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Material Acts: Agency of Materiality in India
Joyce Flueckiger, Emory University

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Standing in Cement: Ravana on the Chhattisgarhi Plains (Article)
Title: Standing in Cement: Ravana on the Chhattisgarhi Plains
Author: Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger
Abstract: Framed by recent interest in the agency of materiality, this essay analyzes,through a performative-ethnographic lens, possibilities created and questions raised by the cement images of Ravan, the antagonist of the Ramayana epic tradition, found throughout the central plains of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. While in Ramayan verbal narratives, Ravan dies, here in Chhattisgarh, materially he stands and is much more visible than the hero-god Ram. Why is this so? I suggest that the materiality of Ravan images creates the possibility of a spectrum of (often unarticulated) Ravan-dominant ideologies/theologies and identities: Ravan’s images stand as neighbours, boundary watchmen, or simply part of the landscape, often barely noticed; he is honoured as a Brahmin, a wise man, and a Gond ancestral king; he is integrated into a Gond cosmology unrelated to the Ramayan; and his material presence questions dominant variants of the Ramayan narrative.
Year: 2017
Access Model: open access
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: South Asian History and Culture
Publisher: Taylor & Francis