Ritual as a Mode of Production: Ethnoarchaeology and Creative Practice in Hindu Temple Arts
This essay examines some of the ethnoarchaeological evidence of contemporary South Indian Hindu temple and image-making practices to show how they can contribute to a more adequate understanding of ancient South Asian monuments and their aesthetic qualities. Without such concrete evidence, a contemporary historical imagination, by default, is understandably liable to represent the past as a series of discontinuous, creative innovations produced by individualised creative agents. Even where the names of such agents have not been preserved, as in the case of ancient India, their cosmogonic function is still likely to be presumed in narrative forms that portray discrete temporal discontinuities as primary signifiers of value. However, the rituals of temple production in South India function as a mode of creative practice that diverges profoundly from modern economic mythologies including those of creative personhood (‘possessive individualism’) and intellectual property rights. While these are presently becoming universalised and naturalised through the forces of globalisation, they affect, but do not organise, contemporary practices of temple production. On the other hand, they do threaten to organise the contemporary understanding and valorisation of ancient monuments to the extent that they are being fetishised, exoticised and commodified as tourist destinations, national heritage and collectables.
South Asian Studies
pre-print, post-print with 18-month embargo
Parker, Samuel K., "Ritual as a Mode of Production: Ethnoarchaeology and Creative Practice in Hindu Temple Arts" (2010). SIAS Faculty Publications. 207.