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“On Thursdays We Worship the Banana Plant”: Encountering Lived Hinduism in a Canadian Suburb

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Classic models of ethnography have the anthropologist going off into “the field” to encounter “the native.” How is the project of ethnography altered when one's field site is one's own city? This paper draws on fieldwork in a Canadian city to probe the entailments of conducting anthropological research in one's own backyard, throwing the conventional understanding of the ethnographer into question. What does this type of encounter reveal about the Othering process that is so often inherent in the ethnographic project? Unexamined notions of the anthropologist's role are challenged in ways both necessary and unnerving, blurring conventional boundaries of home and field. Such “dis-orientalization” is crucial to reaching a more honest position vis-à-vis the individuals and communities to whom ethnographers bring their questions. The various confusions it presents are generative. By foiling attempts at tidy categorizations, these encounters speak of the multiplicity and fluidity of lived religious identities and experiences.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa;, Email: gunn@gmail.com

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