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Subproject A4

Agency and Territorial Rituals in India

Department and Research Field: Anthropology

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius


Karl Jaspers Centre of Transcultural Studies

Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context"
Room 107
Vossstrasse 2, Gebäude 4400
D-69115 Heidelberg


Phone: 0049-(0)6221-544330
Fax: 0049-(0)6221-544490


Dr. Karin Polit

Institut für Ethnologie
Sandgasse 7-9
69117 Heidelberg

Telefon: 06221-544908

Project Program

Subproject A4 investigates the question about the tension between ritual and ritualization in the context of construction and acquisition of cultural heritage (in India and Indian Diaspora).


Our thematic focus includes the following subjects:

a) the production and consumption of cultural heritage as symbolical, political and economic resource,

b) the conflicts and tensions emerging from the construction of cultural heritage through and in ritual practices as well as from the discourses on the meaning of rituals that rise in different groups of actors

c) the creation of different spaces for thought, experience and agency and of common plans through the organizing principle of territoriality.


In this context, rituals and ritualizations represent an ideal and so far hardly considered possibility to examine the "exploitation" of the past and places/territories for social plans for the present and the future and to interpret socio-cultural change.


We will use ethnographical methods (open interviews, participatory observation, biographical methods, and filmic documentation) to analyze for each main topic the interplay of:

  • different protagonists, that act as producers and/or consumers on a regional, national and transnational level (such as small elites, urban middle classes, associations, rituals experts)
  • forms of rituals (such as remembrance, wedding or pilgrim rituals), and
  • places of representation (such as cultural festivals, religious theme parks, or radio).


We will elaborate the relevance of territorial rituals in reference to "locality" (place of origin and performance location), "distribution" (control over access to or participation in rituals), and "scope" (impact on various spatial and media levels).

Main Topics

A4.1 Ritual spectacle in Garhwal: rituals as regional cultural heritage (Researcher: Karin Polit M.A.) 

A4.2 The creation of a Sikh heritage: ritual criticism and invention of rituals (Researcher: Dr. Michael Nijhawan)

A4.3 Indian rituals between exile and homeland (Researcher: Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius)

Data Archive

This subproject has archived data in the course of their research and is making them available online.

Archive page of the subproject A4 - 1>>>

Archive page of the subproject A4 - 2>>>