Ritualizing on the Boundaries
Continuity And Innovation in the Tamil Diaspora
Clothey looks specifically at settlements in the cities of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Singapore; Mumbai, India; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Describing such settlements as communities living on boundaries, Clothey explores how their existence illustrates divisions among ethnic, local, and global identities; between generations; and between imagined pasts and uncertain futures. He contends that one of the most visible ways expatriated communities negotiate these boundaries is through the use of ritual as manifested in the building of shrines and temples, the celebration of festivals, the perpetuation and modification of performances, and the enactment of ceremonies believed to have ancient roots.
In individual chapters Clothey examines the construction of Pittsburgh's Sri Venkateswara temple, one of the oldest and most authentic Hindu temples in the United States; explores the transition from temporary to permanent shrines in Singapore's Hindu community; compares how brahmins in Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur perpetuate subethnic identities in their shrines; and surveys Mumbai's slums to explore the worlds of Muslims, Christians, and castes of Hindus. He also reflects on the meanings of elaborate festivals in each of these cities and speculates about how the singing of hymns links the singers to their perceived lineage as well as to social configurations in their new homes. Such vignettes reveal how rituals serve to affirm a community's sense of heritage while at the same time reflecting their present circumstances. Through these case studies of the Tamil diaspora, Clothey suggests that rituals can create a process of being at home away from home.
About the Author
"Fred Clothey brings together over three decades of study of Tamil communities in Pittsburgh, Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore—each having a distinct history of migration, settlement, and identity-formation. For these communities, being Tamil reaches into the repertoires of religious practice; temple construction; and internal social, political, and generational negotiations in pursuit of thriving in two worlds at once: the remembered and imagined Tamilnadu and the cultural context in which they are a minority. Clothey meticulously documents the ways in which religious ritual provides the occasions, performances, and discourses for communities that are at one and the same time 'at home' and 'in the world.' Ritualizing on the Boundaries is an essential work for students of religion, ritual, immigration, South Asian studies, and trans-national cultural studies."—Paul B. Courtright, professor of religion, Emory University
Other Titles from Studies in Comparative Religion
Other Titles in RELIGION / Comparative Religion