Pennington, Allocco publish book exploring rituals of South Asian religions

The book, "Ritual Innovation: Strategic Interventions in South Asian Religion," features 13 chapters written by renowned scholars of religion in South Asia.

Professor Brian K. Pennington and Associate Professor Amy L. Allocco in Elon's Department of Religious Studies Department at Elon have published a new book titled "Ritual Innovation: Strategic Interventions in South Asian Religion." This book explores how rituals of South Asian religions provide a lively platform for social change and innovation.

The book features 13 chapters written by renowned scholars of religion in South Asia covering four topics: ritual innovation and political power, economies of caste and class, the negotiation of gender through ritual, and ritual innovation in contemporary transnational contexts. In addition to curating the essays, editing the collection and spearheading the collaboration, Pennington and Allocco co-wrote the theoretical introduction and each contributed individual chapters based on their original research in India. 

Pennington’s piece studies a widow in the Himalayan pilgrimage city of Uttarkashi who developed a healing practice that helped her circumvent social limitations she faced. Allocco’s contribution focuses on the class, caste and gender dynamics of the innovative “flower-shower festival” that was imported into the ritual repertoire of a popular South Indian goddess temple in a deliberate attempt to appeal to a more upwardly mobile class of devotees.                    

Other chapters deal with creative uses of ritual in a variety of circumstances: young Jain women who fast to leverage power in their own marital negotiations, middle-class Hindu housewives in Canada who devise rituals for a non-Indian context, and a priest who revised wedding ceremonies to accommodate same-sex and polyamorous unions.

Karline McLain, professor of religious studies and associate dean of the faculty at Bucknell University, offered praised for their work on the book jacket; “The breadth of coverage in 'Ritual Innovation' is extraordinary and refreshing in terms of the types of contemporary ritual practices and practitioners receiving attention, not to mention the geographic spread across South Asia. This book makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on South Asian religions and contemporary Hinduism.”

"Ritual Innovation" wax published by SUNY Press and can be purchased directly on the publisher’s website at or as an ebook on Google Play and Kindle.