Past Event

A talk by Carla Bellamy (Baruch)

February 13, 2023
4:15 PM - 5:45 PM
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A talk by Carla Bellamy

”India's Iron Cage?  Astrology, Shanidev, and Devotional Religion”

Time:  4:15pm - 5:45pm

Location:  Room 208 Knox Hall, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont

Moderated by Katherine Ewing (Religion; Director, South Asia Institute)

Abstract: Astrology in contemporary India has been professionalized, but it has also been popularized through accessible apps and YouTube channels dispensing DIY astrology advice.  In this talk, I will link both of these trends to the liberalization of the Indian economy.  Drawing on field work with Delhi-based astrologers, YouTube channels, and related publications and ephemera, I will discuss the ways in which the liberalization of the Indian economy has impacted the concept of karma in astrological discourse and the implications of this shift. I will also engage with Weber’s arguments about rationalization to explore what I see as the central paradox of these discourses, namely, their attempt to fuse the highly scientific with the highly emotive.  What might these changes in astrological discourse suggest about notions of selfhood vis-à-vis caste identity among India’s growing middle classes?

Carla Bellamy is Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York and current chair of the Columbia University Seminar on South Asia. In 2018, she was a Visiting Professor at L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and she has served as the co-chair of the Religion in South Asia section of the American Academy of Religion. Her current research explores the lived realities behind the politicized terrain of religious and caste identity in contemporary India and the effects of economic liberalization on everyday religious practices, caste identities, and lives.   She is the author of The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place (University of California Press: 2011).  Recent publications include “Being Muslim the Chippa Way: Caste Identity as Islamic Identity in a Low-Caste Indian Muslim Community” (Contributions to Indian Sociology, 55(2), 224–253) and "Is All Politics Local? Neighborhood Shrines and Religious Healing in Contemporary India" (Modern Sufis and the State: The Politics of Islam in South Asia and Beyond, edited by Kathleen Pratt Ewing and Rosemary R. Corbett, Columbia University Press, 2020).