Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Every word is a song, every step is a dance": Participation, agency, and the expression of communal bliss in Hare Krishna festival kirtan
by Brown, Sara, Ph.D., The Florida State University, 2012, 326; 3551113
Abstract (Summary)

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, offers a highly accessible approach to Indian spirituality in contemporary American culture. Among the most intriguing facets of Hare Krishna practice are the prevalence of celebration and the use of activities such as singing, dancing, and feasting as expressions of faith. The dominant musical practice of the Hare Krishna movement is kirtan, the call-and-response performance of sacred devotional chants. According to Hare Krishna belief, kirtan can be a vehicle to spiritual realization and communion with the divine. In the context of public celebration, kirtan may also serve as a performance of the bliss promised by Krishna philosophy and an invitation to listeners to take part. This dissertation examines kirtan as a tool in the mediation of social encounters by considering elements of devotion, participation, and agency in musical performances at four festivals: two Rath Yatra parades in New York City and Los Angeles that take the practices of Krishna worship into public spaces; the Festival of the Holy Name in Alachua, Florida, which involves deep immersion in the process of singing kirtan; and the Festival of Colors in Spanish Fork, Utah, during which a large crowd consisting almost entirely of those not affiliated with the Krishna movement nevertheless gathers to participate in a weekend of Krishna-oriented musicking. I posit that the participatory nature of kirtan as performed in a celebratory context serves to negotiate issues of personal and social identity both within the Krishna movement and in encounters with those outside of it. I further argue that kirtan has the potential to create experiences that are perceived as being personally and spiritually meaningful not only to adherents to Krishna consciousness, but to those who ascribe to differing belief systems but nevertheless find elements of common spiritual experience within the kirtan process.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bakan, Michael
Commitee: Erndl, Kathleen, Gunderson, Frank, Von Glahn, Denise
School: The Florida State University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 74/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, American studies, Music
Keywords: Communal bliss, Devotional music, Festivals, Hare Krishna, Kirtan
Publication Number: 3551113
ISBN: 978-1-267-88577-7
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