Mumbai’s Urban Space, the Ganesh Utsav Festival and Heterotopic Assemblages
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
In his paper, Swapna Gopinathhas concentrates on the Hundi ten-day urban festival Ganesh Chaturthi usually taking place in August-September, in order to explore “the paraphernalia of sacredness […] [and] the spatial identity of religious practices” (96), while taking recourse to “Foucault’s heterotopias and Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of assemblage” (96) as theoretical tools. This reflects the researcher’s intention, to critically examine the “[c]ultural practices like Ganesh Utsav that are religious in essence, and encapsulating the whole city, cutting across intimate spaces and public spaces, [which] demand a close reading due to their socio-political and economic relevance in defining these city spaces” (97).
In this article, Gopinathhas argues that, in recent decades, “[p]ost neoliberalism, Ganesh Utsav occupies a unique position within the socio-political and cultural discourses, especially with regards to Mumbai. While major paradigm shifts in religious practices happened, this festival re-imagined itself into another commodified cultural product” (98). Furthermore, this author points out that “Ganesh Utsav as a festival that has as its sites, both homes as well as the streets, resembles a carnival in its character” (101).
In Gopinathhas’ interpretation, “[a] religious festival that is celebrated as a carnival creates a heterotopia, and during the ten days of festival, the experience of space is ambivalent as well. […] Icons are negotiated by neoliberal practices of the market and new assemblages are formed that create these heterotopias” (102-103). This leads to the conclusion that “Ganesh Utsav is the new assemblage, reterritorialised to the new Indian aesthetics and politics that has been shaping the new nation in the new millennium” (105).
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Ganesh Utsava, September 24, 2012 | © Courtesy of Ashwin Kumar/Wikimedia Commons.