Religious spaces: Shared and contested
In this double lecture, Devleena Ghosh and Vera Lazzaretti introduce two out-of-the-ordinary religious spaces in India, each providing a unique window into the country’s religious complexity.
Devleena Ghosh (left) and Vera Lazaretti (right)
The Waking God: Desire, Concealment and Syncretic Practices at a Bangalore Church
In the context of escalating religious tensions in India, sites that still openly welcome practitioners of different belief systems face a range of complex issues. At the Holy Infant Jesus Church in Bangalore, there is a shrine set aside for people of non-Christian religions, both Hindu and Muslim, who view this deity as a jagrata or ‘awake’ god who grants boons and wishes. Despite the hardening of boundaries, this site exhibits the persisting appeal of ritual engagement across religious boundaries. The outcome is not always open connections or dialogue but concealment of syncretic practices from others in the supplicants’ communities. What do we make of the peculiar combination of continued appeal and concealment in contemporary India?
The burden of security: Spatial regulation of religious offense and the geographies of enforcement
What can studies of contested religious sites tell us about how state-imposed security works in practice? This talk presents the background for a new research project on the Kashi Vishwanath temple/Gyan Vapi mosque complex in Banaras (Varanasi), a site that is multiply shared and contested. During and after the Ayodhya campaign, it was targeted by Hindu ‘rightist’ groups as one of the next places to be ‘freed’ from Muslim presence. The project will reconstruct the history of the area and bring out how securitization shapes the lives, religious experiences and relationships of its multiple actors in terms of liveability, mutual respect and the every day practice of social order.
Devleena Ghosh is Associate Professor at the Social and Political Sciences Program at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has worked extensively on colonialism and Indian ocean exchange, and is regional editor of the Asian Studies Review.
Vera Lazzaretti is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo. Vera recently joined us from the University of Milano, where she worked on sacred places and spatialized practices of Hinduism.