Religious devotion and the political: the honour dispute revisited

Friday, 6 April 2012 (All day)
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Aya Ikegame presents her work on 'Religious devotion and the political: the honour dispute revisited' at the Annual Conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, 3-6 April 2012. The general theme of the conference is: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world.

Abstract of the paper: In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many mathas were involved in fierce conflicts concerning the use of royal symbols. The types of palanquins, colour of umbrellas, ornaments, and drums used by gurus in the procession stirred antagonism amongst different groups of devotees. Although these groups can be described using any of following adjectives: sub-caste, sectarian, professional, local and kin 'communities', in reality they were a mixture of all of them. This type of conflict, the 'honour dispute', has been treated as a mere local caste issue and is not necessarily seen as a part of any democratic process or 'proper' political engagement. Groups of devotees were capable of organising large-scale processions attracting several thousands. Yet, Indian political elites and social scientists of the twentieth century have not regarded these activities as political or even modern. This paper will revisit several cases of 'honour disputes' in Mysore princely state, a southern part of present day Karnataka.

In recent years, the mathas in Karnataka have received renewed attention as they have emerged as alternative providers of social welfare (education, health, social justice). Not only traditional matha-oriented groups (Brahmins and Lingayats), but many caste groups including OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis also began to establish their own mathas from the 1990s onwards. The aim of this paper is to revisit the moment when the mathas redefined themselves as an alternative institution to the state and to examine how people exercised and articulated their political subjectivities through devotional and aesthetical forms of expression.

For more information please see the event webpage.

Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism is funded by an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (Institutions, values, beliefs and behaviour ERC-AG-SH2).

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