Living on the Edge of Culture: Religion, Art, and Folklore in the Indian Himalayas.
The mountainous region of the Indian Himalayas has captured the minds and hearts of Indians for thousands of years. It is considered the abode of Lord Shiva, the descending place of the great river-goddess Ganga, and a favored destination for religious seekers, meditating ascetics and contemporary tourists alike. In this course we will explore the history of this fascinating region, its social and religious life, as well as its folklore and art.
The aim of this course is to understand how cultural homogeneity is established over a period, conforming to the larger norms of the dominant society. In this case, we will examine the processes that transformed different societies and cultural identities over centuries to broadly fashion a rather homogeneous society. Bearing this in mind, the course traverses through historical periods to lay down the basis of cultural state; how this cultural state is contested and hegemonized; the theoretical models informing debates on Indian culture; the processes involved—like marginalization, co-option and creation of dominance—leading finally to the visual and aural productions—religion, art and music. The course contextualizes the processes by which social change takes place over period by bringing into discussion various sources: historical records (epigraphy, texts), paintings, temples and sculpture, and folklore. The discussion shall move back and forth from shepherds, peasants, artists, folklorists, and to state formation, as well as the inroads made by the religious traditions.