A History of the Swaminarayan Sampraday in North America

Bhakti Mamtora
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, South Asian Studies
The College of Wooster

This project examines the history of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, a Hindu devotional tradition founded by Swaminarayan (1781-1830) at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the western region of India, now known as Gujarat, in North America during the last fifty years. This project expands research on place-making, civic engagement, and religious expansion through the use of ethnographic and archival research methods. By conducting individual and small group interviews and analyzing, newspaper articles, sectarian publications, and religious paraphernalia, this project aims to uncover how individual conceptions and experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, caste, and socioeconomic class inform identity and community formation in the diaspora.

Antara Yātrā: Collecting Oral Histories of Hindu-American Faith Journeys

Vineet Chander
EdD candidate, Higher Education Administration
New York University

Foundational scholarship on Hindu-American emerging adults has generally examined this community only with reference to cultural identity or the problematic embrace of Hindutva. To date, few studies have examined Hindu-Americans’ faith journeys; practically no scholarship centers their voices in articulating their own stories. While theorists have explored faith development in emerging adults, none of these studies have looked at Hindu-Americans. As a result, the faith component is not acknowledged as component of Hindu-Americans’ stories and risk the erasure or their narratives. This project seeks to remedy this gap by collecting the oral histories of Hindu-Americans with regard to their faith journeys. Utlizing this method recognizes the agency of the narrators in articulating their lived experience. With an interest in the power of place and time, both faith development theory and pilgrimage studies are employed as conceptual lenses to better understand the histories.

Exploring Restorative Justice as a Healing Process to Address Caste Discrimination Cases on US Campuses

Jeffery Long | Professor of Religion, Philosophy and Asian Studies | Elizabethtown College

Vrajvihari Sharan | Director for Hindu Life & Adjunct Professor | Georgetown University

Asha Shipman | Director of Hindu Life | Yale University

We propose forming a working group to explore the feasibility a restorative justice response on US campuses to address caste discrimination. US campuses have been considering or have added caste discrimination as part of their non-discrimination policies which move it into the domain of criminal justice and equate it to racial discrimination. In recent years campus administrators have begun employing restorative justice practices to address student misconduct and bias incidents in a way that aids in conflict resolution while also fostering healing, fairness, feelings of belonging, and closure. The topic of caste is very tender and sensitive within the US Hindu community, leading to deep anxiety about how to properly address it. Hindu chaplains are well equipped to create safe and equitable spaces similar to the restorative justice space. Analogous practices within dharmic traditions which mirror restorative justice practices suggest restorative practices would be well received by the Hindu community.

Walking a Fine Line: Being a Hindu American Woman Against the Grain of Hindu Nationalism

Anjana Narayan | Professor and Chair, Sociology | California State Polytechnic University Pomona

Bandana Purkayastha | Professor, Sociology & Asian and Asian American Studies | University of Connecticut

Rianka Roy | Graduate Student, Sociology | University of Connecticut

This project seeks to document the voices silenced by strident authoritarian mainstream and community groups within the US. We will use a decolonial approach for documenting living Hinduism as racialized minority women or non-binary people, people from marginalized caste, and those in interfaith and intercaste intimate partnerships. We will interview selected people and prepare podcasts and public-facing writing with the collaborators/co-participants.

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