This book examines the phenomenon of spirit possession among the Hindus in agricultural communities of Tamil Nadu, South India, where deities, spirits, and ghosts directly entered human beings and changed them radically for brief periods. It considers the fluidity and ambiguity of the meanings associated with spirit possession, along with the gender distinctions that the spirits seemed to insist. It explores projects in which modern understandings of agency and subjectivity are mobilized to directly reshape the lives of rural people through economic planning, family planning, and development as well as reform and emancipation. Part 1 of the book focuses on the construction of fertility in the modernizing discourses of state intellectuals, namely, demographers, planners, and medical professionals. Part 2 analyzes those forms of spirit possession that erupt as unlooked-for crises in women's lives, along with agency, politics, and justice. Part 3 deals with the preoccupations of modern social theory and politics. This introduction provides an overview of ethnography, phenomenology, and research carried out by the author in Tamil Nadu.
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