CAS-E Lecture Series with Dr. Monika Hirmer (CAS-E fellow), “Śrīvidyā Goes West: Continuities and Transformations in Cross-Cultural Encounters”

“Śrīvidyā Goes West: Continuities and Transformations in Cross-Cultural Encounters”

Dr. Monika Hirmer (CAS-E fellow)

South Asians make humans divine, Westerners make Devī [the Goddess] human’: with these words Rajeswaramma, senior priestess in a South Indian Śrīvidyā temple complex centered around the benevolent and erotic goddess Tripurasundarī, summarizes her impressions of the tantric paths followed by South Asian practitioners on the one hand and Westerners on the other. Popularized in the West by Osho in the 1970s, esoteric paths that build in various ways on ancient South Asian tantric traditions are increasingly attracting international followers with their open approach to sex and the promise of worldly powers, leading to cross-cultural encounters and adaptations of various kinds. In this lecture I will present preliminary findings on the continuities and transformations of Śrīvidyā as it is transposed from its South Asian contexts into Western settings. Through praxis-oriented fieldwork, I examine how the tradition is practiced in a range of contemporary Western contexts including the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. As this study complements my earlier project on the practice of Śrīvidyā in contemporary southern India, it will provide a comparative perspective. Combining anthropology, philosophy, and religious studies, this project: a) provides an ethnographic documentation of Śrīvidyā in Western contexts; b) discusses, through a genealogical-archeological lens, what bodies, conceptions of humanness/divinity and existentiality are necessary for ritual efficacy; and c) compares cross-culturally how Śrīvidyā beingness unfolds in South India and in Western contexts.


30.01.2024- 18:15-19:45


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