chapter  25
12 Pages

Ritual, Religion and Aesthetics in the Pakistani and South Asian Diaspora 1

WithPnina Werbner

As transnational migrants settle in a new country, they transplant and naturalise cultural categories and practices, not simply because this is their ‘tradition’ or ‘culture’, but because as active agents they have a stake in particular aspects of their culture. The scholarly challenge, then, is one of conceptualising ritual and religious practice, observance and organisation as they respond in the diaspora to the dislocations and relocations of culture initiated by transnational migration. As a medium of social interaction, culture is not inert: it confers agency within a field of sociality and power relations. In this respect culture can be conceptualised first and foremost as a field of transaction and relatedness. Second, understood as performance, culture — in being embodied — is an experiential force. Finally, as a discursive imaginary of selfhood, identity, subjectivity and moral virtue, culture constitutes a field of political power. In these three senses, the cultures of immigrants are ‘real’, a force generating social conflict, defensive mobilisation and creativity. And because this is so, such cultures cannot be either reified, frozen in time or space, or simply dismissed. 2