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Hinduism in Southeast Asia

What Does Diwali Celebrate? All Your Questions About The “Festival Of Lights,” Answered

Religion in Southeast Asia: An Encyclopedia of Faiths and Cultures
Jesudas M. Athyal (Editor)

This engaging encyclopedia covers the religions and religious traditions of various Southeast Asian countries, including Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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Cage of Freedom: Tamil Identity and the Ethnic Fetish in Malaysia
Andrew C. Williford

Based on nearly three years of ethnographic fieldwork in the little-studied Malaysian Tamil community, this book captures the challenges and dilemmas facing an ethnic and religious minority in the context of state-driven ethnic and religious nationalism. A resurgence of Tamil Hindu religious practice is analyzed within contemporary Malaysia in light of a state-driven ideology of modernist Islam. Bringing together detailed and sometimes personal ethnographic accounts of Tamil public and private rituals across a broad spectrum of class and status, the contemporary dynamics of ethnic politics and relations in Malaysia is understood through various historical and political economic forces in the postcolonial period. In doing so, Andrew C. Willford shows how contemporary Tamil Hindu subjectivity in Malaysia has a distinct historical trajectory, and argues that the figure of the “Indian” (Tamil) is one of the missing keys in understanding a broader pattern of ethnic relations and nationalism in this country. The result is an intimate portrait of the anxieties and desires of a diasporic community.

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Religion and Commodification: ‘Merchandising’ Diasporic Hinduism
Vineeta Sinha

Sustaining a Hindu universe at an everyday life level requires an extraordinary range of religious specialists and ritual paraphernalia. At the level of practice, devotional Hinduism is an embodied religion and grounded in a materiality, that makes the presence of specific physical objects (which when used in worship also carry immense ritual and symbolic load) an indispensable part of its religious practices.

Traditionally, both services and objects required for worship were provided and produced by occupational communities. The almost sacred connection between caste groups and occupation/profession has been clearly severed in many diasporic locations, but importantly in India itself. As such, skills and expertise required for producing an array of physical objects in order to support Hindu worship have been taken over by clusters of individuals with no traditional, historical connection with caste-related knowledge. Both the transference and disconnect just noted have been crucial for the ultimate commodification of objects used in the act of Hindu worship, and the emergence of an analogous commercial industry as a result. These developments condense highly complex processes that need careful conceptual explication, a task that is exciting and carries enormous potential for theoretical reflections in key fields of study.

Using the lens of ‘visuality’ and ‘materiality,’ Sinha offers insights into the everyday material religious lives of Hindus as they strive to sustain theistic, devotional Hinduism in diasporic locations–particularly Singapore, Malaysia, and Tamilnadu–where religious objects have become commodified.

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Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
John Guy

Numerous Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished in Southeast Asia from the 5th to the 9th century, yet until recently few concrete details were known about them. Lost Kingdoms reveals newly discovered architectural and sculptural relics from this region, which provide key insights into the formerly mysterious kingdoms. The first publication to use sculpture as a lens to explore this period of Southeast Asian history, Lost Kingdoms offers a significant contribution and a fresh approach to the study of cultures in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and other countries.

Authoritative texts by John Guy introduce more than 160 objects, extensively described and beautifully illustrated, together with essays by prominent scholars. Many of the objects have never before traveled outside their home countries. Gorgeous photography shot on location highlights each artwork, and maps and a glossary of place names elucidate their geographical context. A watershed study of Southeast Asia’s artistic and cultural legacy, Lost Kingdoms is an essential resource on a fascinating and enduring subject.

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