process of translation is represented in two major works of Nobili: Ñana Upadesam (ஞானுபதேசம், The Teaching of [Religious] Knowl-edge), published in 1656, and the Informatio de quibusdam moribus nationis Indicae (Report on Certain Customs of the Indian Nation), published in 1613. The Informatio is Nobili’s most famous work, written at the beginning of his missionary life as a manifesto on the controversy about the missionary method. It is a Latin treatise focused on the description of local Hindu practices and addressed to the Roman Catholic prelates. Ñana Upadesam is the main Tamil work written by Nobili at the end of his missionary life. It is a huge work in three volumes and meant as a compendium for missionaries teaching Catholic doctrine to the Tamils.


The paper will investigate the process of cultural translation developed by Nobili in these two sources in order to identify the role of the missionary as a cultural broker between cultures, religion and societies. This analysis will also reveal crucial historical details about the political and social context in Madurai at the time of Nobili.

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Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde & Verein Sammlung De Nobili


Judith Starecek
Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde in Kooperation mit der Indischen Botschaft, Wien
4277 43502