Current Institutional Affiliation
Visiting Scholar, Asian Religion, Cornell University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Asian Religion, Cornell University
Exchanges with Gods and the Miracles of Capital: Pilgrimage and Development in India

My ethnographic and cultural-historical research asks how multi-sensory perceptions of gods articulate with, mediate, or problematize neoliberal development, nationalism, and secularism. I will track efforts to develop the pilgrimage economy and infrastructure in the village of Gogameri, India, and Hindu-Muslim competition over the right to perform pilgrimage rituals in the village’s regionally important tomb of the god/saint Gogaji. I will look at how networks of priests, monks, government and NGO officials, and local scholars draw from circulating discourses, objects, practices, and capital in order to garner pilgrims’ support for their projects. These networks attempt to do this by styling their initiatives in accordance with pilgrims’ bodily-sensorial encounters with divinity at Gogameri’s tomb-complex. Such styling in turn reconfigures the narratives and character of the trans-local, trans-historical genealogies (Hinduism, Islam, the Indian nation) speakers claim for Gogaji, themselves, and pilgrims. I will use ethnographic vignettes of local micro-politics and multi-sensory perceptions of the criteria of divinity (both at this pilgrimage site, as well as in the home temples, ashrams, and neighborhoods—in Agra and Delhi—of two pilgrim communities centrally involved in Gogmeri’s projects and debates) to ask after the constitutive role played by such bodily-sensorial recognition in the enunciation, spread, and reception of neoliberal development, nationalism, and secularism. In addition to conducting fieldwork extensively in Gogameri, and for shorter periods in Agra and Delhi, I will also travel to other important monasteries and pilgrimage sites in India with the often mobile monks of Gogameri’s monastery, and back and forth to the Rajasthan State’s Department of Religious Sites in Bikaner, Rajasthan, with its officials stationed in Gogameri: both of whom also figure predominantly in development projects and contestations over ritual space in the village.