Mixing—whether referred to as mestizaje, callaloo, hybridity, creolization, or multiculturalism—is a foundational cultural trope in Caribbean and Latin American societies. Historically entwined with colonial, anticolonial, and democratic ideologies, ideas about mixing are powerful forces in the ways identities are interpreted and evaluated. As Aisha Khan shows in this ethnography, they reveal the tension that exists between identity as a source of equality and identity as an instrument through which social and cultural hierarchies are reinforced. Focusing on the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean, Khan examines this paradox as it is expressed in key dimensions of Hindu and Muslim cultural history and social relationships in southern Trinidad. In vivid detail, she describes how disempowered communities create livable conditions for themselves while participating in a broader culture that both celebrates and denies difference.
Khan combines ethnographic research she conducted in Trinidad over the course of a decade with extensive archival research to explore how Hindu and Muslim Indo-Trinidadians interpret authority, generational tensions, and the transformations of Indian culture in the Caribbean through metaphors of mixing. She demonstrates how ambivalence about the desirability of a callaloo nation—a multicultural society—is manifest around practices and issues, including rituals, labor, intermarriage, and class mobility. Khan maintains that metaphors of mixing are pervasive and worth paying attention to: the assumptions and concerns they communicate are key to unraveling who Indo-Trinidadians imagine themselves to be and how identities such as race and religion shape and are shaped by the politics of multiculturalism.
Neeti Nair’s account of the partition in the Punjab rejects the idea that essential differences between the Hindu and Muslim communities made political settlement impossible. Far from being an inevitable solution, partition—though advocated by some powerful Hindus—was a stunning surprise to the majority of Hindus in the region.
For decades India has been intermittently tormented by brutal outbursts of religious violence, thrusting thousands of ordinary Hindus and Muslims into bloody conflict. In this provocative work, psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar exposes the psychological roots of Hindu-Muslim violence and examines with grace and intensity the subjective experience of religious hatred in his native land.
With honesty, insight, and unsparing self-reflection, Kakar confronts the profoundly enigmatic relations that link individual egos to cultural moralities and religious violence. His innovative psychological approach offers a framework for understanding the kind of ethnic-religious conflict that has so vexed social scientists in India and throughout the world.
Through riveting case studies, Kakar explores cultural stereotypes, religious antagonisms, ethnocentric histories, and episodic violence to trace the development of both Hindu and Muslim psyches. He argues that in early childhood the social identity of every Indian is grounded in traditional religious identifications and communalism. Together these bring about deep-set psychological anxieties and animosities toward the other. For Hindus and Muslims alike, violence becomes morally acceptable when communally and religiously sanctioned. As the changing pressures of modernization and secularism in a multicultural society grate at this entrenched communalism, and as each group vies for power, ethnic-religious conflicts ignite. The Colors of Violence speaks with eloquence and urgency to anyone concerned with the postmodern clash of religious and cultural identities.
In a book now marked by both critical acclaim and cross-cultural controversy, Jeffrey J. Kripal explores the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a nineteenth-century Bengali saint who played a major role in the creation of modern Hinduism. Through extended textual and symbolic analyses of Ramakrishna's censored "secret talk," Kripal demonstrates that the saint's famous ecstatic and visionary experiences were driven by mystico-erotic energies that he neither fully accepted nor understood. The result is a striking new vision of Ramakrishna as a conflicted, homoerotic Tantric mystic that is as complex as it is clear and as sympathetic to the historical Ramakrishna as it is critical of his traditional portraits.
In a substantial new preface to this second edition, Kripal answers his critics, addresses the controversy the book has generated in India, and traces the genealogy of his work in the history of psychoanalytic discourse on mysticism, Hinduism, and Ramakrishna himself. Kali's Child has already proven to be provocative, groundbreaking, and immensely enjoyable.
"Only a few books make such a major contribution to their field that from the moment of publication things are never quite the same again. Kali's Child is such a book."—John Stratton Hawley, History of Religions
Winner of the American Academy of Religion's History of Religions Prize for the Best First Book of 1995
The nineteenth-century Bengali mystic Ramakrishna played a major role in the development of Hinduism and is regarded as a modern saint. Yet he remains an enigma to followers unable to reconcile his saintly status with his eroticized language and actions.
In this work, Jeffrey J. Kripal attempts to untangle the paradox. He demonstrates that Ramakrishna's famous mystical experiences were driven by erotic energies that he neither fully accepted nor understood; the key to understanding this extraordinary figure, Kripal argues, lies in Tantra and its ritual, symbolic, and doctrinal equation of the mystical and the erotic.
Moving through Ramakrishna's world both chronologically and conceptually, Kali's Child employs two complementary interpretive strategies, a nuanced phenomenological reinterpretation of original Bengali texts and a nonreductive psychoanalytic reading of Ramakrishna's mystical eroticism. Kripal shows how the heterosexual structure of Tantric symbolism, the abusive way its rituals were often forced upon the saint, and Ramakrishna's own homosexual desires all came together to produce in him profound feelings of shame, disgust, and fear. Kripal establishes that the homosexuality of this great, if unwilling, Tantric mystic is linked inextricably to virtually every aspect of his life and teachings.
Honorable Mention, 2009 American Sociological Association's Distinguished Book Award, from the Sociology of Religion section
Multiculturalism in the United States is commonly lauded as a positive social ideal celebrating the diversity of our nation. But, in reality, immigrants often feel pressured to create a singular formulation of their identity that does not reflect the diversity of cultures that exist in their homeland. Hindu Americans have faced this challenge over the last fifteen years, as the number of Indians that have immigrated to this country has more than doubled.
In A Place at the Multicultural Table, Prema A. Kurien shows how various Hindu American organizations--religious, cultural, and political--are attempting to answer the puzzling questions of identity outside their homeland. Drawing on the experiences of both immigrant and American-born Hindu Americans, Kurien demonstrates how religious ideas and practices are being imported, exported, and reshaped in the process. The result of this transnational movement is an American Hinduism--an organized, politicized, and standardized version of that which is found in India.
This first in-depth look at Hinduism in the United States and the Hindu Indian American community helps readers to understand the private devotions, practices, and beliefs of Hindu Indian Americans as well as their political mobilization and activism. It explains the differences between immigrant and American-born Hindu Americans, how both understand their religion and their identity, and it emphasizes the importance of the social and cultural context of the United States in influencing the development of an American Hinduism.