Roundtable - Invited Status Awarded
Invited by: Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Resilience
Secondary Theme: Ethics
This Author-meets-Critics roundtable considers the new book by Tulasi Srinivas, The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder (Duke University Press, 2018). In this book, Srinivas explores a wonderful world where deities jump fences and priests ride in helicopters to present a joyful, imaginative, yet critical reading of modern religious life. Drawing on nearly two decades of fieldwork with priests, residents, and devotees, and her own experience of living in the high-tech city of Bangalore, Srinivas finds moments where ritual enmeshes with global modernity to create wonder—a feeling of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime. Offering a nuanced account of how the ruptures of modernity can be made normal, enrapturing, and even comical in a city swept up in globalization's tumult, Srinivas brings the visceral richness of wonder—apparent in creative ritual in and around Hindu temples—into the anthropological gaze. Broaching provocative philosophical themes like desire, complicity, loss, time, money, technology, and the imagination, Srinivas pursues an interrogation of wonder and the adventure of writing true to its experience. The Cow in the Elevator rethinks the study of ritual while reshaping our appreciation of wonder's transformative potential for scholarship and for life. This session will bring a comparative perspective to the discussion on the book, with three critics with expertise on India and two with expertise on China: Ann Gold (Religion and ritual in India), Hanna Kim (religious subjectivity and transnational Hinduism), David A. Palmer (religion, modernity and globalization in China), Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan (environment and cities in India), and Robert Weller (ritual theory and Chinese religion).