Normalization, Abjection, and Enrichment
This chapter examines how “religion” circulates from margin to center and back, starting in the remote villages of the upper Himalayas, traveling through a small regional city and into the state capital, only to return to where it started. This circle is a hermeneutic, as much spatial as historical, that uncovers how religion and the city become problems in need of definition, defense, or reform. As this circuit feeds back on itself, centripetal forces draw in energy and inspiration from colonial reformulations of Hinduism, new forms of governmental and spatial organization, and an ascendant cosmopolitan subjectivity. Individuals and institutions embody and exploit “secular” post-Enlightenment critiques of religion even as they attempt to preserve and celebrate the region's religious heritage. These media reflect a normalized recension of Himachali religion authored by urbanized elites and authorized by a constellation of interdependent forces (the modern state, neoliberal economics, and global visual norms) that reproduce themselves in the subtlest desires and imaginations of the people they represent, producing new styles of relating to oneself and to others.
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