Dheepa SundaramOct 25, 2022
On Social Media and Hinduism
A Discussion with Dheepa Sundaram
New Books Network 2022
Dheepa Sundaram (she/her/hers) is scholar of performance, ritual, yoga, and digital culture in South Asia at the University of Denver which sits on the unceded tribal lands of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe people. Her research examines the formation of Hindu virtual religious publics through online platforms, social media, apps, and emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Sundaram's current monograph project titled Globalizing Dharma examines how commercial ritual websites fashion a new, digital canon for Hindu religious praxis, effectively "branding" religious identities through a neoliberal "Vedicizing" of virtual spaces. Her most recent article explores how West Bengal’s Tourism initiatives use Instagram to foster virtual, ethnonationalist, social networks during Durga puja. Spotlighting issues of access/accessibility to religious spaces and the viability and visibility of online counter-narratives, especially those from minoritized/marginalized caste, gender, and class communities, Sundaram shows how Asur tribal groups who seek to recover an alternative history of their ancestor Mahisasura, are not only excluded, but, effaced through this kind of digital cultural marketing campaign. A forthcoming piece examines so-called YouTube yogis and how the commercial landscape of yoga as part of lifestyle "cures" becomes an unwitting partner in Hindu nationalist project of repatriating yoga as a national cultural artifact.