Waiting several hours in line for a hug is well worth it for thousands of people, the devotees of the Guru, Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi....

Waiting several hours in line for a hug is well worth it for thousands of people, the devotees of the Guru, Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi. In Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace (University of California Press, 2014), Amanda Lucia, Associate Professor of Religion at UC Riverside, provides a rich ethnographic account of Amma’s American followers and convincingly argues that there is much to learn here about gender, interpretation, and contemporary American religiosity. Amma’s devotees in the United States are usually “inheritors” or “adopters” of Hindu traditions, which shapes their interpretive vantage point and understandings of Amma as Hindu goddesses or feminist. American multiculturalism and romantic orientalist attitudes frequently reifiy cultural differences further structuring the interrelations between South Asian and non-Indian devotees in the American context. In our conversation we discuss female religious leaders, darshan, gurus in American context, purity and ritual, women’s empowerment, village and urban transformations, Devi Bhava, and gendered interpretations of Hinduism.

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