In the context of the South Indian Gaṅgamma grāmadevata (village goddess) tradition, this article asks: what can ethnographers learn by thinking theologically, an orientation that is identified as theological ethnography. Within this analytic perspective, the ethnographer looks and listens for ways in which worshipers ritually perform and narrate their own theologies about the goddess, but does not create theological analyses for that community. The article further asks what we can learn about the goddess—her agency and its limits, the ways in which she acts and moves in the human world, her desires, and her motivations to possess devotees—by listening to personal narratives of women so possessed. These narratives are forms of vernacular theology and imply a dialogic agency between humans and goddess. They help us to answer what both the goddess and humans gain (and may lose) when Gaṅgamma enters the human world through possession in/of and in the presence of human bodies. To imagine, describe, and analyze a world in which gods/goddesses are active agents is a theological move, and also one mode of good ethnography.
International Journal of Hindu Studies – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 11, 2017
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