In Amma's Healing Room: Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India

In Amma's Healing Room: Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India

In Amma's Healing Room: Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India

In Amma's Healing Room: Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India

Synopsis

'In Amma's Healing Room' presents an ethnographic study of a charismatic Muslim woman healer whose practice crosses gender and religious boundaries.

Excerpt

This book is an ethnographic study of Islamic practices centered around a Muslim female spiritual healer, Amma, who lives and practices in the South Indian city of Hyderabad. Her healing practice represents a form of vernacular Islam as it has taken root in and grown out of a particular locality. Two features are particularly noticeable at this site of vernacular practice in Amma’s healing room: gender roles and negotiations and the ways in which Islam has taken shape in its Indian context. Because of Amma’s unusual ritual role as a female Muslim healer practicing in the public realm, many of the actors in the healing room articulate issues of gender roles and possibilities. As a woman, Amma has to continually recreate and maintain her authority as a healer to meet the ‘public’, which includes Hindus and Muslims, men and women. At the same time, many of her patients come to her because she is a woman who is thought to be more patient and loving than male healers.

A second characteristic of the healing room is that patients come to Amma for spiritual healing from several different Indian religious traditions: Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. For scholars and students of religion, this raises the question What makes religious healing possible across religious boundaries? One indigenous answer, as Amma gives it, is that in the healing room, these boundaries of difference collapse. Patients share a cosmology that articulates healing as a spiritual idiom in which spiritual beings or forces intervene in the physical and social world to cause illness. a ritual grammar is shared, and many narrative repertoires and motifs are shared across religious boundaries. At this level of spiritual practice, seemingly rigid boundaries between Indian religious traditions are porous and unsettled. In Ammas Healing Room is a study of particular . . .

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