Arts and Culture
Manuscript studies have seen trendy topics and hypes, the latest being their materiality. Codicological aspects such as ink, seals, watermarks, and bindings have been researched, primarily in connection with paper manuscripts. Palm leaf manuscripts, however, have been given stunningly little attention in this context.
Materiality of palm leaf manuscripts encompasses all aspects of the historical development of this particular form of manuscript culture. That includes the making of the manuscript, the choice of material and tools (When and why were certain palm trees chosen for the production of palm leaves? How did the preparation of the leaves change over the decades? What tools were used for what reason?). Other crucial aspects to be addressed are the perception and appreciation of palm leaf manuscripts within the source communities as well as the shifts noticeable in time. Traces of usages inform us how the manuscripts were handled and stored. Sometimes their accessibility, function, and status is documented or has been researched. Was the manuscript produced for one single event or as a requisite in a repeated ritual? Was it considered a container for magical power? Economic aspects in connection with modernization and globalization processes in South and Southeast Asia must be noted as the individuality of manuscripts is increasingly diminished by modern factory-like production modes. The latter has led to the paradox that the palm leaf manuscript traditions in many places are still very much alive, while the traditional palm leaf culture is vanishing.
The research to date is more often than not motivated and informed by individual research interests, focussing on individual manuscripts, often with a textual focus. There are, however, many more features that can make a palm leaf manuscript special. This panel in combination with a round table discussion will break new ground for a systematic approach to the genre of palm leaf manuscripts by setting up an apparatus of methods and tools that enables the scholarly community to compare and analyse a substantial quantity of manuscript material. The panel and round table discussion will combine expertise from Material Studies, Anthropology, Historical and Textual Studies. The proceedings will be put out as a book publication, possibly with Brill, Leiden.