• The Cow in the Elevator: An Anthropology of Wonder

    Author(s):
    Pages: 296
    Illustrations: 29 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
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  • 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
     
  • "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

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  • 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.
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