Wonder in South Asia

Histories, Aesthetics, Ethics

Edited by Tulasi Srinivas

Subjects: India And South Asian Studies, Cultural Anthropology, Comparative Religion, Hindu Studies
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Hardcover : 9781438495286, 366 pages, November 2023
Paperback : 9781438495279, 366 pages, May 2024

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Wondering about Wonder: An Introduction
Tulasi Srinivas

Section 1. Histories of Wonder

1. Wonders Never Cease: An Ethnographic Panorama
Ann Grodzins Gold

2. Weird Tales: Ganesh, Idolatry, and the Golden Age of American Pulp Fiction
William Elison

3. Did the Masters of Disenchantment Ever Wonder? India in the Nineteenth-Century American Evangelical Imaginary
Mary Hancock

Section 2. Aesthetics of Wonder

4. Wonder: Spirit Mediumship and Devotional Music at a Mumbai Shrine of the Sidi Ancestor-Saints
Jazmin Graves Eyssallenne

5. Wonder as Affect on the Kuchipudi Stage
Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

6. In the Vicinity of Wonder: Thirunangai Devotees of Angalamman and Narratives of Moral Astonishment
Aniruddhan Vasudevan

7. Wonder in the Cremation Ground: The Affective and Transformative Dimensions of an Urban Tamil Festival
Amy L. Allocco

8. Economies of Wonder: The Production of Spectacle at the Kumbh Mela
Amanda Lucia

Section 3. Ethics of Wonder

9. Scarcity, Abundance, and Money at Muslim Saint Shrines in North India
Quinn A. Clark

10. On Wondrous Moments as the Basis for a Swaminarayan Ethics of Sociality
Hanna H. Kim

11. “Guruji Rocked . . . Duniya Shocked”: Wondertraps and the Camerawork Guruship of Dera Sacha Sauda Guru Dr. Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan
Jacob Copeman and Koonal Duggal
available via OpenAccess here

Conclusion The Worlds of Wonder
Tulasi Srinivas
List of Contributors

A comparative study of wonder in South Asian religions.


The experience of wonder—encompassing awe, bewilderment, curiosity, excitement, fear, dread, mystery, perplexity, reverence, surprise, and supplication—and the ineffable quality of that which is wondrous have been entwined in religion and human experience. Yet strangely, wonder in non-western societies, including South Asia, has rarely been acknowledged or understood. This groundbreaking volume brings together historians and ethnographers of South Asia, including leading and emerging scholars, to consider the place and meaning of wonder in such varied joyful, tense, and creative sites and moments as Sufi music performances in Gujarat, Tamil graveyard processions, trans women's charitable practices, Kipling's Orientalist tales, village Kuchipudi dance performances, and Rajasthani healing shrines. Offering a synthetic and scholarly reading of wonder that speaks to the political, aesthetic, and ethical worlds of South Asia, these essays redefine the nature and meaning of wonder and its worlds. Taken together, they provide an invaluable research tool for those in the fields of Asian religion, religion in context, and South Asian religions in particular.

Tulasi Srinivas is Professor of Anthropology, Religion, and Transnational Studies at Emerson College. She is the author of The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder and Winged Faith: Rethinking Religious Pluralism and Globalization through the Satya Sai Movement, and the coeditor, with Krishnendu Ray, of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food, and South Asia.


"Exploring manifold manifestations and encounters of wonder in various regions and religions of South Asia, this volume refines scholarly engagement with wonder both as a theoretical category that expands our understanding of South Asian religion and as a meaningful, affective constituent of the religious and ethnographic experience. The strength of the collection lies in the breadth of its case studies, which range across the subcontinent, and its depth of application within each of the chapters." — Caleb Simmons, author of Singing the Goddess into Place: Locality, Myth, and Social Change in Chamundi of the Hill, a Kannada Folk Ballad