The Bodding Symposium 2015

The symposium “Belief, Scholarship and Cultural heritage: Paul Olav Bodding and the Making of a Scandinavian-Santal Legacy” will bring together prominent scholars on the Santals and related peoples of Central India, Bangladesh and Nepal alongside literary, heritage and minority and indigenous rights professionals and church leaders from South Asia and Europe. The symposium, commemorating the 150th anniversary of his birth, is the first ever to address comprehensively the diverse and enduring legacy of the scholar-missionary Paul Olav Bodding (1865-1938).

Link to webcast from the conference:

Paul Olav Bodding (1865-1938). Photo: Wikimedia (photographer unknown)

This symposium will primarily interrogate Bodding’s scholarship as a linguist, ethnographer and collector from the vantage point of contemporary European and Indian scholarship on the Santals and related Adivasis and of the Santals’ own civil society organizations. Papers and other contributions analyzing the earlier and contemporary importance of the Bodding legacy – the pinnacle of the Lutheran Santal Mission’s pastoral enlightenment project – and the Northern Santals’ ethno-nationalist and other movements are welcome. This also includes its more controversial aspects, caused by an exceedingly complex language politics (including the divisive issue of script).  This politics is reflecting different and partly competing political, social and cultural Santal-led and supported mass movements and the particular center-state-tribe construction in post-colonial India. We also welcome contributions that move beyond simplistic assertions of faith-colored scholarship to more subtle yet rigorous textual analyses of Bodding’s influential magazine Pera Hor, his popularized books on missiology, the biography Sona and his beloved hymns and Bible translations.

Finally, we invite contributions (papers and inputs to panel discussions) on a revitalized custodianship and collaborative uses of the Santal Bodding Collection in a digital and post-colonial era. Contributions on the digitalization efforts of the Santal mission and those of the successor missions (in Denmark, Norway and the US) are invited. So are comparative papers on the management (including digital repatriation) and uses of other ethnographic and manuscript collections in Norway and abroad.


The sessions will address:

  1. The Santal Mission of the Northern Churches in a broader historical and contemporary context
  2. Revisiting Bodding as theologian, bible translator, hymnologist and administrator
  3. Revisiting Bodding’s scholarship: the ethnographer, linguist, and collector
  4. Scholars, writers, access and collaboration
  5. Towards a post-colonial and digital era of collection management

Excursions to the Bodding collection’s manuscript section and to the ethnographic sub-collection form part of the programme.


Please note the following: Participation requires registration through this web-page. The deadline for submitting proposals for papers with abstracts is March 31st. Deadline for registration as participant without paper is October 9th. There is no registration or conference fee.

On the first day of the conference all participants are cordially invited to a reception at Oslo Town Hall at 16.30. We hope everyone will participate. Invitation cards will be issued on the basis of registration through this web-page. Please dress accordingly (dress-code: not formal but proper).

Format for conference papers

Conference papers should not exceed 60 000 characters (including spaces) or 10 000 words, the reference list excluded.  Papers should be written in English, following normal academic standards for use of native terms. The abstract shall be on a separate sheet. Papers should adhere to the following structure: an introduction;  a “body” text that outline your arguments, presents evidence based on own data and secondary literature, analyze the data to build and deepen your arguments; a conclusion which revisits main parts of your research/policy theme and questions and flag your main arguments, findings and recommendations.

Manuscripts shall be submitted electronically to the conference organizers by email before 15 October. Please use processing formats in Windows and RTF or Plain Text Format. Illustrations and other audio-visual material should be submitted on separate files via email or drop box.   

Participants’ presentations can be oral, highlighting the most important points, ideas and stories; or supported by audio-visual aids. Such aids should be sparingly used to indicate paper structure; key definitions, important statements and illuminating quotations.  Visual illustrations by way of photos, brief film trails, graphs and tables are welcomed.

Each paper presenter will approximately have 20 minutes to her/his disposal.  

Participants are generally encouraged to avoid unnecessary and inaccessible academic jargon. Use purposively academic, policy or museological terms that require clarification.

Tackling the challenges of cross-cultural and inter-religious communication: The Bodding Symposium is a secular arena that collects a diverse international group of participants in terms of academic vantage points, political views, faiths and denominations, ideas of spirituality, secularism, religious experience and the role of humanistic and social sciences.  Real dialogue may be challenging, but also opens up for highly rewarding, moving and dignity enhancing experiences.         

Partners and organizers

The symposium is the result of a three-way initiative agreed between the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, the University of Tromsø and the National Library of Norway. Recently Bishnubhasi Museum of Santal Culture  and the Sami Várdobáiki Museum joined this collaboration. The vision for the event came out of the Scandinavian-Santal Heritage Initiative headed by Professor Tone Bleie (University of Tromsø)). As organizers, we hope this landmark symposium will offer policy guidance and concrete recommendations for future collaboration with likeminded museums, research bodies and the rightful stakeholders to the Santal – Bodding Collection in South Asia. The University of Tromsø and the Museum of Cultural History (University of Oslo) are the organizers of this symposium.

Symposium organizers

For submission of abstracts and further information, contact Profs. Tone Bleie and Øivind Fuglerud:;   


The conference venue in Oslo is the restored historic Professor Residence. Address for this venue is Karl Johans gate 47. However, the building can also be accessed from Kristian IV’s gate, through the garden gate across the road from the parking lot behind the Historical museum. 


Because of budget limitations lunch and dinner will only be offered to presenters at the conference. There are a number of coffee-shops and restaurants close by which serve snacks and meals, ranging from the inexpensive to the exclusive.  

Economic support

The Bodding symposium 2015 is supported economically by the following organizations:

Fritt Ord

Hjelpe- og Opplysningsfondet


Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

The Embassy of Norway, Dhaka, Bangladesh


The conference will be an opportunity to establish a dialogue among interested parties about future management and access to the Santal collections. The ethnographic collection is in the care of the Museum of Cultural History, text material in the care of the National library of Norway.

To access the Museum of Cultural History's database where the ethnographic collection is registered, follow one of these links:

Without Adobe Flash Player:

To search for Santal collections, write 'Santal' in open search field.

With Adobe Flash Player:


There are two ways to access the text material in the care of the National library of Norway

1: The HANSKE database

In order to access and search our digital database of Santali material, please go to

Information regarding the Santali material is in English. However, the language of our database is Norwegian. We have therefor developed a
short user guide, please see attachment.

The Santali manuscripts in HANSKE are thoroughly listed and described in Santosh K. Soren: "Santalia: Catalogue of Santali Manuscripts in
Oslo", Copenhagen 1999. Since this book was published, we also have received the private archive of Dr. Olav Hodne, which contains additional relevant material - among other things a large amount of letters to and from P.O.Bodding.

2: The Digital Library

In order to access and search our digital library, please go to Enter the search term "santali" in the search field and click on "Søk" (search, "go").

Among the results you will find all manuscripts in Santali, but also books, articles etc. regarding Santali.

NB: Some of the results might not be accessible outside Norway; this online service gives users with Norwegian IP addresses access to most of the material, from a foreign IP address you may access older manuscripts (like the Santali manuscripts) as well as publications having entered the public domain (f.ex. Boddings own publications).

We would highly appreciate any kind of feedback and comments, both regarding the material itself as well as our description and use of keywords.

Please note the following:

Original manuscripts from the Bodding collection are generally available for reading in the National library's reading room for private archives and rare material. As a special arrangement related to the symposium research librarian Johanne Ostad will be available in this reading room all day Friday November 6 to explain the ordering of the archive and how to access digitized material effectively.  


Please note that all participants must book their own accommodation unless otherwise arranged with the organizers.

Recommended hotels close to conference venue:

Basic standard and reasonable price:

Cochs pensjonat

Basic standard. Good  location 10 minutes from venue. Very reasonable price, around 700 kroners per night.


 Modern with basic standard. Good location 10 minutes from venue. Very reasonable price, around 700 kroners per night.

Medium to high standard and price:

Thon Hotel Europa:

Good standard. Very good location 3 minutes from venue. Reasonable price, around 1200 kroners per night, discount on web-booking.

Clarion Hotel Savoy:

Good standard. Very god location 3 minutes from venue. Medium price, around 1400 kroners per night.

Hotel Bondeheimen:;sid=5d34677531d83c3c987ba0606380995c;dcid=1;type=total&

Good standard. Very good location 3 minutes from venue. Acceptable price-range, around 1700 kroners per night.


Publisert 10. feb. 2015 13:40 - Sist endret 10. okt. 2018 10:48