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Dressing (for) God: clothing as ‘efficacious intimacy’ in Iskcon

Mohan, U; (2015) Dressing (for) God: clothing as ‘efficacious intimacy’ in Iskcon. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis investigates clothing as subjectivating practices of contemporary Hindu bhakti or devotion, and a means of figuration that shapes the divine, human and social body in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon). Iskcon’s social body is analysed as a territorialising space of motions and emotions that uses a network of bodies-and-materials to manipulate technological efficacy and control the flow of divinity. Technology, or the study of techniques, is approached as an aid in the creation and maintenance of devotional values and relationships. Devotion is further qualified as ‘efficacious intimacy’, a sensorial and emotional rapport with the divine that creates a channel for connection, exchange and the possibility of salvation. Viewed through a textual lens, Iskcon’s global expansion and preaching is associated with scripture. Instead, I suggest that philosophical concepts have to be negotiated in daily practice and that devotees rely equally on the non-discursive efficacy of materials and actions. Devotees experience the potency and presence of the sacred through the tangibility of the deity’s form and physical properties, and the intangibility of qualities elicited through praxis and innovation. Actions of dressing and dressmaking transform devotees by mediating the porous boundaries between self and world, creating intersubjective relationships and shaping people in a situated manner. By tracing the distinct moods of worship across the space of the temple and the home and the clothing of human and deity bodies, I argue that devotion is an everyday process of orientation and scaling. Such processes can help emplace devotees in a contemporary religioscape by relating categories of interior/exterior and worldly/other-worldly. I propose that the study of clothing as devotion can help us understand how people use materials to relate to the divine, and shed light on notions of value and efficacy that bind a global religious community.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Dressing (for) God: clothing as ‘efficacious intimacy’ in Iskcon
Event: University College London
Language: English
Keywords: religion, embodiment, materiality, clothing, Hinduism, subjecthood, praxeology, techniques
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473069
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