Rick Weiss is adjunct professor of South Asian religions at Victoria University of Wellington. He received his PhD with distinction in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago, specializing in Hinduism, Tamil, and Sanskrit. His research publications have focused on the history of Hinduism in South Asia over the past two centuries. His first book, Recipes for Immortality: Medicine, Religion, and Community in South India (Oxford University Press, 2009), analyses the present challenges faced by Tamil traditional siddha doctors, who have seen their traditions and livelihoods threatened by the dominance of Western medicine and Ayurveda. His second book, The Emergence of Modern Hinduism: Religion on the Margins of Colonialism (University of California Press, 2019), is a close study of religious change in nineteenth-century South Asia. The book reconceptualises the nature of the “modern” in South Asia, and it provides a model for questioning Eurocentric accounts of religious modernity in other religions and imperial settings. He is currently pursuing two research projects. The first, which he will work on at CAPAS, traces the genealogies of Hindu apocalyptic narratives in colonial South Asia, seeking to explain the proliferation of these narratives in modern Hinduism. His other project examines the impact of print on religion in colonial India.
Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Imaginaries in Colonial Hinduism
This project will trace the genealogies of Hindu apocalyptic narratives in colonial South Asia, and it will seek to explain the proliferation of these narratives in modern Hinduism. The content and structure of these narratives indicate links to prior Hindu expressions as well as to other, non-Hindu apocalyptic imaginaries. By focussing on a South Indian apocalyptic movement called “Ayya Vazhi,” I will strive to understand these narratives as expressions that highlight shifts in Hinduism towards globalisation and egalitarianism; as responses to a new colonial world that posed both threats and opportunities; and as products of a transcultural, global exchange of apocalyptic imaginaries.