Title

Spiritual itineraries: Journeying to self via "Sacred India"

Date of Award

6-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Maureen Trudelle Schwarz

Keywords

Spiritual itineraries, Journeying to self, India, Tourism, New Age

Subject Categories

Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies | Tourism

Abstract

My project, Spiritual Itineraries: Journeying to Self via Sacred India explores the reasons why India, in particular, is so often targeted among American spiritual seekers as a popular spiritual destination. Analyzing a contemporary form of seeking in the United States, often referred to as New Age Spirituality, I explore the cultural processes that mediate these exchanges---in terms of the consumption of identities, a global tourism industry, and a legacy of popular imaginings of Sacred India. This work examines how the idea of a sacred India entered the American imagination as a land of inherent spirituality and how relationships of power are obscured as this image attracts spiritual seekers to experience this place for themselves. Drawing on fieldwork conducted with American spiritual seekers who travel to India as an integral aspect of their own spiritual journeys, I follow the paths not merely from the United States to the South Asian subcontinent, but rather seek to explicate how this American image was created in the first place. I thereby relate the radically individualized and personal journeys of the participants to the historical and political relationship America has had with a notion of India as a social and spiritual counterpart.

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