Religion and Touch - Christina Welch

Religion and Touch - Christina Welch

2. Touching Deities: Offerings, Energies and the Notion of Touch in Guyanese Hinduism

Religion and Touch - Christina Welch

Sinah Theres Kloss [+-]
University of Bonn
Sinah Theres Kloß is research group leader at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS) at the University of Bonn, Germany. She holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Heidelberg University. Her research interests include Caribbean Studies, Anthropology of the Senses, Postcolonial Theory, Religion, and Material Culture Studies. Her recent books include the edited volume Tattoo Histories: Transcultural Perspectives on the Narratives, Practices, and Representations of Tattooing (2020, Routledge) and the monograph Fabrics of Indianness: The Exchange and Consumption of Clothing in Transnational Guyanese Hindu Communities (2016, Palgrave Macmillan). Her research group “Marking Power: Embodied Dependencies, Haptic Regimes and Body Modification” focuses on the history of touch and different forms of body modification from a historical and anthropological perspective.


Bodies and clothing are in exchange and influence each other. Guyanese Hindus describe this interrelationship of clothing and bodies by highlighting that during acts of consuming clothing—when it is worn or gifted—substances and energies are transferred between bodies and dress, creating mutual touch. This touch is facilitated through for example body fluids, which transform used or ‘touched’ clothing into a person’s material likeness. Clothes and other material objects can thus be considered as dwelling structures for substances and energies, which have a special capacity to ‘take on’ former consumers. ‘Touched’ clothes may be polluting or polluted as a consequence of their consumption however, particularly through the former consumers’ substances and energies. This potential pollution influences ritual gift exchange practices, as clothes are frequently offered to deities during Hindu pujas (ritual veneration). Besides conceptualizing the notion of touch and emphasizing the necessity of an inter-sensory approach, this chapter also discusses the role of touch in the context of transnational migration: In transnational networks, gifts of used clothing become a means of recreating and manifesting for example religious communities. Material gift giving hence reconstructs group identity and facilitates a means to literally stay in touch.

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Kloss, Sinah Theres. 2. Touching Deities: Offerings, Energies and the Notion of Touch in Guyanese Hinduism. Religion and Touch. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 51-66 Sep 2021. ISBN 9781800500334. Date accessed: 25 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42170. Sep 2021

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