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Life After Death: Ritual and Placemaking in Old Delhi

Monday, October 24, 2022 at 12:15pm

Uris Hall, G08
Central Campus

Talk by Kalyani Devaki Menon 

In today’s India where we see the ascendance of Hindu supremacy, the increasing hegemony of upper-caste Hindu norms, escalating violence against religious minorities, and rising authoritarianism, the place for Muslims is shrinking. However, while these forces marginalize Muslims and threaten their place in contemporary India, they are not totalizing. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with diverse groups of Muslims in Old Delhi, I examine how religion provides one arena for Muslims to intervene in the political and counter the revanchist politics of the Hindu Right in India. The religious practices of Old Delhi’s Muslims imbue localities with particular cultural inflections and can be seen as modes of making place. Focusing on tensions that emerged between different groups of Muslim women over mourning rituals in Old Delhi, I explore how they not only index diverse constructions of ideal religious subjectivity, but also illustrate how Old Delhi’s diverse Muslim communities negotiate difference and construct belonging in contemporary India. In so doing, I analyze how rituals of death are also very much about life, providing an arena for Old Delhi’s Muslims to variously make place for themselves in India today.

Kalyani Devaki Menon is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at DePaul University. Her research focuses on religious politics in contemporary India. Her first book, Everyday Nationalism: Women of the Hindu Right in India, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2010. Her new book, Making Place for Muslims in Contemporary India, was published by Cornell University Press in 2022.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program, Anthropology


aaspcal, asianstudiescal, relstcal, cascal, cashum, anthro



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