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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Ann Gold studies religious traditions in North India

Study funded by Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad grant

Aug. 2, 2011, by Judy Holmes

For 30 years, religion Professor Ann Gold, an anthropologist, has conducted extensive fieldwork in the North Indian state of Rajasthan to study Hindu traditions, pilgrimage, gender relations, epic tales of world renunciation, and cultural constructions of the environment. Most of her work has been focused on the lives of people living in rural areas.  She traveled to India last year to conduct fieldwork on her new project, Peopled Places: Neighborhoods, Shops, and Shrines in a North Indian Market Town, funded by a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad grant.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the prestigious Fulbright-Hays program supports ogoing teaching and research about the peoples, cultures, and events that shape today's world and ensures the U.S. scholars receive critical overseas educational experineces to develop high levels of expertise in their field.

Gold spent 10 months living in Jahazpur, exploring its neighborhoods, markets, and shrines and documenting how the people engage with their town’s ordinary and extraordinary places.

“With roots deep in history and legend, Jahazpur is by reputation both conservative and diverse,” Gold says. “The town is very different from the places I’ve lived before, which is what makes it so interesting to me.”

Gold visited Jahazpur during the summer of 2008 with her research collaborator and co-author, Bhoju Ram Gujar. They were attending a ceremonial beginning of a multi-day foot pilgrimage to the Meena deity, Malaji, which was setting forth from the town’s center.  The Meenas are a caste and community of people living in the northern part of Rajasthan.

“I had absolutely no idea I would be anything but an observer,” Gold says. “Suddenly, I was summoned to hold the flag.  I couldn't quite believe I was up there with the deity's banner in my hands.”

Gold teaches courses on Hindu traditions in modern India, religion and gender, pilgrimage, and religion and storytelling, among others. She has received fellowship awards from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Fulbright Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Spencer Foundation.