This paper will go up from the particular and examine some of the challenges we face regarding an emic working model of what we refer to as ’Śākta’ and ’Śāktism’. With research history and conceptual history as the point of departure an example will be given of how such a model and definition could be formulated, relating textual details with metatheoretical questions and the longue durée of the history of Śākta traditions. The aim of this paper is therefore to discuss and provide a model of how we can begin mapping the particularity of the text and fieldwork with bigger issues and problems in the study of the history of religious traditions in South Asia. Finally, the usefulness of a better working model and definition of Śāktism is suggested by showing how such a model backed by new research presents a solution to some of the old problems formulated by André Padoux concerning the relationship between Śāktism and tantra.
Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen is a Research Lecturer at the centre and teaches courses and tutorials in Sanskrit, Pali and Indian religions at the OCHS and at the Theology and Religion Faculty, University of Oxford. He is the leader and manager of the Śākta Traditions research project at the OCHS together with Professor Gavin Flood and the founder of the OCHS research office in Kathmandu. His main areas of research include Śāktism, tantric traditions, yoga and asceticism. He has published a number of books and translations and conducted fieldwork in Nepal.