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The Body As The Locus Of Religious Identity: Examples From Western India

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Chapter Summary

To emphasize the cultural aspect of conversion is to challenge the assumption of the obvious superiority and nobility of sincere, individual and free conversion, indeed to call into question the very possibility of the neutral space that allows such radical freedom of choice. It is to accept that religious identity is always shaped in cultural contexts where, as Talal Asad reminds us, power is always being wielded. This chapter presents three examples of the way Indians traditionally viewed the body as the bearer of marks of identity. These examples are drawn from Maharashtra, a state in modern western India where the majority of the people speak Marathi, an Indo-European language that shows some influences from bordering south Indian tongues.

Keywords: cultural identity; Maharashtra; religious identity; western India



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