Upcoming TAPSA Talks

Theory and Practice in South Asia (TAPSA)

The workshop is designed to keep faculty and graduate students of social science and humanistic disciplines concerned with South Asia in touch with new directions in the field by providing interdisciplinary models of methodological and substantive approaches. The Workshop makes a special point of crossing the boundary between the humanities and social sciences. It collaborates with the South Asia Seminar, one dedicated to graduate student presentations, the other to presentations by in-resident or visiting scholars and faculty. The South Asia Seminar series and the TAPSA Workshop bring together not only scholars from various disciplines, but make a special point of attracting scholars from South Asia. Their visits are designed to promote continuing exchanges with recent work on the sub-continent and to introduce graduate students to future colleagues in South Asia.

For more information about TAPSA, please visit the TAPSA blog.

All events are open to the public.

The South Asia Seminar Series and TAPSA Talks meet on alternating Thursdays at 5:00PM-6:00PM in Foster 103 (1130 East 59th Street).


TAPSA talk: “Testing Satsang: Standardized Testing and Transnational Organizing in Swaminarayan Hinduism”

Andrew Kunze, doctoral candidate in Divinity School, University of Chicago

In recent decades, some guru-led bhakti movements have instituted standardized testing for their devotees, which recasts test-taking as a devotional exercise, regularizes theological knowledge across the transnational organization, and trains new volunteers to support their growing Hindu community (satsang). One Swaminarayan Hindu organization, known as BAPS (Bochasanwasi Sri Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha), established its own standardized tests, called “Satsang Exams,” in 1972. Since then, Satsang Exams have become a massive annual event, and BAPS has become one of the largest Hindu organizations in the diaspora. The guru of BAPS, Mahant Swami Maharaj, encourages devotees to participate, famously saying “The fruit of Satsang Exams is Akshardham” [the abode of God]. And in 2017, for example, the BAPS Exam Department in Ahmedabad, Gujarat processed over 48,000 exam papers in Gujarati, Hindi, and English, submitted from 515 BAPS testing centers in India and 172 centers abroad. Drawing from historical and ethnographic research among Swaminarayan test-takers and administrators, this presentation will explore the devotional motivations and organizational benefits that make standardized testing so popular in transnational Hinduism.

Dates: 
Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103