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Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asia

Price : $48.00
ISBN # : 9788120833722
Author : Frederick M. Smith
pages: 700
Edition : Hardcover
Volumes : 1
Publisher : Motilal Banarsidass
Published : 2009

This book, winner of CHOICE outstanding Academic Title Award 2007, is a multifaceted, diachronic study reconsidering the very nature of religion in South Asia, the culmination of years of intensive research. Frederick M. Smith proposes that positive oracular or ecstatic possession is the most common form of spiritual expression in India, and that it has been linguistically distinguished from negative, disease-producing possession for thousands of years. In South Asia possession has always been broader and more diverse than in the West, where it has been utmost entirely characterized as demonic. At best, spirit possession has been regarded as a medically treatable psychological ailment and at worst, as a condition that requires exorcism or punishment. In South (and East) Asia, ecstatic or oracular possession has been widely practiced throughout history, occupying a position of respect in early and recent Hinduism and in certain forms of Buddhism. Smith analyzes Indic literature from all ages the earliest Vedic texts; the Mahabharata; Buddhist, Jain, yogic, Ayurvedic, and Tantric texts; Hindu devotional literature; Sanskrit drama and narrative literatures; and more than a hundred ethnographies. He identifies several forms of possession including festival, initiatory, oracular, and devotional, and demonstrates their multivocality within a wide range of sects and religious identities. This comprehensive work should appear on the shelf of every serious scholar of South Asian religion. ...Smith shows how possession bears on issues of embodiment and disembodiment and, in particular, selfhood and personal identity. Possession appears in women and in men, and in members of all castes and social groupings; the author's discussion uses comparative elements from, e.g., Tibet, China, and the contemporary US. Beautifully illustrated and extensively documented, this study is a must for general, undergraduate, and graduate libraries. Ellison Banks Findly In this paradigm-shifting work, Frederick M. Smith not only situates 'permeable embodiment' at the core of a wide array of Vedic, devotional, Tantric, medical, literary, and vernacular traditions, but also tells us the reasons for its incongruous erasure from the normative discourse of Indian analytical thought. This work of breathtaking sweep and stunning erudition will force scholars to rethink the fundamental categories of self, person, body, and mind in South Asia. David White University of California, Santa Barbara The notion of possession, avesa, lies at the heart of all classical South Asian discussions of the internal economy of the mind. It remains a central theme today in ritual praxis and narrative throughout the subcontinent. ...Beginning with the Maussian distinction between 'person' and 'self, Smith traces both empirical and theoretical descriptions of altered states of consciousness, self-alienation, and pragmatic programs for achieving ecstasy and self-transcendence through 3,000 years of literary sources as well as modern ethnographies. This book opens up a whole new world. David Shulman Hebrew University

This book was added to South Asia bookstore on Tuesday 19 October, 2010.
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South Asia Books, located at Columbia, Missouri - mid-way between St Louis and Kansas City, USA, has since its start in 1969 evolved from a supplier of rare volumes from India and Pakistan to the major supplier for India related monographs for bookstores, wholesalers, libraries, and individuals.
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