Food, Authority and the Continuity of Vernacular Traditions in the Gujarati Hindu Diaspora
Keywords:Diaspora, Gujarātī Hindu, Najar, Vernacular
This paper examines the phenomenon of najar, the evil eye, in relation to beliefs and practices concerning food among Gujarati Hindus in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Certain Gujarati Hindu traditions tend to publically dismiss najar, however, others engage with it and najar continues to play a substantial role in the day-to-day experience of Gujarati Hindus in this context. Drawing on extensive field research in the United Kingdom and complementary research in New Zealand, I provide an account of concepts and notions concerning najar and examine the extent to which wider considerations of belief and practice underpin belief or disbelief in najar, especially in relation to food. Finally, I examine najar in relation to the question of authority among Gujarati Hindu traditions in the diaspora and the problem of privileging of what are referred to as “representative” versions of Hinduism over “vernacular” traditions when it comes to fieldwork and presenting our findings concerning Hinduism in the academy.
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