Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

A Disobedient Diaspora: Living Hinduism in Osdorp, Amsterdam

This project explores the religious lives of a Surinamese Hindu community practicing in Amsterdam at the Sri Radha Krishna Mandir from an interdisciplinary perspective.

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Making use of original ethnographic fieldwork, comparative philosophy, and social history, I aim to examine closely the migration trajectory of Hindus into Suriname as well as into the Netherlands while also drawing scholarly attention to the Surinamese diaspora as a vibrant site of living Hinduism.

I begin by challenging the established projections of ‘Hinduness as Indianness’ inscribed by colonial officials, missionaries and contemporary Hindu nationalists worldwide who pinpoint India as Hinduism’s authentic homeland--this connection between Indianness and Hinduness has also been used to politically and socially isolate people in India who are not identified as ‘Hindus’. In order to engage in what Walter D. Mignolo calls epistemic disobedience and counter such projections of what it means to be Hindu, my project calls into question the very idea of a homeland when studying the Hindu diaspora by building on the idea of ‘diaspora’ as a mode of consciousness rather than a spatio-temporal location.

By examining non-dual philosophy from the school of Hindu Advaita (absolute non-dualism) and critically connecting it to theories of being in the post-colonial and postmodern tradition, I argue that the Hindu philosophical tradition itself does not differentiate ‘home’ from ‘diaspora’--nor does it differentiate ‘authentic’ from ‘inauthentic’ forms of Hindu practice and belief.

As well as a philosophical critique, my work is an ethnographic study that explores how practitioners conceive of the link between Hinduism and a geographic homeland.

As well as field work in Amsterdam, my project will take me to the Nickerie region and Paramaribo in Suriname.

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