Swami Vivekananda Conference

Swami Vivekananda Conference
Vivekananda in Chicago 1893

Vivekananda in Chicago 1893

21st and 22nd February 2014 

Re-assessing the man & his contributions

Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), New Delhi, India 

In partnership with the National Centre for South Asian Studies, Monash University & The South Asian Studies Association of Australia

21st and 22nd February 2014 

Vivekananda in Chicago 1893



Narandranath Datta (1863-1902) or Swāmi Vivekānada was only 39 years old when he died, having earned for himself a global reputation as the ‘cyclonic monk from India’. Vivekānada presented an accessible view of Indian culture and religion to a western elite that was tired of colonialism’s preoccupation with the economic and social exploitation of Asia, and was a man of ceaseless energy who continues to inspire millions of followers in India and the USA. 

This conference seeks to present perspectives on, and reassessments of, the life and work of Vivekānada its many complex dimensions by inviting scholars from across the world and across the disciplines to write about this intriguing personality in our effort to separate the rhetoric and myths about Vivekānada from his life, and assess his achievements and his ongoing impact.  In doing this, we will also address broader questions about (i) the nature of vedantic thought; (ii) the practice of philosophy in daily life; (iii) religion as a motive force; and (iv) universalism and nationalism as complementary ideas for a global village. We have identified some conference themes below, but these do not exclude original suggestions from scholars wishing to participate in this reassessment.

The conference will be held at Monash University in Melbourne over two days in late November 2013 and will be divided into two parts:  first an assessment of the life and thoughts of Vivekananda in an Indian context and second an assessment of the global political, historical and cultural context in which his ideas evolved and continue to impact.

We have invited a number of impressive scholars to speak on this occasion.  See related documents on invited international speakers and others yet to come. At the end of the conference we will be publishing a monograph based on the key papers presented on this occasion.

A          Vivekānada and India

The possible themes under this heading are:

  • His life in India and how his ideas evolved
  • His role in the independence struggle against the British Raj
  • His view of the classical texts of Hinduism
  • The debate about Vedanta
  • His views of other Indian religions e.g. Buddhism
  • His impact on Indian nationalism today including the debate on Hinduism vs secularism

B          Vivekānada and the world

The possible themes under this heading are:

  • The meaning of his address in 1893 to the World Congress of Religion in Chicago
  • His role in the development of a global neo-Hinduism starting with the argument byHalbfass that ‘During his first visit to the West, Vivekānanda became the man who made history: the most influential shaper and protagonist of the Neo-Hindu spirit’(Halbfass, 1990, p.228)
  • How the intellectual debates in the West (especially about Buddhism and western philosophy) influenced Vivekānanda’s attempt to reconcile Vedanta with Buddhism(Halbfass, 1990, pp.124-128, and Vivekānada, 1953, p.249)
  • How and why Vivekānandasought to create a ‘spiritual oneness of the world universe’ and why he claimed that this was India’s special gift to the world(Halbfass, 1990, p.231)
  • His life as a social reformer and the role of western education, technology and science in addressing Indian economic backwardness (Vivekānada, 1953, p.249)
  • His relationship with western thinkers such as Max Muller and Paul Deussen(Doherty, 1979, pp.12-17)

Membership of the Monash University Committee:

Dr Andrea di Castro
Dr David Templeman
Dr Jayant Bapat
Dr Ian Mabbett
Mr Iftikhar Arman Rashid (Postgraduate representative)
Dr Gidi Irfegan (Research Adjunct to the Conference)
Professor Marika Vicziany (Chair)

Find out more:

South Asian Studies Association of Australia