Janaki Phillips

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9923

Approve Date

October 24, 2019

Project Title

Phillips, Janaki (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "Divining Uncertain Futures: A Comparative Study of Contemporary Tarot Practice," supervised by Dr. Matthew Hull

My dissertation research investigates the social lives of ghosts (bhūt-pret) in the North Indian hill station of Shimla. In contemporary India, engagements with a variety of spiritual beings are both a central part of everyday practices and carry potent social and political weight. Operating on the borderline between idiosyncratic experience and orthodox religiosity, between individuals and communities, these experiences can be contentious and reveal important dimensions of moral experience. In focusing on ghosts, my research will investigate three things. First, although ghosts have often been downplayed by both contemporary scholarship and orthodox religious figures who privilege Hinduism’s central deities, my project will approach ghosts as a pervasive part of India’s social and religious fabric. Second, my project is concerned with the affective dimensions of spiritual encounters: ghosts can often be painful irruptions into in daily life and bring up issues of loss and mourning for the death of close kin, fear and uncertainty, or even awe and reverence for deified ghosts. And third, my project looks to intersections between spectral entities and the shifting dynamics of Shimla’s urban landscape including issues of architectural preservation and rapid urban development as a way to investigate ghosts’ attachments to place.