chapter  11
17 Pages

Conflicting paradigms

In this chapter, we continue to contemplate the importance of space in the construction of modern South Asian religion. Our focus shifts, however, from the turn of the century period to consider how religious space ‘becomes public’ in contemporary contexts. In making this shift in time, we need to develop a point made right at the end of the previous chapter: that notions of the public have developed rapidly over this period. The channels through which debates over religious space – and images and sounds associated with such space – are communicated have expanded and otherwise developed immeasurably since the days of Rokeya Hossain and Taribai Shinde, even if we have presented the work of these two as entering into very modern public spaces themselves. The case study of the TV Ramayan in Chapter 4 also gives us some idea of the impact of new forms of media on the representation of religious traditions. We might even say that these forms of media construct new public spaces. This is an idea that has been taken up by the influential social theorist Arjun Appadurai (1996), who uses the concept ‘mediascape’ to speak about the influence of forms of media on globalized imaginings of the contemporary world, particularly in relation to connections across diaspora communities. The potential implications here for the imagining of religious space are dramatic, and indeed some authors have worked with Appadurai’s ‘scape’ notion to produce the idea of ‘religioscapes’ (McAlister 2005) as religious maps formulated subjectively in global terms, through different contexts of media and mediation. The TV Ramayan is a good example of this, as it demonstrates the power of such new public spaces to shape broad perceptions of mythic texts (like the Ramayana) into representations ‘of religion’, in this case ‘of Hinduism’. As we move through this chapter we will deploy this idea of a religioscape as we look at how particular religious spaces have been imagined in global terms.