ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Inter-ontological beingness: the enmeshed nature of Śrīvidyā practitioners, idols and temples as post-anthropocentric perspective


Hirmer Monika - SOAS, University of London, Religions and Philosophies, London, United Kingdom


23 – Engaging the world through contemporary South Asian tantric and shamanic traditions


 Building on a relational approach (Ingold), I developed ‘fieldwork as dwelling’ and, through an epistemic-ontological dislocation, could appreciate the existential coordinates of tantric Śrīvidyā practitioners in Śaktipur, India. Śrīvidyā practitioners emerge as sites where micro and macrocosmic elements converge, as their ontology spans tangible bodies, Devī’s body and the all-encompassing Śrīcakra (Hirmer 2022).

I now propose to shift attention from practitioners’ beingness to the ontology of their lived surroundings. Since a relational approach in Śaktipur unfolds where practitioners and the environment are enmeshed, its organic expansion reveals how temples, idols and landscapes are integral to Śrīvidyā beingness and, also, actively partake in its unraveling. When locating fieldwork in inter-ontological enmeshment, rituals result from the concerted engagement of idols, temples and practitioners. Therefore, a ritual’s successful unfolding is determined no more by practitioners’ ritual mastery than by idols’ and temples’ propensity to its fortuitous unfolding; conversely, its failure depends no more on practitioners’ deficiency than on the environment’s divergence from canonical expectations.

Radically revising beingness and locating it at the heart of inter-ontological enmeshment discloses posthuman perspectives that can creatively confront the limits of the Anthropocene.