The lecture, “Living with the Dead in Hindu South India,” draws on Allocco’s current ethnographic research project and was sponsored by the Asia-Orient Institute.
Amy Allocco, associate professor of religious studies and director of the Multifaith Scholars Program, recently delivered an invited lecture titled “Living with the Dead in Hindu South India” via Zoom at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
Sponsored by the Department of Ethnology within the Asia-Orient Institute, her lecture drew on her long-standing ethnographic research on ritual relationships with the dead in Hindu South India. Allocco offered an overview of her current research project, which analyzes the abiding relationships that many communities maintain with their deceased kin in Tamil-speaking South India, before focusing her presentation on a class of dead called puvataikkari, who are worshiped as family deities and may be ritually invited back home to reside as a permanent household protector.
Allocco was invited to lecture by Eva Ambos, an ethnographer of South Asian religions whose research is located in Sri Lanka. Ambos’ graduate students read one of Allocco’s recent articles, “Vernacular Practice, Gendered Tensions, and Interpretive Ambivalence in Hindu Death, Deification, and Domestication Narratives,” in advance of her lecture. This article, which was published in The Journal of Hindu Studies earlier this year, relies on more than a decade of fieldwork and interviews with one Hindu family in South India to explore the hermeneutical issues – what Allocco calls “interpretive ambivalence” – that arise from narrative multiplicity. Audience members engaged Allocco in an hour of robust discussion and question-and-answer following her presentation.
Ambos is one of eight scholars who will be presenting a paper in a double panel that Allocco is convening for The Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2021. Focused on the theme of “Intensification vs. Sweetening? New Patterns in Contemporary Hindu Representation and Practice,” the two panels were to have been delivered at the Conference on South Asia this past October, but the meeting was postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19.