Devdutt Pattanaik’s 2002 book, The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore (Harrington Park Press) was one of the first non-academic works to provide an in-depth exploration of potential queer themes in Hindu mythology, so I was interested to see what his latest offering – Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You (Zubaan and Penguin Books India, 2014) – would be like. Shikhandi is retellings of tales from a variety of sources, ranging from the Mahabharata, the Yoga Vasishtha, various Puranas, Tamil literature and oral traditions, to the Navanatha Charita and oral traditions of the Hijras. Continue reading »
Posts tagged ‘religion’
A common refrain in contemporary western culture is that “traditional” religions and roles are in decline and, supplanting them, is a turn to the “spiritual” in which individuals discover and shape their own sources of meaning through a playful and eclectic “pick and mix” approach to religious traditions and practices. This is sometimes referred to as the “subjectivist turn” in social studies, and frequently hailed as a “spiritual revolution” (and occasionally, lamented). But how does this eclecticism – often characterised by the French term bricolage – operate? Why is it that some religious traditions and practices are appropriated, and others not? Why are people attracted to “foreign” religious resources and what role do these practices play in people’s lives?
Véronique Altglas addresses these issues in From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage Oxford University Press 2014). Drawing on her transnational research on two neo-Hindu movements – Siddha Yoga and Sivananda Centres in France and Britain; and the Kabbalah Centre in France, Britain, Brazil and Israel – Altglas uncovers the hidden “logics” of bricolage, and in doing so, presents some intriguing and – possibly – uncomfortable conclusions. Continue reading »
I’m generally wary of the comparative approach to the study of religion (and myth), if only as, as an approach it has tended to supress or conceal differences between cultures, giving rise to the illusion of homogeneity by reducing the expressions of other cultures to the concepts being deployed by the person doing the comparison. Comparative approaches, so often uncritically map the religious features of other cultures onto European classifications, and thereby work as a form of cultural imperialism. Comparative models have also been used to support the flawed notion that magical/religious techniques can be easily “lifted” from their cultural context. Continue reading »