AAA Annual Meeting 2021
November 18, 2021
Baltimore, United States
COVID, Class and Communal Anxieties: Muslim Domestic Workers in a Pandemic Struck Hindu Middle-Class Housing Society in Delhi
religion and cosmology
The contemporary project aimed at creating a singular world is increasingly experienced through the plural, broken worlds it leaves in its wake. As recognizing and contesting partial realities becomes significant to survival in late industrial societies (Fortun 2014), the politics of sustaining lifeworlds increasingly becomes entangled with cosmological speculation. Such speculations are rife with both new possibilities as well as the closure of others. Indeed, toxic ecologies may degrade these lifeworlds, but they also hold within them the potential to induce sublime experiences (Pine 2019; Shapiro 2015). Algorithmic rhythms mime racial and imperial hierarchies even as they intesify forms of other-than-human speculation. A viral pandemic both demands and shakes faith in science. Secular statecraft is re-enchanted by ideas of otherworldly conspiracy and haunted by otherworldly sovereignty (Nugent 2010; Graeber and Sahlins 2017). Much of our mundane lives are occupied with navigating these broken worlds, a granular reckoning with the anthropocene that engenders intimacies simultaneously felt as both more-than-human and all-too-human (Dave 2014). The ontic disruptions caused by living in and across broken worlds are viscerally embodied as post-colonial uncertainties (Chakrabarty 2015, Mbembe 2001, Roy 2004) as well as de-colonial possibilities (Murphy 2017, Todd 2017, Tallbear 2015). They also constitute the grounds for renewed estrangements, hauntings of a persistent coloniality emboldened not only by precarious life conditions but by precarious world-views (Hage 2015). While the de-arrangement (Ghosh 2016) of modern worlding into plural worlds sometimes precipitates spectacular performances of ontological politics (de la Cadena 2015, Blaser 2016), we often navigate the brokenness of the non-modern present by performing a more mundane cosmopolitics (Stengers 1997) informed by fugitive planning (Moten and Harney 2013, Rosas 2018, Sojoyner 2017), speculative fabulation (Haraway 2016, Hartman 2019, Klima 2019, Mclean and Pandian 2017), and more-than-human laboring (Besky et al 2014). Broken world thinking (Jackson 2014) and acting (Rai 2019, Simone 2019) weave together human survival with other-than-human conjurings (Bubandt 2018, Mahadeva 2015, Taneja 2017, Saraswati 2013). This panel explores the possibilities of an ethnographic encounter with contemporary broken worlds. It seeks to cultivate modes of ethnographic attention (Tsing 2015) capable of discerning a mundane cosmopolitics•widespread, endemic, and intimate•where extraordinary realms resonate with ordinary affects (Stewart 2007). It reflects on these themes through cosmological arrangements and re-arrangements wrought in diverse contexts across South Asia. From city-destroying floods in Karachi, the 'divine and demonic feminine' in Chittagong, to life-change fires in the Assamese hills, and the recapitulation of caste infrastructures in modern Bengaluru; the papers in this panel interrogate mundane cosmological exercises people assemble in what appear to be messianic times. While navigating broken worlds, how do interlocutors and ethnographers contend with irreducible ontic differences? How can ethnographic experimentation within cosmopolitical realities rework epistemic and ethical limits to engender new forms of responsibility and co-creation? How can ethnographies juxtapose broken realities to repair, regenerate, and proliferate intimate futures?