Title

The All World Gayatri Pariwar: Religion, Science, and the Body in Modern India

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religion

Advisor(s)

Joanne P. Waghorne

Keywords

Ethnography, Globalization, Hinduism, Middle Class, Religion, Science

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

The All World Gayatri Pariwar is a Hindu based reform movement based in Haridwar with a large following, especially in North India. One of the many noteworthy aspects of this movement is its extensive use of scientific authority. On the basis of seven months of ethnographic research at Shantikunj, the main ashram of the Gayatri Pariwar, I seek to understand the role of scientific authority for the movement. In the Gayatri Pariwar, scientific discourses draw attention to the shared nature of the human body through a rhetoric that connects health and morality. This imparts a sense of universality to their practices, setting them up as technologies for building a healthy, moral, and coherent nation out of India's sometimes-fractious diversity. This strategy has roots in late colonial and early postcolonial India, but is as relevant as ever in the contemporary period. Not only does it have substantial appeal to the rapidly growing number of Indians who have been educated in science, technology, or related fields, but it also carries with it the promise that the Gayatri Pariwar can project its scientifically universalized practices through global communication networks.

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