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CUSAS Talk: Dr Soumhya Venkatesan

When Nov 10, 2016
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where Edmund Leach Seminar Room, Division of Social Anthropology
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Dr Soumhya Venkatesan (University of Manchester)

Materials, skills and things: divinity and its embodiments in Hindu South India

This is a paper about bodies of gods that are made of particular materials, have certain qualities, and do/can be made to do things in the world. I focus both on these embodied gods worshipped in Hindu temples in Tamilnadu, South India, and on the ritual experts who make the bodies and minister to these gods, to argue that materials and things generate ways of thinking about them that open up a rich vein of understanding about conceptions and doings of divinity in Hinduism. Further, attentiveness to material properties, processes of making, questions of presence and the willingness to act invigorate and muddy generally accepted hierarchical orderings of persons and gods. Finally, notwithstanding the concretization of concepts in material forms, the recognition that materials mutate and deteriorate, and that things outlive their usefulness renders any theorization based on things, both our informants’ and our own, unstable and contingent.

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