Timothy Lubin, Jessie Ball duPont Professor of Religion, Adjunct Professor of Law, and Head of the Law, Justice and Society Program at Washington and Lee University

The annual lecture series honoring Thomas Roger Trautmann, an American historian, cultural anthropologist, and U-M Professor Emeritus of History and Anthropology, took place in March 2024. Trautmann is a leading expert on the Arthashastra, the ancient Hindu text on statecraft, economic policy, and military strategy. He has mentored many students during his tenure at U-M, and his studies focus on ancient India, the history of anthropology, and other related subjects. 

This year, the Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS) invited Timothy Lubin, Jessie Ball duPont Professor of Religion, Adjunct Professor of Law, and Head of the Law, Justice, and Society Program at Washington and Lee University to discuss South Asian foundation charters. 

“I’m very grateful to be invited,” said Lubin. “Tom’s work has always been a model to me, particularly because he manages to cover a huge range of topics and present them in such an engaging way—which is not always the case.” 

Lubin’s talk presented examples of how medieval South Asian inscriptions, though created to address particular circumstances and serve immediate purposes, can be analyzed to disclose otherwise unrecorded laws and legal principles. It focused on foundation charters: grant decrees that confer on the beneficiary property rights that can include tax exemption and various other immunities and privileges, including a degree of juridical autonomy. By carving out exemptions to otherwise applicable rules and norms, such charters allow reconstruction of what is implicit: the laws generally enforced by royal and other civil authorities. Furthermore, they tell us some important things about the relationship between religion and the state.

Timothy Lubin is the Jessie Ball duPont professor of religion, adjunct professor of law, and head of the Law, Justice, and Society program at Washington and Lee University. With degrees from Columbia University (BA and PhD in the study of religion) and Harvard University (MTS), he taught earlier at Harvard and the University of Virginia. He has published widely on shifts in Brahmanical doctrine and ritual in ancient and medieval South Asia, the propagation of Dharmaśāstra (sacred law) and juridical norms reflected in inscriptions, and how these were appropriated in diverse regions including Nepal and Southeast Asia, where they inflected and were in turn transformed by local traditions. This work informs his contributions to the comparative study of premodern law.

The generosity of individuals and institutions has made the endowment that supports the Trautmann lecture series possible, including that of Martha and Inderpal Bhatia in particular. As one of two annual endowed lectures, the Trautmann lecture series has become a bedrock of CSAS events each year.