The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple / Edition 1

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Corinne Dempsey profiles an unusual South Indian temple community in Rush, New York, outside Rochester. The temple, established by a charismatic non-Brahman Sri Lankan Tamil, stands out for its combination of orthodox ritual meticulousness and socioreligious iconoclasm. The vitality with which devotees participate in ritual themselves and their ready access to the deities contrasts sharply with ritual activities at most North American Hindu Temples, where (following the usual Indian custom) ritual is performed only by priests and access to the highly sanctified divine images is closely guarded. Drawing on several years of contact with the guru and his followers, Dempsey uses the Rush temple's surprising success to analyze the distinctive dynamics of diaspora Hinduism, including issues of gender and caste, ethnic community, and spiritual enthusiasm.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Highly recommended." —Choice

"Dempsey's study of an unconventional, but successful, Hindu temple community in upstate New York reveals important dynamics of diaspora Hinduism. These include issues of gender and caste, ethnic community, and spiritual enthusiasm — the last of which, especially, has been little treated in current studies of the South Asian diaspora. Just as important, by demonstrating vividly both the logic of tantric ritual and the power devotees see in it, Dempsey offers important insights into Hindu tradition generally. Her engaging writing, together with the perceptive questions she raises, should make her book one that will absorb students and scholars alike."—Daniel Gold, author of Aesthetics and Analysis in Writing on Religion: Modern Fascinations

"Corinne Dempsey's study of the Rush Temple in Rochester, New York makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the fluidity of modern religious life amongst dispora Hindus. For the scholar of religion, the book is full of interesting and illuminating examples of rituals, beliefs, and temple practices that make the Rush Temple unique and an important case study."—Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"Dempsey illuminates how this particular congregation negotiates domestic and foreign sensibilities, religious and scientific worldviews, and intergenerational expectations. Her historic, comparative, and self-reflexive insights help locate this temple not only in the history of Hinduism but in contemporary North American religiosity and religious studies more generally." —Journal of Religion

"The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York provides an engaging and accessible portrait of a thriving Hindu temple in Rush, New York, foregrounding the ethos of its charismatic founder through a thoughtful discussion of key topics. ...[A] fine study." —Journal of Asian Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195187304
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 885,280
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Corinne G. Dempsey is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. Her first book, Kerala Christian Sainthood: Collisions of Culture and Worldview in South India (OUP, 2001), won the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies award for best monograph in Hindu-Christian studies, 2000-2002.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : a temple trip 3
Pt. I Encounters with divinity : ritual power and miracles
1 Temple entryways 15
2 Perspectives on ritual power : the cost, science, and grace of divinity 33
3 Visions and versions of the miraculous 57
Pt. II The work of a guru : bridge building and boundary breaking
4 Maverick guru with a cause 83
5 The changing faces of temple worship : the young, the women, and the rest 105
6 A fine balance : the give and take of religious discipline 129
Pt. III Temple inhabitants : making home in a world of impermanence
7 Grounding the sacred : traveling deities and sanctified terrain 149
8 Expanding turf for racial and religious others 169
9 Making home at the Sri Rajarajeswari pitham 191
Conclusion : a good place to start 209
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