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Title: Rethinking Vivekananda through space and territorialised spirituality, c. 1880-1920
Author: Kim, Jung Hyun
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 3088
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This dissertation examines Vivekananda (1863-1902) as an itinerant monk rather than the nationalist ideologue he has become in recent scholarship. Historians have approached Vivekananda as either a pioneer of Hindu nationalism or as the voice of a universalist calling for service to humanity. Such labelling neglects the fact that he predominantly navigated between those polarised identities, and overlooks the incongruities between his actions and his ideas. By contextualising his travels within various scales of history, this dissertation puts Vivekananda's lived life in dialogue with his thought, as articulated in his correspondence and speeches. It shows that purposeful movement characterised Vivekananda's life. Instead of searching for enlightenment, he travelled throughout the subcontinent as a wandering monk to territorialise spirituality. He carved out his own support base in Madras to reclaim the region from the Theosophical Society, and dwelled in native courts to accrue the patronage of native princes to build the Ramakrishna Math and Mission with him at the helm. His web of princely patronage also carried him to the Parliament of the World's Religions (World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893), as a representative of 'Hinduism' rather than a Hindu representative of a religious community or organisation. His rise to fame at the Parliament also unfolded through spatial dynamic. His performance triggered highly gendered and disordered spectacle, which starkly contrasted with the British Royal Commission's obsession with discipline at the main Exposition. Furthermore, his speeches painted an anti-colonial geography of fraternity, and instilled new malleable subjectivity in his western female followers. After his death, his life and ideas continued to challenge the colonial state's distinction between 'spirituality' and anarchism. Thus, Vivekananda territorialised spirituality in both India and America not only by travelling, but also by inhabiting the interstices of empire. By examining Vivekananda through space, this dissertation creates a new template for contextualising Vivekananda in national, imperial, and international histories, leading to new insights on the man, his ideas, and his legacy.
Supervisor: Chatterji, Joya Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Hindu nationalism ; space ; Vivekananda ; transnational history ; colonial India ; British Empire ; anti-colonialism ; colonial subjectivity ; Parliament of the World's Religions