Coronā Devī has entered the chat: South Asian goddesses associated with Covid-19, ritual practice, and online media discourse

Seibel, Thomas (2023) Coronā Devī has entered the chat: South Asian goddesses associated with Covid-19, ritual practice, and online media discourse. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Between June 2020 and September 2021, news reports from India detailing ritual practice devoted to goddesses associated with the novel coronavirus were published by both domestic and international media houses. This thesis analyzes discourses located within English-language media reports and online comments about these deities, associated practices, and devotees. It seeks to address the following questions: 1) How are questions of ‘authority’ and ‘authenticity’ vis-à-vis Hinduism discursively constructed? 2) How are discourses of ‘superstition’ differentially mobilized against groups and actors belonging to marginalized communities? 3) How do participants’ reported narratives and ritual practices reflect these concerns? Online criticism of ritual participants is found to be situated within two broad and antagonistic discourses: Hindu nationalist discourses concerned with defending ‘true’ Hinduism from outside critique and secular rationalist discourses. Meanwhile, participant narratives situate practices both within preexisting traditions of goddesses associated with disease and as responses to novel challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, themes of economic insecurity, relationships between religion and science, and expressions of collective concern are reflected by both critics and participants in various ways. Finally, the notable absence and structural exclusion of ritualists from online participatory discourse challenges naïve assumptions regarding democratic access to online religious expression.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 16180
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 178-201)
Keywords: COVID-19, Hinduism, South Asia, India, ritual, media
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Religious Studies
Date: October 2023
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: COVID-19 (Disease--Religious aspects--Hinduism; Hindu goddesses; Hinduism and culture; Social media--India; Mass media--India; Superstition--India; Hinduism--Ritual--India; Hindutva--India

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