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【FINDAS】 2016 5th FINDAS Seminar “Finding Faith: Western Imaginings of Spiritual India”
February 7 @ 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
In its search for a meaningful disciplinary enterprise, anthropology focuses on those ‘others’ who live at the edge of civilizational chaos, the marginalized, underprivileged, those cast aside or abandoned, as well as the middle classes and the elite, as they construct their social worlds. In Asia, or at least in India, our anthropological gaze is not focused on those western, European others (in the 20th century) who aspire to fulfil their goals through an imagining of a social and ‘spiritual’ landscape in India.
In this presentation, I argue that western imaginings of spiritual India rest not merely on their efforts to embed themselves in a local spiritual enterprise. More importantly, it rests on their understanding of their active role, as they envisage it, in the context of a changing India. I refer to these western (especially women) protagonists as the ‘new missionaries’ who seek responsibility, and simultaneously fulfillment, through their participation in spiritual living. In this manner, the colonial gaze and the ensuing privilege is reproduced and enables them to act in particular ways. No doubt, gender, sexuality, rejection, and fulfillment and the inevitable place of charismatic others are all part of this significant process of becoming in India.