Mr. Eric Steinschneider
Specialization: Theology and Religion
Home institution in US: At- Large, Overseas
Host Institution in India: University of Madras, Chennai, Tamil Nadu  
Start date/Month in India: September 2012
Duration of grant: 9 months

Brief Bio:
Mr. Eric Steinschneider completed a B.A. magna cum laude in religion and Japanese at the University of Rochester, New York and an M.T.S. at Harvard Divinity School, Massachusetts. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. In addition to being a teaching assistant for a number of religion classes, Mr. Steinschneider has taught courses on ritual practices in Hindu traditions and on religious pluralism in contemporary India. In 2011, Mr. Steinschneider co-organized the first Conference on South Asian Religions at the University of Toronto. He has studied Sanskrit and Tamil in India and North America.

Mr. Steinschneider’s research focuses on the formation of contemporary Tamil Smārtism with an emphasis on the historical development of Śrīvidyā textual practices since the eighteenth century. His specific interests include the production and reception of Śrīvidyā literature at the Maratha court in Tanjore, the role of Śrīvidyā in shaping an emerging Carnatic aesthetic, and the development of the Guhananda Mandali, a Smārta textual community founded in early twentieth century Madras. Recent conference papers have included “Aligning the Āgamas - Interpretation and Identity in Bhāskararāya's Setubandha” and “Taming the Tantras - The Order of Texts in Early Eighteenth Century Śrīvidyā.”

Mr. Steinschneider’s Fulbright research project, “Intellectual Culture and Sectarian Formation in Late Precolonial Śrīvidyā,” theorizes the relationship between late precolonial Sanskrit intellectual culture and sectarian formation through a study of the reformation of the cult of Tripurasundarī (also known as Śrīvidyā) in the writings of Bhāskararāya, a major eighteenth century intellectual. He examines how Bhāskararāya reformulates Śrīvidyā as a “Vedic” tradition congruent with the values of contemporaneous intellectual discourse while simultaneously claiming that very discourse for Śrīvidyā. His work will further trace how this far-reaching reinterpretation of Śrīvidyā prefigured the formation of sectarian identity among Smārta communities in South India.