Divine Intersections: Hindu Ritual and the Incorporation of Religious Others

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Kathinka Frøystad


This article throws the study of multireligious sociality in Western contexts into sharp relief by examining the case of India. Much of the current scholarship of cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism tends to assume that religious beliefs, practices and spaces make the respective religious communities close entirely in upon themselves. While this assumption may hold true for most of the Western settings we study, it does not necessarily give an accurate description of the conditions for multireligious sociality in other parts of the world. In India, for instance, religious boundaries still display signs of malleability despite the religious politicization and occasional interreligious violence of the past decades. Drawing on recent anthropological research, this article shows that people of different religious denominations still visit Sufi shrines, that Hindus still incorporate ritual elements and divine beings from the religious traditions of their Others and that they exercise a wide personal choice in terms of spiritual activities, thus enabling spiritual paths that cross in and out of Hinduism. In a Hindu context rituals do not necessarily have an insulating effect; they may also provide points of intersection that open up toward the Other, thus fostering familiarity and recognition. Similar arguments have been made for Buddhist settings. The question is thus whether the current scholarship of cosmopolitanism may entail a certain monotheistic bias that needs to accounted for, something that is of particular importance when theorizing in ways that make universal claims.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Kathinka Frøystad, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen

Associate Professor