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Remaking Sacred Geographies: New Age Diasporic Pilgrims
Seminar given by Pushpa Arabindoo (UCL Urban Laboratory)
Wednesday 29th April
15.00-17.00 | Room G51, Department of Anthropology,
SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street,
Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
This paper examines the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) as a specific category of the Indian diaspora to question some of the traditional understandings of diaspora and homeland. For instance, the regular 'return visits' of the NRI are not so much about tracing their roots as they are about cultural rejuvenation opportunities. As the NRIs prove to be prominent patrons of cultural and religious festivals and tours, there is some confusion on how to interpret such intentions. While the urge to view it as another of the NRI-driven Hindutva projects, such a sweeping dismissal is hardly helpful. Set in the context of an increasing NRI demand for packaged pilgrimages, it reveals new forms of cultural consumption. But can the NRI's desperate efforts to discern a sacred geography be interpreted as a simultaneous idealisation and realisation of a myth about their homeland (cf. Cohen 1997)? While there is definitely a component of reinforcing and solidifying social fields attached to such efforts, they also reveal more problematic understandings of diasporic piety and their practices as pilgrims/tourists. Taking this as a departure point, this paper examines the extent to which sacred geography can be used to recast the diasporic reimagination of the homeland.
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