Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Origin Stories in a Jamaican Hindu Temple: Creating an Inter-Religious Sensorium

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Magnolia, Lower Ground Floor

At the Sanatana Dharma temple, a diaspora Hindu temple in Jamaica, Hindu and Rastafarian attendees find commonalities that go beyond shared histories. Early struggles against British colonial rule created positive relationships between indentured Indian servants and recently emancipated African slaves through their common oppressive hardships. Indeed, Rastafarians locate the origin of their religious practices in the indentured Indian Hindu communities, where sadhus wore dreadlocks, marijuana was revered, and a strict vegetarian diet adhered to. Beyond these origin stories, and despite distinct definitions of their religious beliefs, Rastafarian and Hindu attendees of the Santana Dharma temple articulate their connection to each other with a completely different emphasis—one that attends to bodily comportment and sensory experience. This diaspora temple models a different approach to expanding relationships between religions by facilitating participation in temple rituals eschewing the worship of a specific deity or the recitation of particular scriptures. Instead through remembering shared histories evoked by pungent aromas, vibrant music and dance, the cooking and tasting of certain foods, and the exchanging of touch, a shared sensorium becomes the foundation for an affective economy belying representational models of religion that construct fixed assertions of identity. Situating the sensorium as a larger frame of reference to understand the expanding inter-religious relationships within the Sanatana Dharma Temple, this study proposes a revision of representationalist definitions, practices, and beliefs in the study of diaspora religion, using instead sensorial renderings of community that more accurately convey diaspora experiences.


Dasgupta Sutopa

Harvard University, United States

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1 - Origin Stories in a Jamaican Hindu Temple: Creating an Inter-Religious Sensorium



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