"At a time when communal violence steals headlines, this collection reminds us of the many ways in which India’s Hindu and Muslim communities have not only peacefully coexisted but also shared in a common culture that is pluralist, spiritually permeable, and continuously evolving. The scholars assembled here—some of the most outstanding in the field of South Asian studies—show how movie stars, healers, poets, and saints appeal to diverse audiences while blurring the boundaries of religion and caste. This is a timely and very important work."—David Pinault, professor of religious studies, Santa Clara University
"Revealing both the breadth and interplay of subjects such as pilgrimage practices, artistic performances, and colonial cartography, the authors demonstrate how religious boundaries can attract, propel, and fuse communities, depending on one’s regional, economic, political, or scholarly perspective."—Corinne G. Dempsey, author of Bringing the Sacred Down to Earth: Adventures in Comparative Religion
When asked to distinguish between different faiths, Mughal prince Dara Shikoh is said to have replied, “How do you draw a line in water?” Inspired by this question, the essays in this volume illustrate how ordinary people in South Asia and the diaspora negotiate their religious identities and encounters in creative, complex, and diverse ways. Taking the approach that narratives “from below” provide the richest insight into the dynamics of religious pluralism, the authors examine life histories, oral traditions, cartographic practices, pilgrimage rites, and devotional music and songs. Drawing on both ethnographic and historical data, they illuminate how, like lines in water, religious boundaries are dynamic, fluid, flexible, and permeable rather than permanently fixed, frozen, and inviolable.
A distinct feature of the volume is its proposition of a fresh and innovative typology of boundary dynamics. Boundaries may be attractive or porous, firmly drawn or transcended. Attractive boundaries invite confluence while affirming the differences between self and other, whereas permeable boundaries facilitate exchanges that create new identities and in turn form new lines. Although people may recognize the significance of religious borders, they can choose to transcend them. Throughout this volume, the authors highlight the fascinating range of South Asian religious and cultural traditions.
Eliza F. Kent is an associate professor of religion at Colgate University. She is the author of Converting Women: Gender and Christianity in Colonial South India, which received the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title of 2004. Her articles have appeared in journals such as Worldviews and the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture.
Tazim R. Kassam is an associate professor in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. She is the author of Songs of Wisdom and Circles of Dance: Hymns of the Satpanth Ismaili Saint, Pir Shams and the co-editor of Ginans: Texts and Contexts. Essays on Ismaili Hymns from South Asia in Honor of Zawahir Moir.
6 x 9, 428 pages