The nectar of translation: conversion, mimesis, and cultural translation in Krishna Consciousness
thesisposted 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.