Producing locality: space, houses and public culture in a Hindu festival in Malaysia

Y. S. Guan

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Victor Turner's concepts of liminality and communitas have left an indelible mark on anthropological studies on ritual. Basically, Turner argued that there is a dialectic between the mediacy of social structure (characterised as a 'closed society' or 'status system') and the immediacy of communitas (an 'open society'). This article argues for a more fluid understanding of these kinds of social processes, drawing from Arjun Appadurai's characterisation of a 'locality' as a 'complex phenomenological quality, constituted by a series of links between the sense of social immediacy, the technologies of interactivity and the relativity of contexts', This is illustrated through the ethnographic description and analysis of a local annual Hindu festival in an urban squatter settlement in Malaysia. While the mythic territoriality of the female deity primarily engenders symbolic boundary-making and life-sustaining activities, it also constitutes other layers of social spaces for organisers and participants alike. Individual and corporate agendas overlap and criss-cross one another. Local knowledge is both parochial and constituted within the wider religious, social and political landscapes. Altogether, these kinds of activities contribute towards a 'public culture' of Hinduism in Malaysia, characterised both by differentiation and the semblance of communitas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-64
Number of pages32
JournalContributions to Indian Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

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