Kultur- und Religionsgeschichte Südasiens
Cultural and Religious History of South Asia



Tue. 18th Jan., 2022
16:15-17:45 Hrs.

CATS, Building 4010,
Room no. 06, (010.00.06)

This is a hybrid event.

Meeting ID: 832 6480 4133
Passcode: 737844

Abteilungskolloquium (WiSe 2021/22) | Colloquium (Winter Semester 2021/22)

▍ From Uncanny to a Manufactured Hiatus: Who is Goddess Mariam'man During the World Pandemic?

Sona Prabhakaran
(PhD Candidate)

I had just begun my second round of fieldwork in mid-February when the news of a novel Coronavirus was facetiously looming in India’s public discourses. The people of Valaṅkaimāṉ, my ethnographic field site, were unswervingly immersed in the preparations for the annual temple festival for their guardian goddess, Māriyam'maṉ, whilst positioning themselves as mere spectators (although not silently) to witness lives outside of India swirl in a state of pandemonium. Considering that India remained unscathed by the magnitudinal havoc wreaked by COVID-19 for a while, the people of Valaṅkaimāṉ, were able to socially differentiate, disengage, and perceive the shattering ‘realities’ transpiring outside the subcontinent as a phenomenon that existed at the margins. The discursive process of ‘othering’ that temporarily coalesced in the field was conceived for the simple reason that this phenomenon did not (yet) constitute their ‘reality’, and therefore, the severity of the pandemic did not appear to affect the larger sense field of the villagers. With the goddess acting as the supreme protector, the inhabitants of my field site were convinced that their quotidian life and ‘reality’ was immune to the repercussions of a global pandemic. In this presentation, I shall attempt to evaluate why despite the severity of the pandemic the inhabitants of my field site were convinced that the Spatio-temporal constellation of their embodied reality would remain unperturbed at a time when certain parts of the world were already experiencing a sudden rupture in their ontology framing. In continuation, I shall also problematise a series of events that unfolded when the village folks feared the possibility of an ‘ontological switch’ in their order of ‘reality’ when their guardian deity became the locus of tension. With Goddess Māriyam'maṉ positioned as one of the organizing principles through which the people perceived and engaged with their social world, this paper shall explore how the violent infusion of a new transgressive order appeared to reshape, simultaneously crystalise, and negate a few older subject positions of the goddess.


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