Fairfield University offers free "Jesuits in Asia" two-part lecture series about philosophical and artistic exchanges Jesuits had in Asia


Fairfield University is pleased offer an exciting new "Jesuits in Asia" lecture series, which will celebrate the unique position the Society of Jesus had in exploring Asian culture and in developing a mutual appreciation among artists, philosophers and priests in Europe and Asia.

This spring, the inaugural lecture will be presented on Wednesday, March 26, by Francis Clooney, S.J., Ph.D. Fr. Clooney's talk is entitled "Holy Disguise: Jesuits and Brahmins in South India (1544-1800)." He will speak on how Jesuits interpreted the Brahmins and accordingly reinterpreted themselves.

Gauvin A. Bailey, Ph.D., a renowned art historian, will speak on Wednesday, April 2. Dr. Bailey's talk is on the "Jesuit Artistic Enterprises in Asia, 1542-1773." He will explore the artistic interchanges in India and East Asia, between Jesuit artists and those indigenous painters and sculptors trained in Asian schools and workshops.

Since the first voyages to India, the Philippines, Japan and China by Francis Xavier, one of Ignatius Loyola's closest disciples, Jesuits have represented Catholic Christianity in the courts of Asian kings and emperors, while attending to the needs of those seeking knowledge and understanding. The presence of Jesuits among the literate and powerful in India and China provided them with exceptional access to Asian thought and culture, so that they could translate Christian ideals into an idiom accessible to, and appreciated by, Indian and Chinese artists and intellectuals. In the process, they stimulated new developments in literature, art, religion and self-awareness among the peoples with whom they conversed.

Yet the Jesuits acted as much as conduits as they did representatives, for they also brought back the first systematic understanding of Chinese literature, Indian Islam, Hinduism, and a host of other religious and cultural ideas that helped shaped the modern West. As a consequence, philosophers like Leibnitz began to appreciate Confucian ideals, just as artists in India learned to paint with European colors and perspectives. The consequence was that both Europe and Asia gained in cultural richness and understood themselves, no longer as separate entities, but as part of a larger human dynamism.

The lecture series, supported by Fairfield University's Humanities Institute, the Nintur Foundation, the Programs in International Studies and Asian Studies, is free and open to the public. The talks will be presented in the Oak Room of the Barone Campus Center, Fairfield University, and will begin at 7:30 p.m.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 21, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 204