Kabir and the print sphere: Negotiating identity

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    For Hindi speakers Kabir (ca. 1398-1519) is a seminal figure in the early history of Hindi literature. The contemporary image of Kabir is as a champion of an earthy spirituality which transcended all religious boundaries and a scathing critic of all established religions. In this paper I examine how prior to the 19th century multiple identities for Kabir were transmitted through oral and manuscript based traditions at networks of local sites. I then show how in the 19th century regional perceptions of Kabir's identity were negotiated as print cultures developed and how caste issues then influenced perceptions of Kabir's identity within nationalist histories of Hindi literature. The conclusion is that multiple localized identities were inherent in constructions of Kabir in manuscript and oral traditions, but that Kabir's incorporation into print cultures has led to contestations at a national level about how to construct a single unitary identity for Kabir.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-56
    JournalThesis Eleven
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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