Rhetoric of Technoscience in North Indian Vernacular Asceticism

Reference work entry


This chapter fills a lacuna in the current scholarship on the religion and science dialectic in respect to the dharma traditions of the Indian subcontinent by calling attention to a specific ethnographic example of the ways that Hindu renouncers (sādhus) make sense of that interface. Through case study analysis, the chapter also spotlights a phenomenon termed “experimental Hinduism” which, is illustrated by sādhus’ performance of religious narratives to reconceive the dominant parameters of Hinduism (dharma) and include in that fluid category the notion of technoscience. Based on extensive ethnographic research conducted with sādhus in North India, the chapter argues that their understandings of technoscience as that which is derived from, rather than opposed to, Hindu cosmological visions of the evolution of divine manifestation in the world allow for the expansion of the conceptual boundaries of Hinduism. Through performance of the “rhetoric of renunciation,” such as their stories (kahāniyān) and devotional expositions (dharma-kathā), in which their application of modernist scientific language is amplified and made plausible for Indic conditions, sādhus resignify Hinduism by situating its foundational concepts of dharma, Brahman, and śakti in the modern context of technoscience. Using performance studies-centered theoretical frameworks, according to which aesthetically heightened speech practices become the means to construct worldviews that support or challenge cultural institutions and ideologies, the chapter shows the sādhus perform their rhetoric to create dharmic interpretations of the religion-technoscience interface. In addition, the synchronizing of technoscience with dharma that their performances create makes it possible to fashion dharmic notions of the “modern” in contemporary India.


Hinduism Modernity Technoscience Performance Storytelling Gurus Sādhus Social change South Asia 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ReligionTexas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA

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