In the Presence of Sai Baba

Body, City, and Memory in a Global Religious Movement

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The Sai Baba movement, centered on the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba (b. 1926), today attracts a global following from Japan to South Africa. Regarded as a divine incarnation, Sathya Sai Baba traces his genealogy to Shirdi Sai Baba (d. 1918), a mendicant in colonial India identified with various Sufi and devotional genealogies. The movement, thus, has “roots” in Shirdi Sai Baba but as it globalizes, it has developed conjunctions with other religious traditions, New Religious movements, and New Age ideas. This book offers an account of the Sai Baba movement as a pathway for charting the varied cartographies, sensory formations, and cultural memories implicated in urbanization and globalization. It traverses the terrain between social theories for the study of religion and cities ---themselves a product of modernity---and the radical, creative, and unexpected modernity of contemporary religious movements. It is based on ethnographic research carried out in India, Kenya, and the US.
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Biographical Note

Smriti Srinivas, Ph.D. in Sociology (Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University), is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Davis. She is the author of The Mouths of People, the Voice of God: Buddhists and Muslims in a Frontier Community of Ladakh (1998), and Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City (2001). Her research interests are urban cultures, memory, cultures of the body/performance, and religion.

Review Quotes

"Srinivas’s study makes highly interesting reading for all who want to gain impressions that go beyond the “usual” information provided by many other studies on the Sathya Sai Baba Movement. She focuses not only on the aesthetic dimensions but also reflects the movement’s embeddedness in local cultural contexts."
Nadja Miczek, University of Heidelberg, Material Religion, Vol. 5, Issue 2

"Srinivas begins gently so that those new to the subject can appreciate the saint and his movement through ‘A Beginner’s Baba’. Here and throughout the text, a superb bibliography encourages readers to strike out on their own to complementary literature(s)."
Allen F. Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 25, No. 2

"Srinivas' scholarship raises numerous interesting questions for future research. For the scholar of Indian religion and new religious movements in India, In the Presence of Sai Baba invites further discussion of Sathya Sai Baba as an avatar who combines Vaishnava and Shaiva attributes, and makes one curious about his place at Shirdi, the pilgrimage site of his predecessor."
Jonathan Loar, Emory University, Practical Matters Issue 2




Readership

Those interested in religious studies, urban studies, postcolonial studies, art and visual studies, anthropology, sociology, geography, South Asia, cultural studies, African studies, American studies; globalization and transnationalism, architecture, the body, collective memory, social movements.

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