Divinity and Diversity: A Hindu Revitalization Movement in Malaysiaby NIAS
By Alexandra Kent
2008, 232 pp., illustrated
A timely and relevant study in this age of concern about transnational ‘religious’ networks where powerful use of ethnographic date illuminates an original and striking thesis on the ambiguous nature of the Sai Baba movement. What makes this work outstanding is how the author places her material against the complex ethnic, political and religious situation of Malaysia. The book looks closely at the Malaysian following of the contemporary Indian godman Sathya Sai Baba, a neo-Hindu guru famed for his miracle-working.
The ‘911’ attacks on the United States and subsequent ‘war on terrorism’ have brought a discussion of transnational ‘religious’ networks onto centre stage. While the Sai Baba movement has no militaristic ideology, it may—like any other such movement—ultimately call into question the sovereignty of the nation state.
Today, then, issues of faith and devotion are more urgent than ever in the interfaces between diverse worldviews, not only at local and national levels but, increasingly, at the global level as well.
About the author
Alexandra Kent completed a Master's degree in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University in 1982 and worked for 11 years in a medical field before returning to anthropology in 1993. She completed her doctoral dissertation in 2000 at Goteborg University, which was later published as a monograph entitled Divinity and Diversity: a Hindu Revitalization Movement in Malaysia (NIAS Press, 2005). Her interests include politics and religion, healing, and medical anthropology. Kent has carried out fieldwork in South India, Malaysia and Cambodia and is currently working on a project exploring the relationship between gender, religion, and security in Cambodia.