Naveen Kanalu “The Script As Speaking The Word: Scribes, Inscriptions, And Sovereignty In The Early Kannada Literary Ecology (900–1200)”

The Script As Speaking The Word: Scribes, Inscriptions, And Sovereignty In The Early Kannada Literary Ecology (900–1200)

In the proposed research project, I wish to examine script and scribal practices in premodern South Asia through the relation between two notions, vāc or the “word” and lipi or the “script”. Little attention has been paid to the nature of material culture that forms the core of linguistic transmission due to the privileging of “speech”. However, exploring inscriptional sources and literary texts from old Kannada in the late medieval Deccan (c.900–1200), I wish to illustrate the multiple ways in which scriptural practices are essential to the formation of literary-linguistic ecologies. Through literary and poetic works and geographical spread and royal patronage, inscriptional documentation in Kannada remained closely bound to literary activity in general. What kind of affinities and disjunctures can be found between graphic representations of language and the diverse purposes they served? Reading the poet Ranna’s (b. 949) kāvyas and inscriptions, my research will address the larger questions of script-based representation as a site for knowledge transmission. Studying the deep relations between script and speech, scribe and poet, the public and the courtly realms could help theorise the relation between language and script as it emerges in premodern South Asian written culture.

Naveen Kanalu is doctoral candidate in Philosophy at the Université de Strasbourg and the Goethe-Universität. He is also Attaché temporaire d’enseignement et de recherche (teaching and research fellow) at the Université de Strasbourg. His dissertation project deals with the theory of experience in the work of Theodor Adorno. His areas of specialisation include Critical Theory of the early Frankfurt School, German Idealism, and early modern Indo-Persian culture and literature. In the field of South Asia Studies, he has published articles on early Kannada literature, Hindu-Muslim Muhrram practices in the Deccan. In philosophy, he has published on the theory of cinematic experience in Walter Benjamin and the process of subjectivation in social relations.

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