The wedding of two trees: Connections, equivalences and subjunctivity in a Tamil ritual

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Abstract

A wedding between two trees in a Tamil village reveals that a tree can be more than, while still remaining, a tree. It needs to be a tree because trees do certain things. It can be made more than a tree, however, through a logic of homological connections which temporarily create equivalences between trees and divinities. The wedding (kalyanam), a ubiquitous Tamil ritual form which pertains not only to marriage, creatively and subjunctively opens up new possibilities to change ‘it could be’ and ‘it should be’ to ‘let it be so’. The wedding of two trees seeks to materialize ideal situations and outcomes by mobilizing the aliveness of trees, a quality they share with humans and animals, without positing personhood, identity, or confusing categories. In making this argument, I question choices of comparators in anthropological analyses which posit a holistic ‘non-West’ against a dualistic ‘West’ and contrast a taken-for-granted ‘us’ with ‘our’ really rather different ‘others’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-495
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Volume27
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

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