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Self-Dissolution, Politics and the Work of Affect: The Life and Death of Sufi Baba


Deepak Mehta


This paper puts together an ethnography of the life, and latterly, death of a mystic conducted first in 1985-86 and then in 2007 in the district of Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh. The ethnography focuses on the embodied practices of a mystic by situating them on two different but overlapping registers. The first register reads his practices in distinct arenas of social life- the everyday and the extraordinary and argues that self-dissolution was fundamental to the mystic’s understanding of worship; the second shows how this appreciation of the sacred was made redundant by the destruction of the Babri mosque. In the process, the paper shows the links between a national event and the intimate life of an individual.

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