1st Edition

Gendered Agency in Transcultural Hinduism and Buddhism

Edited By Ute Hüsken, Agi Wittich, Nanette R. Spina Copyright 2024
    300 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Focusing on complex entanglements of religion and gender from a diversity of perspectives, this book explores how women enact agencies in transcultural Hindu and Buddhist settings. The chapters draw on original, in-depth empirical research in various contexts in South Asian religious traditions. Today, in an increasing number of such contexts, women are able to undergo monastic and priestly education, receive ordination/initiation as nuns and priestesses, and are accepted as ascetic religious leaders. They are starting to establish new religious communities within conservative traditions, occupying religious leadership positions on par with men. This volume considers the historical background, contemporary trajectories, and potential impact of the emergence of these new and powerful female agencies in conservative South Asian religious traditions. It will be of particular interest to scholars of religion, women’s and gender studies, and South Asian studies.

    1. From Matriarch to Divine Mother: Caste, Gender, and Deification in Hagiographies of Satīmā

    Arkamitra Ghatak

    2. Biographies of Enhanced Agency and Self-Made Gurus: From Housewives into Founders of Guru-Bhakti Communities

    Michal Erlich

    3. Women’s Ritual Expression and Religious Agency: Om Śakti Communicating Innovation in Contemporary Hinduism

    Nanette R. Spina

    4. Forgotten Priestesses: A ‘witch,’ a Queen and a Ritual Stew

    Tara Sheemar Malhan

    5. Women Sharing Bhakti, Women Singing Devotion: Friends, Teachers, and Leaders in the Hindu Diaspora

    Vasudha Narayanan

    6. Reinventing Selves: Religiosity and Female Agency in the Siri Tradition of Tulunad in India

    Pauline Schuster-Löhlau and Yogitha Shetty

    7. Yoga’s Red Tent: Menstrual-Oriented Iyengar Yoga Practices

    Agi Wittich

    8. Womanhood and Female Agency in Bengali Vaishnava Sahajiya Tradition

    Amnuaypond Kidpromma

    9. Encountering in a New Phase: Monastic Education for Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka

    Gihani De Silva

    10. Against Marginality, Inequality, and Dependency: Remarkable Buddhist Nuns in Sikkim

    Marlene Erschbamer

    11. Global South Coalition for Dignified Menstruation

    Interview with Radha Paudel, conducted by Ute Hüsken

    12. The Changing Attitudes Towards Female Priesthood in Hinduism: Insights from Pune, Southern India

    Interview with Aaryaa Joshi, conducted by Agi Wittich

    13. Beyond Boundaries: A Modern Buddhist Nun’s Journey Towards Enlightenment

    Interview with Ayyā Phalañāṇī, conducted by Agi Wittich

    14. Luminous Insight: An Interview with Ayyā Tathālokā from Dhammadharini Monastery (USA)

    Interview with Ayyā Tathālokā, conducted by Nanette R. Spina


    Ute Hüsken is Professor and Head of the Department of Cultural and Religious History of South Asia (Classical Indology) in the South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University, Germany.

    Agi Wittich holds a PhD in Comparative Religions from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

    Nanette R. Spina is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Georgia, USA.