Tracking the Trajectory of Religious Material Culture in Tamil Nadu

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Dr Kala Shreen
Date: December 1, 2011
Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm

This paper provides a critical overview of select aspects of religious material culture among the people of Tamilnadu. It first discusses how materials are construed in the ritual context, their agency and efficacy and the continuities seen in the process of engagement between the people and the objects. Secondly, it deals with the changing dynamics of the engagement between the people and the ritual objects, the changing social lives of these objects and examines the processes of commoditization, aestheticization and appropriation. These changes have resulted in the circulation of ritual objects and the shifting boundaries between ritual objects and other categories like crafts, curio items, home collectibles and objects in public display on the one hand and transgressing caste/ethnic boundaries on the other hand. Finally, this paper also focuses on the shared material culture between Hindus and Christians in Tamilnadu during religious ceremonies and practices of worship which are explored using examples such as thali (sacred chain in the marriage ceremony), saris etc.

Kala Shreen is the Associate Dean – Research and Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences in MOP Vaishnav College, University of Madras, India. She is also the Initiator/Director of Cultural Dynamics and Emotions Network, Queen’s University Belfast, U.K.