In this lecture, I present the basic framework laid out in my book The Emergence of Modern Hinduism (University of California Press, 2019). The book argues for the importance of regional, vernacular innovation in processes of Hindu modernization. Scholars usually trace the emergence of modern Hinduism to cosmopolitan reform movements, producing accounts that overemphasize the centrality of elite religion and the influence of Western ideas and models. Here I examine religious change on the margins of colonialism by looking at an important local figure, the Tamil Shaiva poet and mystic Ramalinga Swami (1823–1874). I argue for a history of Hindu modernization that demonstrates the transformative role of Hindu ideas, models, and institutions.
Rick Weiss is Adjunct Professor of South Asian religions at Victoria University of Wellington, and Guest Professor of Modern History at Heidelberg University. His book Recipes for Immortality: Medicine, Religion, and Community in South India (Oxford University Press, 2009) examines the religious and nationalism dimensions of traditional siddha medicine. His second book, The Emergence of Modern Hinduism: Religion on the Margins of Colonialism (University of California Press, 2019), argues for the importance of regional, vernacular innovation in processes of Hindu modernization. His newest project examines the impact of print technology on religion in nineteenth-century India.