Gender and Religions Research Centre Seminar Series
Department of the Study of Religions, SOAS
Rm 336, 14:30-16:00
NB: note time and date change from normal programme
Tuesday , 29th May 2001
Professor Ann Grodzins Gold, Syracuse University
'Life-saving Beauty: Divine Mothers and Human Sorrows in Rajasthan'
The goddess in Rajasthan as elsewhere has multiple names and forms. Complex
theologies of her nature and simple hymns praising her grace insist
nonetheless on an ineffable, dazzling and singular reality to her power. We
see her in small temples and shrines, permanently embodied in stone icons,
and clothed in female garments. Such places are generative of miraculous
tales unfolding the Devi's life-saving power. Other goddess images are
created as temporary foci for worship by women performing calendrical
rituals: a pile of pebbles on the purified earth; barley shoots garbed in
scraps of bright cloth; a frail structure of pipal leaves weighted with
offerings. These too channel blessings to households and persons, fields and
community, as told in ritual narratives. How do the blessings devotees ask
from the goddess, and the bhavana (deep feelings) with which they approach
her, connect with her appearance -- whether temporary or stable, organic or
artistically crafted? In concluding, I attempt to think about these
questions using Elaine Scarry's ideas about beauty as sacred, unprecedented,
life-saving, and deliberative -- that is, causing humans to rethink their
positions and correct themselves.
About the Speaker:
Ann Grodzins Gold specialises in teaching and research on Hindu traditions
in modern India, religion and gender, religion in the natural environment,
and oral performance. Gold's extensive fieldwork in the North Indian state
of Rajasthan has included studies of pilgrimage, gender relations, epic
tales of world renunciation, and cultural constructions of the environment.
She has received fellowship awards from the American Institute of Indian
Studies, the Fulbright Foundation, the National Endowment for the
Humanities, and the Spencer Foundation. Her publications include articles on
spirit possession, semiotics of identity, the practice of ethnography,
women's ritual storytelling, children's environmental perceptions, moral
interpretations of climate change, memories as history, and feminist
fieldwork, as well as four books: Fruitful Journeys: The Ways of Rajasthani
Pilgrims, A Carnival of Parting: The Tales of King Bhartari and King Gopi
Chand, Listen to the Heron's Words: Reimagining Gender and Kinship in North
India (co-authored with Gloria Raheja), and forthcoming in 2001, In the Time
of Trees and Sorrows: Nature, Power and Memory in Rajasthan (co-authored
with Bhoju Ram Gujar). With Department of Religion colleague, Philip Arnold,
she has co-edited the forthcoming anthology, Sacred Landscapes and Cultural
Politics: Planting a Tree.
All are welcome!
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