Hinduism and the internet: a selected annotated bibliography.
Article Type: Bibliography
Subject: Internet (Bibliography)
Hinduism (Bibliography)
Author: Chopra, Rohit
Pub Date: 03/01/2012
Publication: Name: Communication Research Trends Publisher: Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture ISSN: 0144-4646
Issue: Date: March, 2012 Source Volume: 31 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Computer Subject: Internet
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 285994486
Full Text: Nesbitt, Eleanor. (2006). Locating British Hindus' sacred space. Contemporary South Asia, 15 (2), 195-208.

Nesbitt's study, though not centered on the Internet, examines British Hindu notions of sacred space. She looks at the significance of religious shrines in domestic spaces, arguing that, in addition to public places of worship, these are also important sites of religious practice. Pilgrimage to sites and the imperative of building temples have increasingly become prominent among Hindus in the UK, though Nesbitt notes ambivalence on the part of some British Hindus about going to temples. In the context of this larger discussion, Nesbitt points out that British Hindus incorporate cyberspace within the broad ambit of sacred space. Through websites, British Hindus can either participate in online pujas or rituals of worship or can place orders for worship on their behalf in specified Indian temples. These developments also entail shifts of authority from traditional religious authorities like priests to the programmers and engineers who maintain these sites.

Kurien, Prema A. (2006). Multiculturalism and "American" religion: The case of Hindu Indian Americans. Social Forces, 85(2), 723-741.

Kurien examines the institutional formation and public presence of Hindu Indian American organizations in terms of American policies related to multiculturalism and religion. Her examination is based on a detailed analysis of online forums and spaces dedicated to Hindu, and more generally, Indian, matters. She identifies the importance of the Internet in this domain for Hindu Americans since the year 2000. The article centers on the dynamics of self-definition among Hindu Americans, exploring their activist strategies. It shows the contestations between Hindu Americans and, broadly, mainstream American society as represented by media or business over definitions of Hindu identity, as well as contestations between different Hindu American groups over such definitions. The events and cases chronicled and assessed by Kurien in the course of her analysis show the centrality of the Internet as a site for mobilizing Hindu Americans, for discussing key matters of importance for Hindu American identity, for voicing and articulating protests and generating visibility about Hindu American causes.

Scheifinger, Heinz. (2009). Conceptualising Hinduism. Asia Research Institute Working Paper Series 110, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore. Retrieved February 17, 2012 from http://ssrn.com/abstrac t=1468282

Scheifinger analyzes online images of Hinduism within a broader discussion of the conceptual problems involved in defining the practice and phenomenon of Hinduism. Working through issues of definition and terminology through an engagement with scholars of Hinduism, and noting the heterogeneity of Hinduism which complicate the use of any term, he posits, however, that the term "Hinduism" is viable as a category. Scheifinger then proceeds to analyze online representations of Hinduism through the optic of Jean Baudrillard's theory of simulacra. The theory, as indeed similar arguments posed by Manuel Castells, identify the centrality of the virtual or symbolic in what we consider "reality." For Baudrillard, the simulacra becomes reality while for Castells reality is contiguous with the representational realm of the symbolic. Both thinkers see this as a feature of human existence that predates the current hypermediated age. Scheifinger argues, however, that this does not apply to the Hindu practice of viewing deities or darshan. While theoretically the act of viewing deities or darshan online would seem to conform to this argument, the reality is more complex. It is "the particular deity which gives meaning to the online image." Thus, given the centrality of the original, the fact of images being available online does not indicate a shift in meanings of the real for Hindus, and is unlikely to effect any major shift in Hinduism.

Helland, Christopher. (2010). (Virtually) been there, (virtually) done that: Examining the online religious practices of the Hindu tradition. Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet, 4(1), 148-150. [Special issue "Religions on the Internet--Aesthetics and the Dimensions of the Senses"]

This brief essay introduces a section on Hinduism, consisting of three contributions, in the special issue of the journal dedicated to aesthetic and sensory dimensions of religious expression in cyberspace. Pointing to a long relationship between Hinduism and technology, Hellands notes that "online religious activity within Hinduism is flourishing" (p. 148). Noting the fundamentally contradictory character of virtual and embodied modes of religious worship and practice, Helland describes how each of the three essays approaches the phenomenon.

Phyllis K. Herman's contribution, "Seeing the divine through windows: Online puja and virtual religious experience" (pp. 151-178), addresses the practice of electronic or e-darshan locating the experience of religious connection against the backdrop of a web of relations between devotees and institutional actors at the ShreeSwaminarayan Temple in California. Nicole Karapanagiotis' essay, "Vaishnava cyber-puja: Problems of purity and novel ritual solutions" (pp. 179-195), examines how worshippers negotiate and work through the dual, apparently conflicting, status of the computer and the Internet as simultaneously sacred and secular / mundane in their practice of the online worship of Vishnu. As the title of his essay "Hindu embodiment and the Internet" (pp. 196-219) suggests, Heinz Scheifinger, engages with the issue of the importance of embodiment in Hindu religious practice. understandings of the body in Hindu religious tradition do not square with the idea of online religious worship, though Hindu worship in cyberspace is a fact. Scheifinger's analysis points to the abiding importance of the fact of embodiment for Hindu devotees.

Rohit Chopra

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