February 1, 2018 at 10:15 pm

Gawande Lecture | Touching God: Charisma, Proxemic Desire, and Haptic Logics of the Guru Disciple Relationship, Feb. 8

The Gawande Lecture Series in Indian Religion and Philosophy and the Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies Spring Colloquium present Dr. Amanda Lucia discussing “Touching God: Charisma, Proxemic Desire, and the Haptic Logics of the Guru Disciple Relationship” on Thursday, Feb. 8, from 4 to 5:15 p.m. in the WGSS Conference Room at 31 S. Court St.

Light refreshments will be served.

Dr. Amanda Lucia, portrait

Dr. Amanda Lucia

In this talk, Lucia analyzes how the religiously devout desire proximity to that which is deemed sacred. Focusing within the context of South Asian gurus, Lucia’s ethnographic field research shows how this desire manifests socially in devotees’ attempts to touch the guru, to be close to the guru, to eat the guru’s leftover food, to wear what the guru has worn, to sleep where the guru has slept, and so on. This talk analyzes how these disciplinary logics of physicality, what she terms haptic logics, govern guru communities and reinforce devotees’ desire for proximity to the guru by sacralizing physical contact with the guru. Lucia suggests that this sacralizing of physical contact with an authoritarian charismatic figure creates social situations that are readied forums for sexual abuse. She reveals how this confluence of the sacred, power, and physicality leads to the proliferation of sex abuse scandals among various charismatic leaders.

Lucia is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at University of California, Riverside, where she is Co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Immigration and Religion. Her current book project deconstructs the popular category of “spirituality” by investigating its construction and performance in yoga and transformational festivals. Her first book, Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace (2014) investigated transnationalism and gender in a global guru movement.

More broadly, her research engages transnational, global Hinduism by focusing on religious migrations and movements established between North America and India since the early 19th century. After earning a B.A. in Religion and India Studies at Indiana University, she completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. Her current interests include guru authority and sexuality, the logics of bricolage spirituality, and the politics of cultural representation. Her articles have been published in History of Religions, the International Journal of Hindu Studies, the Journal of Hindu Studies, and CrossCurrents.


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