The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place

By Carla Bellamy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Personae
Transgression, Otherness,
Cosmopolitanism, and Kinship

Analysis of religious and caste identity in India is, to say the least, fraught: a colonial legacy, ongoing communal violence, and the tenor of some public conversations about terrorism have all contributed to an academic climate of concern, caution, and careful introspection. In response to this situation, some recent scholarship on South Asian religion has critically reexamined the categories of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian and suggested that they are neither fixed nor foundational elements of South Asian individuals’ senses of self and community.1 More generally, scholarship on Indian society and religion has long grappled with the question of the extent to which individual identity is shaped by group identity, and whether or not the relationship between individual and group identity differs in Indian and non-Indian contexts.2 I have not yet related group identity or communalist discourses to pilgrims’ experiences at Ḥusain Ṭekrī in part because, as I have argued in preceding chapters, there is no consistent correlation between religious or caste identity and the ways in which the major ritual activities of Ḥusain Ṭekrī are practiced and understood. Pilgrims engage in the same practices regardless of background, and members of all communities exhibit a similar range of understandings about the efficacy of these practices. In fact, as chapters 3 and 4 in particular have shown, ḥu sain Ṭekrī’s major ritual activities have a strong dissociative effect on their practitioners, in which the physical and mental identities of the individual are either effaced (as in the consumption of lobān) or fragmented (as in the practice of khulī ḥāẓirī). Further, I have suggested that pilgrims at ḥusain

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