Universiteit Leiden

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Merel Oudshoorn

PhD candidate

M.A. Oudshoorn MA
+31 71 527 2166

Fields of interest

  • Literature & Law
  • Sanskrit literature
  • Cultural analysis
  • Dharma
  • Close reading 


My research concerns a body of literature barely touched by Literary Studies until now: that of Sanskrit texts. I will analyze the Mānava Dharmaśāstra (or Manusmṛti), a Sanskrit text central to Hinduism which discusses the concept of dharma. In Hindu Law, dharma has been translated as “law”, due to the fact that it was mostly considered in relation to Western law. However, the translation of dharma as “law” is problematic, and perhaps wrong. I will first reconstruct how in colonial and postcolonial theory, dharma was systematically translated as law. Building upon Indological research on the Mānava Dharmaśāstra, I will then explore the possibility of a different, historically and culturally more adequate, reading of this text and its concept of dharma. My aim is to consider dharma as an untranslatable term and to read the Mānava Dharmaśāstra as a set of aphorisms. If dharma has predominantly been read through the Western lens of “law”, a decolonial reading can free this concept from law’s codified and rigid system. I suspect this will reveal dharma as a concept that can deal with plurality. My research both offers Literary Studies a new area of study, as well as fresh insights for Indological research on the Mānava Dharmaśāstra, an old but still very relevant text.

PhD supervisors

Prof .dr. F.W.A. Korsten
Prof. dr. P.C. Bisschop 

Curriculum vitae

PhD researcher, “Decolonizing Dharma: Rereading the Mānava Dharmaśāstra”, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (in cooperation with Leiden Institute for Area Studies)

Education/Research Assistant, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University
Research Master Literary Studies, Leiden University cum laude, thesis: “Dharma and “the Law”: Postcolonial Readings of the Manusmṛti”

Leiden Leadership Programme, Honours Academy Leiden University

Bachelor Film- and Literary Studies, Leiden University, thesis: “Gender and incest in R̥gveda 10.10: an ideological ‘yes, but...’ argument”

2008 – 2012
Bachelor Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, Leiden University 

PhD candidate

  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Literatuurwetenschap
  • Geen relevante nevenwerkzaamheden

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