"A Saint on the Move: Images of Efficacy in Devotional Diasporas of Shirdi Sai Baba"
UCLA Center for the Study of Religion Faculty Seminar Series: Works in Progress
Thursday, October 27, 2011
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Speaker: Dr. Polly Nooter Roberts
Followed by a Q & A with Dr. Allen F. Roberts
Professors, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures
“If you look to me, I look to you”
~ Shirdi Sai Baba
Visual images are integral to the devotional practices of a dynamic contemporary religious movement based upon the life and teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba, a South Asian saint who lived from the mid-1800’s to 1918 in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Sai Baba defied religious nationalism, refused to self-identify as either Hindu or Muslim, and accepted the devotions of people of all castes and creeds, thus offering an alternative to communal ideolgies. This presentation will explore how images have and continue to actively shape devotion and impact this fast-growing movement’s presence and expansion in India and in communities of Mauritius, Germany, Ghana, and
the US, where the Saint has an avid following. In addition to documenting the history, production, and dispersal of images central to the movement, it will focus on the efficacy of the image-as understood through locally defined concepts of indexicality-and their radical performative materiality that ensures the presence and proximity of the Saint despite diasporic dislocations.
Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts is Professor in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures. She holds a PhD in Art History from Columbia University and served as Senior Curator at the Museum for African Art until 1994 and as Deputy Director and Chief Curator of UCLA’s Fowler Museum until 2008.
Allen F. Roberts is Professor in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures and is a socio-cultural anthropologist by training with a PhD from the University of Chicago.
The Robertses conduct research, write books, and curate major thematic exhibitions together, including the award-winning Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996), and A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003).
Cost: Free and open to the public