Matching Items (8)

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Disability in India: Religious and Social Perspectives

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Experiential evidence leads specific individuals and groups within India to believe that individuals with disabilities are marginalized due to a Hindu value system that stigmatizes disability and relegates individuals with disabilities to below average social positions. I experienced this perspective

Experiential evidence leads specific individuals and groups within India to believe that individuals with disabilities are marginalized due to a Hindu value system that stigmatizes disability and relegates individuals with disabilities to below average social positions. I experienced this perspective firsthand by spending two months volunteering at an orphanage in India that cares for individuals (primarily children) with disabilities and significant health issues. The orphanage identifies with a Christian tradition, framing their perspective in a worldview that declares that all human beings have equal value regardless of their physical health situations. The orphanage perspective declares that there is a Hindu religious paradigm that stigmatizes individuals with disability in a manner so extreme that it leads parents to abandon their children with disabilities. From the orphanage perspective, this Hindu religious belief is what inevitably leads to the need for orphanages for children with special needs because the stigma that the orphanage perceives leads to abandonment. This premise led me to an investigation of perceived cultural and societal norms and Hindu beliefs within India that may lead to the marginalization of individuals with disabilities. In order to do this, I first had to contextualize the perspective of the orphanage. From there I looked to Indian disability policy and sought to connect stigma and disability in the secular and social realm, evaluating whether or not secular policies can be said to contribute to or detract from a stigma of disability. I then looked to Hindu beliefs, to determine whether or not Hinduism can truly be said to, in a generalized manner, marginalize individuals with disability, and furthermore the caste system, to evaluate what India's social hierarchy might have to say about disability. The goals of this thesis are to evaluate the popular Hindu beliefs that are often blamed for the stigmatization of disability, and to analyze policies regarding disability and examine how these policies are affected by the religious context in which they are situated. To what extent does Hinduism encourage or contribute to a society or culture in which individuals with disabilities are treated badly, and how do Indian policies regarding disability respond to that? I come to the conclusion that the stigma related to disability in India is far more complex than simply a Hindu belief that mandates it as so. There are social and economic factors that play into it, as well as deep-rooted cultural ideologies in both the tradition of the orphanage that perceives Hinduism as stigmatizing of disability, and Indian religion and social hierarchy. I furthermore find that, though there are numerous disability policies in place to provide human rights to individuals with disabilities, these policies ultimately do not work to tear down the stigma and the roots it does have in ancient religious tradition and social hierarchy.

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2015-05

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THE HINDU HOLY COW AND THE AMERICAN ANIMAL: A CRITICAL COMPARISON OF HUMAN-ANIMAL RELATIONSHIP

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Painting two grand stories, I set out to compare human-animal relationships, as realized by the Holy Cow among Hindus in India and stock and pet animals among people in America. The goal of these comparisons is to determine in what

Painting two grand stories, I set out to compare human-animal relationships, as realized by the Holy Cow among Hindus in India and stock and pet animals among people in America. The goal of these comparisons is to determine in what ways the relationships that Indians and Americans have towards animals can be made relevant to one another. This is done by concentrating on how the human perceptions of animals are informed by religious, political, and economic contexts, as well as how these perceptions inform the social costs of human-animal relationships within a society, as it pertains to both animals and humans. What I find is that the human-animal relationships are different in India and in America, but reveal similar tensions in both countries. In India, the Hindu Holy Cow is deified above the status of human, yet its embodiment of the Hindu cosmos and Hindu nationalist identity does not come without a cost for India as a society and nation. The American human-animal relationship is also caught in tension between two big perspectives. One, which is best exemplified by the stock cow, takes animals to be things of consumption, the other, which is best exemplified by the pet, makes animals into objects of anthropomorphism. Ultimately, the distinguished perspectives in India and America reveal divergent mechanisms, but comparable costs for humans and animals in both societies.

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2020-05

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Minoritization of Pakistani Hindus (1947-1971)

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This dissertation discusses the processes of post-colonial minoritization of Hindus in Pakistan from the inception of the state in 1947 to the secession of the eastern wing (former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) from the country after a civil and international

This dissertation discusses the processes of post-colonial minoritization of Hindus in Pakistan from the inception of the state in 1947 to the secession of the eastern wing (former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) from the country after a civil and international war in 1971. The dissertation analyzes the emergence and development of the minority question in Europe and connects it with Colonial India, where it culminated into Partition of British India and emergence of Pakistan in 1947. The dissertation analyzes post- Colonial minoritization of Pakistani Hindus as a gradual process on three different but interconnected levels: 1. the loss of Hindu life from Pakistan, 2. the transference of Hindu property and 3. the political minoritization of Pakistani Hindus. The dissertation does so by approaching the history of Pakistani Hindus in two distinct geographical locations, Sindh and the ex-Pakistani province of East Bengal. It also includes discussion on Pakistani Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The dissertation is based on indepth, detailed fieldwork in Tharparkar district of Sindh province and archival research in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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2014

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Gurucaritra pārāyaṇ: social praxis of religious reading

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This dissertation project addresses one of the most critical problems in the study of religion: how do scriptures acquire significance in religious communities in ways that go beyond the meaning of their words? Based on data collected during ethnographic work

This dissertation project addresses one of the most critical problems in the study of religion: how do scriptures acquire significance in religious communities in ways that go beyond the meaning of their words? Based on data collected during ethnographic work in Maharashtra, India, in 2011 and 2012, I analyze the complex relationship between a religious text and its readers with reference to ritual reading of the Gurucaritra, a Marathi scripture written in the sixteenth century. I argue that readers of the Gurucaritra create a self-actualized modern religiosity both by interpreting the content of the text and by negotiating the rules of praxis surrounding their reading activity.

In particular, this dissertation analyzes the ways in which members of the Dattatreya tradition in urban Maharashatra ritualize their tradition's central text-- the Gurucaritra--in terms of everyday issues and concerns of the present. Taking inspiration from reader-response criticism, I focus on the pArAyaN; (reading the entire text) of the Gurucaritra, the central scripture of the Dattatreya tradition, in the context of its contemporary readings in Maharashtra. In the process of reading the Gurucaritra, readers become modern by making a conscious selection from their tradition. In the process of approaching their tradition through the text, what they achieve is a sense of continuity and a faith that, if they have the support of the guru, nothing can go wrong. In the process of choosing elements from their tradition, they ultimately achieve a sense of being modern individuals who work out rules of religiosity for themselves.

This dissertation contributes to the study of scriptures in two major ways: first, by bringing forth how religious communities engage with scriptures for reasons other than their comprehension; second, by showing how scriptures can play a crucial role in religious communities in the context of addressing concerns of their present. Thus, this research contributes to the fields of scripture studies, Hinduism, and literary criticism.

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Date Created
2014

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Tł̨ich̨o Dene foodways: hunters, animals, and ancestors

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Tłįchǫ, an indigenous Dene nation of subarctic Canada, maintain subsistence lifestyles based on what they consider traditional foods. Caribou are the primary Tłįchǫ food animal and their reliance on caribou culminates in a complex relationship of give and take. Tłįchǫ

Tłįchǫ, an indigenous Dene nation of subarctic Canada, maintain subsistence lifestyles based on what they consider traditional foods. Caribou are the primary Tłįchǫ food animal and their reliance on caribou culminates in a complex relationship of give and take. Tłįchǫ demonstrate reciprocity for the caribou to give their flesh to hunters. Caribou populations in Canada’s Northwest Territories have rapidly declined and the government of Canada’s Northwest Territories implemented hunting restrictions in 2010 to protect caribou herds from extinction. Some Tłįchǫ, however, maintain that caribou are in hiding, not decline, and that caribou have chosen to remain inaccessible to humans due to human disrespect toward them. Many Tłįchǫ have responded to hunting restrictions and the lack of caribou by calling for respectful hunting practices to demonstrate to caribou that they are needed and thus resulting in the animal continuing to give itself.

I examine Tłįchǫ responses to contemporary caribou scarcity through three stages of Dene foodways: getting food, sharing food, and returning food and caribou remains back to the land. Analysis of Dene foodways stages reveals complex social relationships between hunters, animals, and other beings in the environment such as ancestors and the land that aids their exchange. Food is integral to many studies of indigenous religions and environmental relations yet the effects of dependence on the environment for food on social dynamics that include human and other beings have not been adequately addressed. Foodways as a component to theories of indigenous environmental relationships explain Tłįchǫ attitudes toward caribou. I draw from my ethnographic research, wherein I lived with Tłįchǫ families, studied the Tłįchǫ language, and participated in Tłįchǫ foodways such as hunting, fishing, and sharing food, to explicate Tłįchǫ foodways in relation to their worldviews and relationships with beings in the environment. I demonstrate how foodways, as an analytical category, offers a glimpse into Dene perceptions of non-human entities as something with which humans relate, while I simultaneously demonstrate the limits of environmental relations. My attention to foodways reveals the necessity of sustenance as a primary motivation for indigenous relationships to other beings, culminating in complex social dynamics.

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Date Created
2015

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The culture of literate power at Cluny, 910-1156 CE

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In order to illuminate the role written documents played within medieval monastic life, this project takes as a case study the monastery of Cluny and some associated houses during the central Middle Ages. I approach these documents as signs, drawing

In order to illuminate the role written documents played within medieval monastic life, this project takes as a case study the monastery of Cluny and some associated houses during the central Middle Ages. I approach these documents as signs, drawing on anthropological and philosophical work on semiosis, and as media technologies, using history and cultural studies centered on orality and literacy, and conclude that the monastic use of texts was essentially ritual, and as such exerted an important influence on the development of literacy as a tool and a set of practices. Nor did this influence flow in just one direction: as monastic ritual transformed the use of documents, the use of documents also transformed monastic ritual.

To study the relationship between document and ritual, I examine what medieval documents reveal about their production and use. I also read the sources for what they directly report about the nature of monastic life and monastic ritual, and the specific roles various documents played within these contexts. Finally, these accounts of changing monastic scribal and ritual practice are laid alongside a third—that of what the monks themselves actually enunciated, both directly and indirectly, about their own understanding of semiosis and its operation in their lives.

Ultimately, my dissertation connects valuable theoretical and philosophical work on ritual, semiosis, and orality and literacy with manuscript studies and with a wide range of recent historiography on the complex transformations remaking society inside and outside the cloister during the Middle Ages. It thus serves to bring these disparate yet mutually indispensable lines of inquiry into better contact with one another. And in this way, it approaches an understanding of human sign-use, carefully rooted in both material and institutional culture, during a key period in the history of human civilization.

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Date Created
2015

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The Eki-Beki dispute and the unification of the Gauda Saraswat Brahman caste

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During the early twentieth century, a caste dispute known as the Eki-Beki dispute erupted among a group of historically related Konkani-speaking Brahman castes on the western coast of India. A faction among the castes argued that the variously related Konkani-speaking

During the early twentieth century, a caste dispute known as the Eki-Beki dispute erupted among a group of historically related Konkani-speaking Brahman castes on the western coast of India. A faction among the castes argued that the variously related Konkani-speaking Brahman castes were originally one caste called the Gauda Saraswat Brahman (GSB) caste, which got split into several sub-castes. They further argued that the time had come to unite all these castes into one unified GSB caste. This faction came to be known as the Eki-faction, which meant the unity-faction. The Eki-faction was opposed by the majority of the members of the above-mentioned castes who disagreed with the idea of unification. This opposing faction came to be known as the Beki-faction, i.e. the disunity-faction. Despite the opposition from the majority, the Eki-faction managed to unite these different castes to form the contemporary unified GSB caste. The Gaud Saraswat Brahman caste in its current form is the product of this dispute. The formation of the GSB caste was initiated by members of these castes who had migrated from different rural regions of the western coast of India to the urban center Bombay. The rise of the GSB caste, however, became a contested process. Dominant non-GSB Brahman groups in Bombay discredited the migrants as being outsiders of lower ritual status. The unification movement was also opposed by the majority of these Konkani-speaking castes residing in the rural regions of the west coast of India. The struggle of the urban migrants for unification involved publication of Hindu texts and changes of normative practices, such as dining regulations and marriage arrangements, that affected the long-standing norms of maintaining ritual purity. Despite the opposition, the urban migrants partially succeeded in unifying the variously related Konkani-speaking Brahman castes. My dissertation is a history of this process.

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Date Created
2018

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Religion, colonialism, diaspora: the role of the Hindu Swaminarayan sect in Indian migration to Africa and the world

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A new sect of Swaminarayan Hinduism emerged in the late eightieth century. This sect rapidly grew into a global organization due their highly structuralized nature. Fascinatingly, the new sect was able to create the feeling of home away from home

A new sect of Swaminarayan Hinduism emerged in the late eightieth century. This sect rapidly grew into a global organization due their highly structuralized nature. Fascinatingly, the new sect was able to create the feeling of home away from home in multiple countries. Through the establishments of mandirs, Hindu place of worship, practitioners were able to solidify the feeling of home away from home. Through books, magazine articles and letters the evidence of the new sect creating this feeling is overwhelming. Diaspora theory is woven within the thesis due to the global nature of the sect. This thesis uses a broad definition of diaspora to encompass the change in literature due to the ability of one to maintain close ties to their old homeland. The Swaminarayan sect treaded through diaspora by assimilating to their new homeland all the while keeping a close tie with their old homeland.

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2016