Macquarie University
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The nectar of translation: conversion, mimesis, and cultural translation in Krishna Consciousness

posted on 2022-03-28, 23:48 authored by Malcolm Haddon
This is a cultural anthropological study of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), or the Hare Krishna movement. Data for this research derive primarily from ethnographic participant-observation, and include tape-recorded interviews with Hare Krishna informants as well as ISKCON literature collected during fieldwork. -- Analysis focuses on Hare Krishna techniques (saddhana, or yoga) of religious transformation, including physical, aesthetic, and discursive practices involved in the pursuit of spiritual realisation in ISKCON. Conversion, mimesis, and translation are the three key conceptual themes which inform a critical analysis of the production and effect of cultural difference in Hare Krishna spiritual practice. Ethnicity and conversion emerge as parallel concerns as the involvement of diasporic Indian and Indo-Fijian Hindus at the congregational level of ISKCON's ministry in Sydney, Australia, is examined for its effect on Western converts' experiences of Krishna Consciousness. A new conceptual approach to the meaning of 'conversion' to ISKCON is developed from this account. -- Recent sectarian developments in ISKCON's relationship with the Indian tradition of Gaudiya-Vaisnavism are also examined within a comparative theological framework. Hagiographic practices surrounding ISKCON's Bengali founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), and textual practices surrounding the founder's translations of Vaisnavite scripture, are both analysed as core features of Hare Krishna spirituality. The theological significance of these practices is directly correlated with recent sectarian tensions between ISKCON and the Indian tradition.


Table of Contents

Introduction: representing ISKCON: spreading the message of Krishna Consciousness -- "Easy journey" to another planet: fieldwork, culture conversion, and the location of the spiritual -- A taste for Krishna: aesthetic theology and transubstantiation of culture -- Spiritual culture: varnasrama-dharma and brahminical training -- ISKCON and imitation: appropriating the model in Gaudiya-Vaisnavism -- Remembering Prabhupada: hagiography as spiritual practice -- The nectar of translation: mantra, text and the "yoga of spiritual transmission" -- Conclusion: conversion, mimesis, translation: self-realisation and the other in Krishna Consciousness.


Bibliography: p. 337-345 "July 2003".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media & Philosophy, Department of Anthropology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Anthropology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ian Bedford


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Malcolm Haddon 2004.






345 p. ill. (some col.)

Former Identifiers

mq:6252 1346530