ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Healing Shrines, Spirit Possession, Agency of Women

A Rationalist Revisit

This response to Shubha Ranganathan ("The Rationalist Movement against Quack Healing: Critical Questions", EPW, 4 January 2014) argues that to characterise the activities of organisations such as the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti as mere "benevolent paternalism" is misplaced.

What is the place of quack healers and local healing practices in the society? Faith healing shrines such as the Mahanubhav temple in Maharashtra are better seen as sites of refuge rather than sites of superstition. Further, practices such as trance and spirit possessions provide alternative subject positions and act as a powerful tool for expressions of women’s agency. Thus these act as a “socially acceptable” form of protest, argues Shubha Ranganathan in her recent article in the pages of this journal (“The Rationalist Movement against Quack Healing: Critical Questions”, EPW, 4 January 2014).

The alleviating role of these shrines has been highlighted elsewhere too (Davar and Lohokare 2009). Along the way Ranganathan has taken up the cudgels against the rationalist movement in general and the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANS) in particular saying that “anti-superstition venture to launch a sweeping attack against all local healing practices, including shrines that provide shelter for those in distress would be tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, particularly in the context where there are “limited community options for women in distress”. She also questions whether the “agenda of social reform justifies an aggressive crusade against non-rational beliefs and practices”. The article raises several questions pertinent to mental healthcare in contemporary Indian society, role practices like spirit possession play in regulation, maintenance and reproduction of local forms of sociality and the relevance of reform and transformative agenda of rationalist movements.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Back to Top