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Hindu Ritual at the Margins

Innovations, Transformations, Reconsiderations

Hindu Ritual at the Margins explores Hindu forms of ritual activity in a variety of "marginal" contexts. The contributors collectively examine ritual practices in diaspora; across gender, ethnic, social, and political groups; in film, text, and art; in settings where ritual itself or direct discussion of ritual is absent; in contexts that create new opportunities for traditionally marginalized participants or challenge the received tradition; and via theoretical perspectives that have been undervalued in the academy.

In the first of three sections, contributors explore the ways in which Hindu ritual performed in Indian contexts intersects with historical, contextual, and social change. They examine the changing significance and understanding of particular deities, the identity and agency of ritual actors, and the instrumentality of ritual in new media. Essays in the second section examine ritual practices outside of India, focusing on evolving ritual claims to authority in mixed cultures (such as Malaysia), the reshaping of gender dynamics of ritual at an American temple, and the democratic reshaping of ritual forms in Canadian Hindu communities. The final section considers the implications for ritual studies of the efficacy of bodily acts divorced from intention, contemporary spiritual practice as opposed to religious-bound ritual, and the notion of dharma.

Based on a conference on Hindu ritual held in 2006 at the University of Pittsburgh, Hindu Ritual at the Margins seeks to elucidate the ways ritual actors come to shape ritual practices or conceptions pertaining to ritual and how studying ritual in marginal contexts—at points of dynamic tension—requires scholars to reshape their understanding of ritual activity.


"This volume uses a wide lens to bring into view an unusually broad range of Hindu ritual behavior. The authors are textualists, film critics, anthropologists, and specialists in women's studies—some of the best known figures in Hindu studies today. Every chapter brings refreshing revelations, and the notorious 'empty ritual' is nowhere to be found."—John Stratton Hawley, Barnard College, Columbia University

"If you are intrigued by the transfer and transformations of Hindu rituals, by ritual agency and efficacy, this book will keep you turning the pages. Challenging received notions of the working of rituals, the contributors tell compelling stories of two weddings, a funeral, and a dog, of disappearing deities, and of fights over ropes. A delight for every student of Ritual Studies and Hinduism."—Ute Hüsken, professor of Sanskrit and coeditor of the Oxford Ritual Studies Series

9781611173901 : hindu-ritual-at-the-margins-linda-penkower
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