PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Sessions
A16-104
International Connections Committee
Theme: ICC Meeting
Amy L. Allocco, Elon University, Presiding
Friday - 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

ICC Committee meeting

Panelists:
Amy L. Allocco, Elon University
  • Receptions/Breakfasts/Luncheons
International Connections Committee
Theme: International Members Reception
Amy L. Allocco, Elon University, Presiding
Saturday - 7:00 PM-8:30 PM

International Members Reception

Panelists:
Amy L. Allocco, Elon University
Hinduism Unit and North American Hinduism Unit and Religion and Migration Unit
Theme: Migration and Materiality: The Stuff of the Hindu Diaspora
Unregistered Participant, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

This panel looks at the “stuff” of the Hindu diaspora - objects, clothing, art, spaces, and the body - to investigate the ways in which matter is connected to identity formation, the production of rituals, and sacred space. Rather than using objects as a gateway to reinsert immaterial methods of studying religion, this panel views matter as a process that reveals a network of relations which interact with each other in a multitude of ways. We examine what diverse forms of materiality can tell us about Hindu traditions and their mobility. The papers in this panel range from a discussion of ritual objects to the creation of scared space to the performance of memory to the use of clothing to communicate a particular religious identity, all with special attention on the diaspora and the complicated ways in which religious beliefs and practices shape and are shaped by their current locations.

Tracy Pintchman, Loyola University, Chicago
A Rājagopuram for the New Millennium: Channeling Divine Power at an American Hindu Goddess Temple

This paper explores the nature of a recently constructed rājagopuram, or "royal tower," at the Parashakthi Temple in Pontiac, Michigan. This rājagopuram was completed in 2015 under the direction of the temple's charismatic spiritual director and president, Dr. Krishna Kumar. This paper explores the distinctive elements of the temple's rājagopuram and the ways temple discourse theologizes about it as a "spiritual and mystical" material form in light of the larger Goddess theology that the temple promulgates. Kumar insists the Goddess commanded that the rājagopuram be constructed according to her precise directions in order to channel her divine energy and protect the Western world from destructive forces. He further insists that the Goddess identified through direct revelation to him each devatā, or deity, to be installed on it, and he claims that the 520 images that grace its four faces embody the totality of all the divine energy in the universe.

Prea Persaud, University of Florida
From the Himalayas to Blanchisseuse: The Gangadhara Festival in Trinidad

The Gangadhara Festival, the brainchild of Ravi Ji, a Hindu activist in Trinidad, is the yearly celebration of Ganga Ma. Envisioned as a pilgrimage through the waters of the Marianne River, the festival both sacralizes the landscape of Trinidad and connects participants to their ancestors who were indentured laborers. In the retelling of their own history, Indo-Trinidadians describe the journey to the island as one sanctioned by the gods. The resilience of the laborers and their ability to conquer the land further indicates the specialness of Trinidad. In this paper, I argue that although the Gangadhara festival outwardly focuses on environmental issues, it serves an additional purpose by embodying the journey of indentured laborers. By enacting their ancestors’ journey across the Kala Pani, or black waters, the offerings at Gangadhara become an act of remembrance and a way for Indo-Trinidadian Hindus to cope with the transgenerational trauma of indentureship.

Priyanka Ramlakhan, University of Florida
Between Matter and Spirit: Hindu Cremation and Death Rituals in Trinidad

Hindu death and grieving culture in Trinidad was influenced by a series of social and political events, beginning with the arrival of Indian indentured laborers in 1845. For most Hindus, cremation of their dead is compulsory, however in colonial Trinidad Indians were denied this right, resulting in the emergence of a distinctive style of Hindu burial. In 1953, after decades of negotiation, the state legalized the Hindu method of open-air cremation and disposal of ashes in natural rivers. Despite legalization tensions between Hindu groups and the state persisted. Hindu revival in the late twentieth century contributed to cremation becoming a standard practice and the subsequent establishment of public spaces dedicated to death rituals and communal ancestor worship. This paper examines the Hindu struggle to care for their dead and the construction of mortuary rituals informed by text, local customs, and diasporic memory. Transformations in tradition resulted in a localized form of Hinduism and its discourses on death and mourning illuminate the politics of resistance and community-building solidarity among Trinidadian Hindus.

Urmila Mohan, University College London
Deity Clothing as Negotiation in ISKCON

This paper explores the visual effects and uses of deity garments in the contemporary missionising Hindu group ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). ISKCON is a neo-Brahmanical, missionising organisation with approximately 600 temples worldwide that is dedicated to the worship of the deity Krishna and is headquartered in West Bengal, India. With initial expansion, from the 1960s onward, in the US, UK and Europe, ISKCON has successfully started temples and congregations in other parts of the world. It is now regarded as having “returned” to India and has a growing membership in major Indian cities and towns. Yet, even in its Indian form, ISKCON must negotiate its identity as a global group while headquartered in Mayapur, West Bengal. This paper focuses on deity clothing on the Mayapur altar as a form of negotiation between embodied worship and the representation of images of the deity to an audience worldwide. It describes how in one instance the consideration of ISKCON’s global image came to overshadow the phenomenological importance of the garments in the temple and hence came to define and restrict the use of the garments. The paper argues that such an instance is both an example of how darshan is a highly mediated practice, and how devotion in an ISKCON temple is shaped and limited by global representations detached from traditional notions of inter-subjective gaze between deity and devotee.

Responding:
Amy L. Allocco, Elon University