Durga Puja and Economic Tourism
Talk by Dheepa Sundaram
This video discusses how the West Bengal Tourism Department uses Instagram and their state-sponsored corporation Biswa Bangla to market a Durga Puja experience through social media and various online platforms using particular hashtags. In doing so, they create a virtual canon of images for what constitutes “authentic” Bengali identity. As Durga Puja is marketed, branded, and “sold” through online platforms as a cultural experience, it becomes more than a ritual, but an economic cultural investment and an authoritative vision of Bengali identity. This marketing campaign by West Bengal Tourism further effaces counter narratives of the festival held by traditionally marginalized communities such as the Asurs who see this festival as a day of mourning for their ancestor Mahisasura.
Dheepa Sundaram is an Assistant Professor of Hinduism and Hindu Studies at the University of Denver since 2018. She holds undergraduate degrees in Comparative Literature and Religious Studies from Indiana University (2000) and a MA (2010) and Ph.D. in Comparative and World Literatures from the University of Illinois (2014) with a focus on Sanskrit and Tamil performance traditions and intersections of ritual, poetics, and politics in modern Tamil drama. Her teaching and research interests include Hindu ritual and praxis in digital contexts, Sanskrit language / aesthetics / drama, South Asian religious traditions / mythologies / literatures, South Indian performance and ritual traditions, and Postcolonial and Cultural studies. Dr. Sundaram’s current book project Globalizing Darśan: Virtual Soteriology and Hindu Branding explores the lucrative world of Hinduism online and considering the ways in which the saleability of Hinduism impact the growth of ethno-nationalist ideologies within Indian socio-political arenas.
Please find the talk here.