Benjamin J. Fleming

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Visiting Scholar in Religious Studies
Cataloger of Indic Manuscripts for the Kislak Center for Special Collections
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Benjamin J. Fleming is presently Cataloger of Indic Manuscripts at the Kislak Center for Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a BFA, BA, and MA from the University of Regina and a PhD from McMaster University. Recently, he won an Endangered Archives Pilot Project grant from the British Library (2014) to oversee the itemization and digitization of a large manuscript collection in Comilla, Bangladesh. He is currently a fellow for the Price Lab Seminar for Digital Humanities (2016-17).

Research and Teaching Interests: 

Dr. Fleming's research focuses on gift giving, ritual, myth, and iconography in medieval South Asia, with a particular concern for traditions about pilgrimage and sacred geography. His dissertation, "Cult of the Jyotirligas and the History of Śaivite Worship" investigated the relationship between ritual, storytelling, and pilgrimage in Śaivism. He has presented papers on the Digital Humanities, Manuscripts, and Gift Giving at Dhaka University (Sanskrit department), UPenn (Seminar in the History of Material Texts), and Villanova (Dept. of History). He has also presented on the Puranas and on inscriptions at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion, American Oriental Society, and Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, as well as at the Fourth International Vedic Workshop, Oriental Club of Philadelphia, Penn Humanities Forum, and Religious Studies Colloquium at UPenn. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, and the British Library. He held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Religious Studies. 

Selected Publications: 

2016. “The Materiality of South Asian Manuscripts from the University of Pennsylvania MS. coll. 390 and the Rāmamālā Library in Bangladesh.” In Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies.

2015. “Ancient Texts and Modern Technologies: New Approaches to Asian Manuscripts.” In Prachyavidya Patrika. Published by the Prof. Dilip Kumar Bhattacharyya Research Centre, Department of Sanskrit, University of Dhaka.

2014. "Relics, Lingas, and Other Auspicious Material Remains in South Asian Religions," Material Religion 10.4, 452-71.

2014. Material Culture and Asian Religions: Text, Image, Object, co-edited with Richard Mann. Routledge Research in Religion, Media and Culture. London: Routledge Publishers.

2013. “Making Land Sacred: Inscriptional Evidence for Buddhist Kings and Brahmin Priests in Medieval Bengal.” Numen: International Review for the History of Religion 60.5–6: 559–85. 

2011. "From Tirupati to Brooklyn: Interpreting Hindu Votive Hair-Offerings," in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 40(2): 199-234 [the first in a pair of articles on "Hindu Hair and Jewish Halakha," as prefaced by a co-authored introduction with Annette Yoshiko Reed]. [PDF from Sage]

2010. "New copperplate grant of Śrīcandra (no. 8) from Bangladesh," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 73.2: 223–44. [PDF from BSOAS]

2009. "Mapping Sacred Geography in Medieval India: The Case of the 12 Jyotirliṅgas," International Journal of Hindu Studies 13.1: 51–81 [PDF from SpringerLink] [errata]

2009. "The Form and Formlessness of Śiva: The Liṅga in Indian Art, Mythology, and Pilgrimage," Religion Compass 3, doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8171.2009.00141.x

Recent Courses: 
  • Introduction to Hinduism
  • Religion and Violence
  • Introduction to Asian Religions
  • Demons in Indian Religion
Other Professional Activity: 

Curator: Intertwined Worlds: Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu Manuscripts and Objects from South and Southeast Asia. (Exhibition of manuscripts and objects, scheduled for fall 2017 in the Goldstein Family Gallery in the Kislak Special Collections Center for Rare Books and Manuscript, UPenn). 

Material Culture and Asian Religions: Text, Image, Object
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