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A Song for Jains or a Song for India: Contesting Narratives During the COVID-19 Crisis
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Heleen De Jonckheere
Chicago University, Belgium
This presentation examines the interaction of Jain religiosity and national sentiment on the popular level of Jainism in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. It will do so through a case study of a Jain popular song, which was created as a response to the everyday impact of the COVID-19 virus in India. In the presentation, I will analyse the song's YouTube video and lyrics, but also its reception and social media adaptation, in order to illustrate how digital media impact expressions of popular Jainism. This will demonstrate how the original form of the song contains a Jain interpretation of a health crisis that intersects with national discourse, and thus shows similarities with other Corona-songs. The analysis of its afterlife will illuminate how this popularising interpretation was co-opted within a narrative of national culture that leaves little space for a separate Jain identity. The paper will lead to conclusions on the strategies of a minority religion to embed itself within a wider national culture, with which tensions persist, and about the specific role of social media in such processes.