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Please join us for a conversation with Professor Matthew King (University of California at Riverside) about his new book about the many lives of Faxian’s Foguo ji. The talk will focus on the possibilities for thinking about more global histories for the humanities. Professor King draws on indigenous methods, the critical Asian humanities, feminist critiques, and also deorientalising and deimperializing scholarship in Islamic Studies.

In the Forest of the Blind is a rather experimental history of the connected discovery and interpretation of Faxian’s Foguo ji by Orientalists in Paris and Siberia, and by Buddhist monk historians in Mongolia and Tibet. I am trying to write an anti-field history, which foregoes the linearity of intellectual history (especially field history) for a model of centerless exchange in which the humanities were made and unmade in circulation. Specifically, I am exploring the debts of Europe’s first monograph on “Buddhist Asia” (Abel-Rémusat’s 1836 translation and study of Faxian’s Foguo ji) to 18th century Qing encyclopedia and language ideologies (including those produced by Mongols like Gombojab). And then the circulation of Abel-Rémusat’s translation into Inner Asia, where between the 1840s-1960s it was translated into entirely new frames in monastic history and the like that undid the Orientalist scaffolding of Abel-Rémusat’s study and reimagined Faxian’s ancient walking instead as an extension of Qing world historical order, an emergent nationalism, and the Tibetan refugee experience.