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Re-Imagining the Guyanas

 | 
Lawrence Aje
, 
Thomas Lacroix
, 
Judith Misrahi-Barak

Mapping and Charting the 3 Guyanas

Giving to Mother Ganga: Gift Exchange, Social Hierarchy and the Notion of Pollution in Transnational Guyanese Hindu Communities

Sinah Theres Kloß

Texte intégral

  • 1 Dolnick, Sam. ‘Hindus Find a Ganges in Queens, to Park Rangers’ Dismay.’ New York Times, April 21, (...)
  • 2 Bisram, Vishnu. ‘Hindu leaders in New York must come together and lobby for space to conduct shore (...)

1‘Offerings to the Hindu Gods End Up as Jamaica Bay Trash’, announced the title of a New York Times article in April 2011, leading to the headline ‘Hindus Find a Ganges in Queens, to Park Rangers’ Dismay’ in the newspaper’s online edition (Dolnick, April 21, 2011).1 Both articles referred to the practice of Ganga Puja, which is a popular ritual among Guyanese Hindus during which fruits, flowers, pictures and textiles are offered into running water. This religious offering is common in Guyana and conducted in most kinds of puja (Hindu ritual veneration). While it is common and accepted in Guyana, it is conceived as problematic in the Hindu Guyanese diaspora. For example practices of Ganga Puja are commonly conducted at Jamaica Bay, a Gateway National Recreation Area near the John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. With an increasing number of Caribbean Hindus living in the surrounding residential areas, Jamaica Bay has experienced a significant increase of ritual offerings over the past two decades. These offerings usually float ashore and, according to park rangers and US authorities, cause ‘pollution’ and ‘environmental problems’. Park rangers have thus enforced the ‘leave no trace’ policy by erecting signs, installing video cameras, raising fines and promoting environmental awareness campaigns in temple communities. They have increasingly highlighted the prohibition of and taken legal action against the ‘disposal’ of offerings in the bay. As a consequence, since the late 2000s Guyanese Hindus have to collect the offered items after puja and take it home. The majority of them interpret these restrictions as an affront against Hinduism and an assault on the free practice of their religious traditions. Owed to the significance of these offerings in Hindu pujas, the discussion was also taken up by Guyanese media and became a heated debate within the transnational Guyanese Hindu community (Bisram, April 24, 2011).2

  • 3 Kloß, Sinah T. Fabrics of Indianness: The Exchange and Consumption (2016).

2This article discusses how the practice of Ganga Puja has undergone transformation as a result of migration to the US. It analyses Guyanese Hindu notions of pollution and gift exchange, both in Guyana and in the Guyanese diaspora. It highlights how Hindus understand the giving of garments into the water during puja as a mode of gift exchange that creates merit and blessings and not as pollution. It raises questions such as: How do auspiciousness and relationality influence practices of giving and receiving clothing? Which transformation and processes do Guyanese Hindus conceive of as pollution? How are the notions of social and environmental pollution entwined? It proposes that in the diasporic setting of New York, Guyanese Hindus have embraced the relevance of expressing environmental consciousness in order to protect the environment, to maintain or even raise their social status in US society, and to contest and negotiate social hierarchy within the Guyanese diaspora. The analysis is based on a multi-sited ethnography, which consisted of participant observation, formal and informal ethnographic interviews, and was conducted in Guyana and New York City between 2011 and 2015. It focused on the questions how exchange and consumption processes of clothing (re)create transnational communities and families, and how they consolidate Indian ethnic identity in Guyanese Hindu communities (Kloß 2016).3

  • 4 Part of this annual ceremony is the more popular and most common event Hanuman Jhandi, which is co (...)
  • 5 Other Guyanese rituals in which Ganga is venerated are conducted for instance during the Hindu fes (...)

3Ganga Puja is usually conducted as part of a family’s annual household ceremony.4 Goddess Ganga, often referred to as Mother Ganga, is revered in this puja.5 The offering unit—for example a group of family members—usually gives saris or ‘five-yard cloth’ (five yards of cloth) to Ganga. Charhaway is a central aspect of Ganga Puja. It refers to the act of giving a gift to the deity, of bowing and kneeling in front of the murti (statue; manifestation or representation of a deity), of circling it clockwise and of placing the offered paraphernalia on the altar or murti, where it remains throughout the ritual proceedings. By touching the murti after the offering has been made, blessings and auspicious energies transfer to the devotee. When the puja has been concluded, the charhaway items may be distributed among people in the congregation, may become future murti clothing or may be collected by the pandit or pujari (Hindu priests and ritual practitioners).

  • 6 Kloß, Sinah T. ‘Contesting “Gifts from Jesus”: Conversion, Charity, and the Distribution of Used C (...)

4When looking at Guyanese Hindu gift-giving practices, one can distinguish three levels of Guyanese clothing exchange: 1) within families and among friends; 2) within religious communities; and 3) between humans and deities (ibid.). They thereby (re)produce, visualize and materialize relationships between social actors, including deities. As it is understood immoral to dispose of clothes by discarding them as waste or by burning them as long as they are still considered to be wearable, used clothes are commonly handed on to a relative, friend or neighbor. Exchange practices of clothing remain relevant even in the context of migration and despite the physical distance between family members. Guyanese Hindus, who have migrated to North America, continue to hand used clothes to family members at ‘home’. This exchange is a means of (re)constructing transnational families and religious communities. It is facilitated by the socio-cultural practice of sending parcels and barrels. Barrels are large containers filled with consumer goods such as food and textiles, which specialized companies ship to Guyana. The recipients ‘share’ (distribute) the contents among family members and friends (Kloß 2016, 2017).6

  • 7 Mauss, Marcel. The Gift. Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, London: Cohen & Wes (...)
  • 8 Generally, there exist three modes of obligation in gift exchange: 1) giving—creating and maintain (...)
  • 9 Gifts charhawayed to a deity should not be confused with daan or dana, a famous term used for gift (...)

5Negotiations of hierarchy are intrinsic to practices of clothing exchange, which have to be considered in the context of general gift-giving practices. According to gift theory, when a person gives a gift to another person, the giver’s status rises in relation to the receiver of the gift (Mauss 1966, Parry 1986).7 By being able to give and provide, a person claims and creates the status of giver or donor, generates symbolic capital and higher social status. Only when the receiver reciprocates the gift is his or her status reconstituted.8 As charhaway is a mode of gift exchange between devotee and deity, negotiations and reinstatements of social hierarchy are intricately entwined in this practice.9 Thereby it (re)creates and materializes the relation between devotee and deity and reasserts the social status of the giver, be they an individual, a family or a religious community.

6When clothes are charhawayed as paraphernalia to a deity they become the deity’s possession. Hindus therefore do not collect the items after Ganga Puja in Guyana, but leave them in order not to ‘take away’ or ‘take back’ the gift that they have offered to Ganga. Although some of my informants acknowledge that strangers would sometimes collect the saris or five-yard cloth from the water or shore for their personal use after a puja has been concluded, they do not consider this as overly problematic. Having fulfilled their duties as devote Hindus, Mother Ganga has taken over the responsibility of the cloth and, as some informants have pointed out, decides what is going to happen with her belongings. This situation is different in New York, where legal authorities request the offering unit to immediately take back the charhawayed saris and cloth. Some Guyanese Hindus complain that they feel that the deity has not accepted the gifts when they are forced to recollect the items (Dolnick, April 21, 2011).

  • 10 Some informants, although less frequently, consider her to be the water itself.
  • 11 Latour, Bruno. Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard (...)
  • 12 For an elaboration of the agency of objects and the notion of actants in the context of Guyanese H (...)

7Guyanese Hindus do not regard the practice of charhaway as a mode of disposal, but instead understand it as part of gift exchange. This is the case because Mother Ganga is said to reside in ‘running water’, which my Hindu informants define as a river, ocean or creek.10 Thus Mother Ganga receives the pieces of offered clothing, she is directly involved in the giving and receiving of clothes. Mother Ganga, who is an active agent in this context and in the sense of Bruno Latour may be considered an actant in relation to the water (1999)11, takes the clothes away from the giver, accepts and receives them.12 For example, Bhavani, a 57-year-old Hindu housewife living in the Guyanese countryside, explains that she usually approaches Mother Ganga in/and the nearby creek and asks her to ‘take it [the items] away’.

  • 13 Douglas, Mary. Purity and danger: An analysis of concept of pollution and taboo. Routledge classic (...)
  • 14 Michaels, Axel. Hinduism. Past and Present. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2004.

8While devotees maintain a different perspective, non-Hindus perceive charhaway as environmental pollution. Pollution, from this perspective, is defined as a state or as a result, which is a consequence of having wasted or having disposed of something. ‘Pollution’ and ‘dirt’ thus are conceptualized as distinct states or categories of things that exist per se and outside of social categorization. However, from my informants’ perspective it is also possible to regard pollution as a process in which boundaries of the category dirt are performatively defined and recreated (Douglas 2005 (1966)).13 In this case, notions of purity, dirt and pollution are intricately related to the maintenance of social order. Dirt, as the outcome of pollution, does not exist a priori, but is a socially constructed category of objects that social actors use to define order and disorder (Douglas 2005 (1966)). When a practice is considered to be polluting, this marks the practice as transformative and as creating disorder. In the context of Hindu gift exchange, pollution is understood as a concept that emphasizes relationality and social status. Perceptions of pollution express hierarchy as well as an unequal status between giver and receiver. For example, recipients of gifts are considered to be ‘in a lower position than the givers, since they assume impurity to a certain degree’ (Michaels 2004, 197).14 This is the case both on a symbolic and on a material level. According to Guyanese Hindus, bodies and clothing are in exchange and influence each other during acts of consumption. When a garment is worn or gifted to a person, substances and energies are transferred between bodies and dress, creating mutual contact and touch. Clothes hence provide a dwelling structure for substances and particularly used clothes are considered to contain such substances and energies that may be transported to a next wearer (Kloß 2016). How this transmission and these substances are evaluated depends on the relationship between giver and receiver. They are not considered ‘dirty’ or ‘polluting’ per se. In unequal relations, as is the case when humans give clothes to a deity, the energies and substances are potentially polluting. The gifts are considered ‘dutty’ (dirty), because they are imbued with substances from an inferior being—inferior according to the general cosmic order—and have been consumed before. In rather equal relations, e.g. among two family members of the same generation, a receiver of a sartorial gift considers the giver (more) as an equal, hence the offered clothes are not considered to be (as) polluting.

9In the context of Ganga Puja and with regard to charhaway, pollution therefore refers to a process that endangers cosmic order. Charhaway potentially subverts the hierarchical relation between deity and human, as the deity receives a gift from a human. According to gift exchange theory, the deity would take on a lower status position before having reciprocated the gift. The deity always retains its superior status in relation to humans however and thus, although the cosmic order may be endangered, it is never subverted. Still substances and essences of the giver are transmitted in this process, and the transmission and thus the risk of cosmic disorder is carefully minimized: particular emphasis is given to offering only new garments to a deity. When a deity returns the offerings to a human—a ‘deserving’ person who has not been the previous owner of the gift—, substances and essences are also involved and may transfer to the receiver. However, divine essences are not considered dirty or polluting as they are from a being that is superior to humans according to the cosmic order. This raises the question: Can a deity pollute objects and does ‘divine pollution’ exist?

  • 15 Fuller, C. J. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Rev. and expanded ed. Prin (...)

10Pollution, when simply regarded as a transformational process, may occur in a good or bad way, on the basis of positive or negative evaluation. ‘Bad pollution’ creates dirt and causes a loss of social status, while ‘good pollution’ creates blessings and raises social status. Guyanese Hindus consider clothes that have been consumed by a deity not in terms of ‘good pollution’, however, but rather as prasadam. Prasadam is often translated into English as ‘auspicious leftovers’ and refers to a category of items that have been offered to and are transformed by the deity. These items become imbued with the deity’s power and divine energy, which devotees internalize when consuming the prasadam (Fuller 2004).15 Pandit Rudra, who is a respected and senior pandit in the Berbice region of Guyana, emphasizes this aspect while explaining the practice of charhaway:

So charhaway means we make an offering to god, base upon our wealth or resources or money, and also we make offerings to please god that he does not need these things, but when we offered them, it becomes sanctified. Meaning whatever we own, we give it back to god, so that he blesses it and sanctifies it, and makes it fit for you, you consumption. Only then does it become sanctified and purified, when offered to the Lord. (Pandit Rudra, 39, male, Guyana)

11Practices of sharing prasadam are intricate aspects of all pujas, and this is particularly the case for food prasadam. Commonly food is known to become prasadam, and indeed it is the most prominent category of prasadam items, for example in India. In the Caribbean and especially in Guyana textiles have gained particular significance as items that qualify as prasadam. Textile prasadam can only be distributed to a single person and has a specific ability to store divine blessings and energies that may transfer to the next consumer. This differs from the sharing of food prasadam, which is handed out to all people in the audience. Pandit Shree, a 50-year-old pandit from Guyana, describes the offering of food items and clothing during Ganga Puja as follows:

No, you leave it [the offering] there. You [. . .] carry it to de wata, de running wata, that lead to the ocean. Now the [textile] prasadam, Ganga Puja you loose that. [. . .] So, after you do puja on it, and god blesses this [food] prasadam, you eat it, you have the blessing. You know, is purify you body. (Pandit Shree, 50, male, Guyana)

12Pandit Shree raises the notion of purification in this context. According to him and others, divine transformation is considered to be a process of purification instead of pollution. Thus, pollution and purification may be considered as transformational processes that occur during acts of consumption and that are evaluated as either positive or negative on the basis of relationality in social hierarchy and cosmic order.

13This does not mean that Guyanese Hindus consider the ritually sanctified saris that float ashore as solely purifying. Although they do not consider Ganga Puja and the charhawaying of saris as problematic, in the new environment of New York City environmental impacts of the ritual become visible. For instance, on Sunday mornings a large number of recently offered saris used to float ashore on the banks of Jamaica Bay, where numerous Caribbean Hindus conduct their pujas. This area is relatively small compared to for example the ocean and riversides in Guyana. Consequently, the visibility of the practices due to the material leftovers/prasadam has led to criticism and conflict, as various social actors have accused Guyanese Hindus as ‘polluters’. Charhaway hence becomes a threat to the social status of the Guyanese Hindu community in the North American context: it lowers or ‘pollutes’ the social status of the group. As a consequence, the traditional and to Guyanese Hindus very relevant notion of what may be labeled individual or social pollution—pollution that affects an individual or group on the basis of relationality—is set against the notion of environmental pollution—the process of creating disorder and causing harm in a physical environment.

14The growing significance of the notion ‘environmental pollution’ in Hindu Guyanese discourse is linked to the US American discourse on environmental awareness, protection, and sustainability. The majority of first-generation Guyanese Hindu migrants in New York does not consider Ganga Puja and its auspicious leftovers as a mode of pollution, yet acknowledges a need to adapt the practice in order to adhere to the ‘rules’ of the US. They mediate between the socio-cultural traditions of their country of origin and country of residence, as they are intricately involved in the transnational communities and create specific modes of adaptation (Levitt 2007).16 The second generation on the other hand more commonly rejects the leaving of charhaway items and condemns the practice as environmental pollution. Having been raised in the US American context and being oriented more towards US society, they often lack an interest in maintaining transnational ties. Second-generation Guyanese rarely hesitate to collect the offered items when conducting Ganga Puja, emphasizing the need to take care of the environment and to promote environmental sustainability. They commonly state that the deity is ‘knowledgeable’ and understands why Guyanese Hindus have to adapt their puja in the new environment. Some have started environmental awareness campaigns, the number of which has been rising since 2011. These are—at least to a certain extent—related to the media coverage and the negative image conveyed by the US press around this time. The New York Times articles mentioned at the beginning of this article are a case in point. Founded in 2011 the grassroots organization Sadhana aims at advocating ‘progressive Hinduism’ and social justice according to Hindu principles (www.sadhana.org; Accessed on March 23, 2017).17 Founders of the organization are US-based second-generation Caribbean Hindus as well as a Hindu raised in a South Asian-Indian family. Among the various activities that Sadhana promotes on its website, Project Prithvi (Project Earth) addresses in particular the ‘problem’ of ritual paraphernalia that turn into ‘flotsam’ (Semple, November 18, 2015)18 and directs its attention to Indo-Caribbeans and their temple communities.19 Once a month the organization conducts cleanups of Jamaica Bay’s banks in order to ‘keep the beaches clean’ and to advocate that because ‘Hindu texts describe the Earth an [sic] the water as goddesses, it does not honor them to pollute or destroy them’ (ibid.). As part of this project, conducted in collaboration with the National Parks Service, Sadhana has also organized an exhibition at the Queens Museum on the Hindu paraphernalia that members had collected during cleanups in 2014. Second-generation environmental lobbying reaches out to leaders of the Guyanese Hindu community in New York, especially pandits of prominent temples in Queens. For instance, hosting a film screening of the movie ‘Jamaica Bay lives!’ and a subsequent discussion on offerings, a prominent pandit of the Caribbean Hindu community engaged in what Sadhana terms ‘Hindu environmental advocacy’ in order to ‘spark a dialogue’ in the community and to find sustainable ways of offering, for example by using biodegradable pictures of the divine (Narine 2014).20

15The different ways of interpreting the leftover paraphernalia as either prasadam or pollutant is thus influenced by the social actors’ orientation to Guyanese and/or US American society, their place of birth or age at immigration, their understanding of charhaway, and class affiliation. When analyzing the actors and temples involved in promoting ‘environmental awareness’, it can be noticed that particularly upper-class and upper middle-class Guyanese Hindus are among the advocates. The Guyanese Hindu community in New York certainly cannot be considered to be a homogeneous group, but class and social status are relevant and influence not only place of residence in New York but also choice of Hindu temple. Having been invited to a Hanuman Jhandi in an affluent Long Island home in 2013, I asked other attending guests if they reside in the Richmond Hill or Ozone Park areas—the areas that form the Little Guyana of New York and are home to the majority of Guyanese Hindu immigrants. Often they stressed that they live in other parts of the city, such as Manhattan or Astoria, and referred to Richmond Hill as to ‘where all the coolie people live’. Thereby they denote ‘other’ Guyanese Indians and pejoratively distance themselves from what they perceive to be conservative or even ‘backward’ Hindus and socio-cultural practices. The term coolie, although sometimes embraced by Guyanese Hindus as marker of identity and means of empowerment, is still most commonly understood as an insult directed at descendants of Indian indentured laborers. They hence claim superiority by denoting the other, ‘coolie’ Hindu practices as inferior and defining them as the polluters.

  • 21 Halstead, Narmala. ‘Branding “Perfection”: Foreign as Self; Self as “Foreign-Foreign”’, Journal of (...)

16Elite Guyanese Hindus claim that they have better adapted to the US context, have become ‘more foreign’ and modern, and hence suggest the lower status of environmental polluters by emphasizing their alleged ignorance and lack of environmental consciousness. Thus in relation to Guyanese in Guyana they are able to claim (superior) American and hence ‘foreign status’—a Guyanese notion that refers to having achieved high social status through migration (Halstead 2002: 280f).21 In relation to fellow diasporic Guyanese they further seek to claim the higher status of being ‘more foreign’ on the grounds of ‘better’ adaptation. Statements such as ‘We need to educate’ are commonly used in Guyanese status negotiations, followed by the naming of a group of people that is usually considered to be less educated and hence may only claim inferior status in relation to the ‘educated’ people. For example, in the discussion following the movie screening organized by Sadhana at a Guyanese Hindu temple in New York, the temple’s pandit comments on Ganga Puja:

I think we need to educate our fellow Hindu brothers and sisters about what should be left in the water and what should not be left when performing Puja to Mother Ganga. That said I believe that we should not discontinue our puja, it is a part of our Dharma and must continue. (Pandit C. N. in Narine 2014)

17Although a statement like this may certainly be pronounced in favor of environmental protection, expressions such as ‘having to educate’ another group of people also indicate status negotiations and reinstatements of hierarchy. This example reveals that acting in favor of environmental protection may become a way of claiming higher social status, not only within the Guyanese community, but also in the wider context of US society. As discussed before, pollution is indicative of hierarchical relations in social groups and refers to the process of losing social status. In the US context an individual’s or a group’s social status is, to a certain degree, linked to sustainable behavior and to the omission of what is considered environmental pollution, particularly when the group or individual is part of a racialized immigrant minority. Guyanese Hindus thus intricately link notions of environmental pollution to the notion of social pollution.

18Media coverage, public discourses, contestations of hierarchy and legal restrictions have thus transformed the practice of charhaway during Ganga Puja. In Jamaica Bay, the offering groups carry the paraphernalia into the water, stop when they are waist-deep in water, let loose of the ritual items, dip the sari or cloth in water, and carry it back to the beach, where it is put into plastic bags and carried home. In Guyana all paraphernalia including saris or cloth continue to be taken into and left in the water. When I attended a New York puja on a Sunday morning in April 2013, I asked the charhawaying group including a woman, Sita, if they considered this recollecting process to be a problem. Sita negated, though hesitatingly, with water dripping off her body and the offered sari in her hands, and explained that she would usually wave the sari in the water, as if ‘Mother were using it’. Thus, when the giver takes back the sari after the waving, it has already transformed into prasadam through this divine consumption. Sita confidentially added that the sari would not be discarded, but that she would send it to Guyana in a barrel to be ‘shared’ within the affiliated temple community.

19Social constraints in the US and adverse conceptions of pollution have led to the transformation of the practice into a transnational ritual through which relationships are reconstituted and maintained. The charhaway saris, imbued with the auspicious substances and energies of Mother Ganga, embark on a journey to Guyana in barrels with other charhaway saris and paraphernalia. Instead of labeling them as flotsam or waste, the saris are purifying prasadam and form an intricate part of transnational gift exchange. The ritual has been adapted by extending the cycle of clothing exchange, or, as one may want to put it, through the practice of recycling. Recycling, a term that is often used to emphasize knowledge of environmental protection and sustainability, may soon be adapted by Guyanese Hindus in this sense to promote their environmental consciousness and to contest upper-class superiority.

Bibliographie

Bisram, Vishnu. ‘Hindu leaders in New York must come together and lobby for space to conduct shore rituals.’ Stabroek News, April 24, 2011. http://www.stabroeknews.com/2011/opinion/letters/04/24/hindu-leaders-in-new-york-must-come-together-and-lobby-for-space-to-conduct-shore-rituals/ Accessed April 24, 2011.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/nyregion/hindus-find-a-ganges-in-queens-to-park-rangers-dismay.html Accessed on April 24, 2012.

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http://www.sadhana.org/blog-1/2016/4/18/sadhana-hosts-jamaica-bay-lives-film-screening-at-the-shri-trimurti-bhavan-mandir-in-ozone-park-queens Accessed on March 03, 2017.

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Notes

1 Dolnick, Sam. ‘Hindus Find a Ganges in Queens, to Park Rangers’ Dismay.’ New York Times, April 21, 2011.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/nyregion/hindus-find-a-ganges-in-queens-to-park-rangers-dismay.html Accessed on April 24, 2012.

2 Bisram, Vishnu. ‘Hindu leaders in New York must come together and lobby for space to conduct shore rituals.’ Stabroek News, April 24, 2011.

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2011/opinion/letters/04/24/hindu-leaders-in-new-york-must-come-together-and-lobby-for-space-to-conduct-shore-rituals/ Accessed April 24, 2011.

3 Kloß, Sinah T. Fabrics of Indianness: The Exchange and Consumption (2016).

4 Part of this annual ceremony is the more popular and most common event Hanuman Jhandi, which is conducted on Saturdays and in which the deity Hanuman is revered.

5 Other Guyanese rituals in which Ganga is venerated are conducted for instance during the Hindu festival of tirat (also known as Kartik Snan) in November or December or as part of specific Hindu life-cycle rituals (samskara).

6 Kloß, Sinah T. ‘Contesting “Gifts from Jesus”: Conversion, Charity, and the Distribution of Used Clothing in Guyana’, Social Sciences and Missions 30-3 (2017): 346-365, http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/18748945-03003003.

7 Mauss, Marcel. The Gift. Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, London: Cohen & West, 1966. Parry, Jonathan. ‘The Gift, the Indian Gift and the “Indian Gift”.’ Man 21 (3); 453–473.

8 Generally, there exist three modes of obligation in gift exchange: 1) giving—creating and maintaining social relations; 2) receiving—accepting the gift and thus the social bond; and 3) reciprocating—giving back in order to show and recreate one’s social status and prestige (Mauss 1966).

9 Gifts charhawayed to a deity should not be confused with daan or dana, a famous term used for gifts offered during rituals and festivals with regard to Hindu traditions in India (Parry 1986: 460).

10 Some informants, although less frequently, consider her to be the water itself.

11 Latour, Bruno. Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999.

12 For an elaboration of the agency of objects and the notion of actants in the context of Guyanese Hinduism see Kloß 2016.

13 Douglas, Mary. Purity and danger: An analysis of concept of pollution and taboo. Routledge classics. 1966. London, New York: Routledge, 2005.

14 Michaels, Axel. Hinduism. Past and Present. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2004.

15 Fuller, C. J. The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Rev. and expanded ed. Princeton paperbacks. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2004.

16 Levitt, Peggy. God Needs No Passport. Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape. New York: New Press, 2007.

17 http://www.sadhana.org/blog-1/2016/4/18/sadhana-hosts-jamaica-bay-lives-film-screening-at-the-shri-trimurti-bhavan-mandir-in-ozone-park-queens

Accessed on March 03, 2017.

18 Semple, Kirk. ‘Promoting Environmental Awareness Among Hindus.’ New York Times, November 18, 2015; A21.

19 Project Prithvi aims at encouraging young Hindus to ‘live out the principle of ahimsa by taking care of the environment’ (www.sadhana.org/project-prithvi; Accessed on March 3, 2017). Ahimsa is a concept of nonviolence in Hindu and other religious traditions that demands to not injure and harm any living beings and to show compassion.

20 Narine, Rohan. ‘Sadhana Hosts “Jamaica Bay Lives!”: Film Screening At The Shri Trimurti Bhavan Mandir in Ozone Park, Queens’, 2014.

21 Halstead, Narmala. ‘Branding “Perfection”: Foreign as Self; Self as “Foreign-Foreign”’, Journal of Material Culture 7-3 (2002): 273–293.

Auteur

Sinah Theres Kloß holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from Heidelberg University. She is a research associate at the Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies, University of Cologne, Germany. Her research interests include Migration Studies, the Anthropology of Religion, Caribbean Studies, Southern Theory and Material Culture Studies. Her ethnography Fabrics of Indianness: The Exchange and Consumption of Clothing in Transnational Guyanese Hindu Communities (2016) was published with Palgrave Macmillan. She currently works on a research project on tattoo and biography in the Surinamese-Guyanese border region.

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