• The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder

    Pages: 296
    Illustrations: 29 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
  • Cloth: $99.95 - In Stock
  • Paperback: $25.95 - In Stock
  • Quantity
  • Add To Bag
  • A Note on Translation  xi
    Acknowledgments  xiii
    O Wonderful!  xix
    Introduction. Wonder, Creativity, and Ethical Life in Bangalore  1
    Cranes in the Sky  1
    Wondering about Wonder  6
    Modern Fractures  9
    Of Bangalore's Boomtown Bourgeoisie  13
    My Guides into Wonder  16
    Going Forward  31
    1. Adventures in Modern Dwelling  34
    A Cow in an Elevator  34
    Grounded Wonder  37
    And Ungrounded Wonder  39
    Back to Earth  41
    Memorialized Cartography  43
    "Dead-Endu" Ganesha  45
    Earthen Prayers and Black Money  48
    Moving Marble  51
    Building Wonder  56
    Interlude: Into the Abyss  58
    2. Passionate Journeys: From Aesthetics to Ethics  60
    The Wandering Gods  60
    Waiting . . .  65
    Moral Mobility  69
    Gliding Swans and Bucking Horses  70
    The Pain of Cleaving  74
    And the Angry God  80
    Full Tension!  84
    Adjustments  86
    Life and . . .  91
    Ethical Wonders  92
    Interlude. Up in the Skyye  95
    3. In God We Trust: Economies of Wonder and Philosophies of Debt  99
    A Treasure Trove  99
    Twinkling Excess  107
    The Golden Calf  111
    A Promise of Plenitude  114
    "Mintingu" and "Minchingu"  119
    "Cash-a-carda?" Philosophies of Debt  128
    Soiled Money and the Makings of Distrust  131
    The Limits of Wonder  133
    4. Technologies of Wonder  138
    Animatronic Devi  138
    Deus Ex Machina  140
    The New in Bangalore  142
    The Mythical Garuda-Helicopter  143
    Drums of Contention  152
    Capturing Divine Biometrics  157
    Archiving the Divine  159
    Technologies of Capture  162
    FaceTiming God  164
    Wonder of Wonders  169
    5. Timeless Imperatives, Obsolescence, and Salvage  172
    "Times have Changed"  172
    The Untimeliness of Modernity  175
    Avelle and Ritu  178
    Slipping Away  181
    When Wonder Falls  183
    Time Lords  187
    Dripping Time  188
    The Future, The Past, and the Immortal Present  204
    Conclusion. A Place for Radical Hope  206
    Radical Hope  206
    Amazement in Turmeric  210
    The Need for Wonder  213
    Afterword. The Tenacity of Hope  216
    Notes  219
    References  247
    Index  265
  • "[The Cow in the Elevator] teased me into questioning what Srinivas has so beautifully and chillingly thought through for decades—wonder as an ethical practice."

    "Srinivas provides a lively lesson in religious originality with applications and implications far beyond Bangalore or India."


  • "[The Cow in the Elevator] teased me into questioning what Srinivas has so beautifully and chillingly thought through for decades—wonder as an ethical practice."

    "Srinivas provides a lively lesson in religious originality with applications and implications far beyond Bangalore or India."

  • "This pathbreaking book is about the politics of wonder in the ritual life of a Hindu neighborhood in a major Indian city. The book itself is a wondrously written treatment of the saturation of neoliberal lives by a radical cosmology of performance, affect, and technicity, through which ritual life transfigures the pains and puzzles of modernity. It should be read by all students of ritual, affect, and emergent practices of globalization." — Arjun Appadurai, author of, Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger

    “Brilliant and erudite, The Cow in the Elevator emerges from Tulasi Srinivas's long-term commitment to making sense of religious life in urbanizing, high-tech India. With ethnographic verve and a keen ear for diverse voices, Srinivas tells lively stories of the Hindu priests and devotees who improvise on existing ritual forms in contemporary Bengaluru. Theorizing the human need for wonder and exploring how ritual may generate wonder in changing circumstances, The Cow in the Elevator is a wondrous book.” — Kirin Narayan, author of, Everyday Creativity: Singing Goddesses in the Himalayan Foothills

  • Permission to Photocopy (coursepacks)

    If you are requesting permission to photocopy material for classroom use, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center at copyright.com;

    If the Copyright Clearance Center cannot grant permission, you may request permission from our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Permission to Reprint

    If you are requesting permission to reprint DUP material (journal or book selection) in another book or in any other format, contact our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).


    Many images/art used in material copyrighted by Duke University Press are controlled, not by the Press, but by the owner of the image. Please check the credit line adjacent to the illustration, as well as the front and back matter of the book for a list of credits. You must obtain permission directly from the owner of the image. Occasionally, Duke University Press controls the rights to maps or other drawings. Please direct permission requests for these images to permissions@dukeupress.edu.
    For book covers to accompany reviews, please contact the publicity department.

    Subsidiary Rights/Foreign Translations

    If you're interested in a Duke University Press book for subsidiary rights/translations, please contact permissions@dukeupress.edu. Include the book title/author, rights sought, and estimated print run.

    Disability Requests

    Instructions for requesting an electronic text on behalf of a student with disabilities are available here.

    Rights & Permissions Contact Information

    Email: permissions@dukeupress.edu
    Email contact for coursepacks: asstpermissions@dukeupress.edu
    Fax: 919-688-4574
    Duke University Press
    Rights and Permissions
    905 W. Main Street
    Suite 18B
    Durham, NC 27701

    For all requests please include:
    1. Author's name. If book has an editor that is different from the article author, include editor's name also.
    2. Title of the journal article or book chapter and title of journal or title of book
    3. Page numbers (if excerpting, provide specifics)
    For coursepacks, please also note: The number of copies requested, the school and professor requesting
    For reprints and subsidiary rights, please also note: Your volume title, publication date, publisher, print run, page count, rights sought
  • Description

    In The Cow in the Elevator Tulasi Srinivas explores a wonderful world where deities jump fences and priests ride in helicopters to present a joyful, imaginative, yet critical reading of modern religious life. Drawing on nearly two decades of fieldwork with priests, residents, and devotees, and her own experience of living in the high-tech city of Bangalore, Srinivas finds moments where ritual enmeshes with global modernity to create wonder—a feeling of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime. Offering a nuanced account of how the ruptures of modernity can be made normal, enrapturing, and even comical in a city swept up in globalization's tumult, Srinivas brings the visceral richness of wonder—apparent in creative ritual in and around Hindu temples—into the anthropological gaze. Broaching provocative philosophical themes like desire, complicity, loss, time, money, technology, and the imagination, Srinivas pursues an interrogation of wonder and the adventure of writing true to its experience. The Cow in the Elevator rethinks the study of ritual while reshaping our appreciation of wonder's transformative potential for scholarship and for life.

    About The Author(s)

    Tulasi Srinivas is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College, author of Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism through the Sathya Sai Movement, and coeditor of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food, and South Asia.
Explore More

Sign up for Subject Matters email updates to receive discounts, new book announcements, and more.


Create a reading list or add to an existing list. Sign-in or register now to continue.

Contact Us

  • Duke University Press
  • 905 W. Main St. Ste 18-B
  • Durham, NC 27701
  • U.S. phone (toll-free): 888-651-0122
  • International: 1-919-688-5134
  • orders@dukeupress.edu