Abstract: From theriomorphic deities to anthropomorphized talking companions, from divine consorts to creaturely saints, nonhuman animals have populated South Asian religious imaginaries for centuries. Sacred religious texts, epics, folktales, oral narratives, storytelling traditions, and performative genres from across a wide spectrum of religious affiliation and spiritual sensibilities have underscored the dynamic influence of nonhuman animals in shaping human discourses of ethics and morality. Whether it is the right-wing appropriation of the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman’s visual imagery, the communalization of bovine creatures by the proponents of sectarian politics, the material-symbolic instrumentalization of domesticated animal bodies during communal violence, or the institutionalization of ethnocentric masculinities through symbolic appropriation of animal-taming sports, religion-motivated appropriation of nonhuman animals animate contemporary social and political lives in South Asia. South Asian literary narratives are uniquely attentive to the discourses that emerge at the intersection of human and animal rights through cultural critique, appropriation, invocation, and reinterpretation of animals in religious discourses, alongside focusing on the contextual specificities of multispecies sociality. This panel analyzes the relationship between religion and nonhuman animals in South Asian literary cultures. By focusing on how South Asian oral and textual narratives represent nonhuman animals as sentient, agential beings in South Asian religious cultures, this panel will analyze the significance and implications of human-nonhuman interactions and multispecies cohabitation on the dissemination of religious knowledge.
Send 250-300 word abstract and a short bio to Sreyashi Ray (email@example.com) by 1st April, 2021.
Sreyashi Ray, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities