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Bringing the Sacred Down to EarthAdventures in Comparative Religion$
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Corinne G. Dempsey

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199860333

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860333.001.0001

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Making and Staking Sacred Terrain

Making and Staking Sacred Terrain

Rajneeshee and Diasporic Hindu Settlers and Unsettlers

(p.76) (p.77) Chapter 3 Making and Staking Sacred Terrain
Bringing the Sacred Down to Earth

Corinne G. Dempsey

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 explores traditions that confer sacred meaning and power onto landscapes; the communities compared—one largely Euroamerican and the other South Asian—both strove to transplant their South Asian traditions onto North American terrain during the late twentieth century. Here, the increasingly utopian Rajneesh community that briefly settled in eastern Oregon in the 1980s is contrasted with diasporic Hindu communities whose ongoing religiously informed settlements are labeled as heterotopian. This chapter argues that whereas the Rajneesh community's abstracted utopian vision enabled settler dynamics reminiscent of colonial times, Hindu diaspora communities’ sense of sacred terrain that is historically and religiously—and therefore more realistically—layered creates settlements that tend to steer clear of colonizing impositions. Despite these differences that ultimately distinguish failed and successful settlements, a shared challenge faced by these communities has been an ironic “indigenous” nationalism that likewise expresses itself in religiously laden, utopian claims on the land.

Keywords:   sacred land heterotopia, Utopia, settler colonial, Rajneesh, Hindu diaspora, religious nationalism

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