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Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West Paperback – 16 May 2003

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (16 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520232402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520232402
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,184,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"The editors take us from the margin, through the center, to the West, "through the shifting lenses of scriptural history, temple architecture, political violence, feminist and psychoanalytic criticism, autobiographical reflection, and the goddess's recent guises on the Internet," a round tour of an obscure, dense, powerful subject."--News India Times

From the Inside Flap

"The editors have assembled a South Asian/History of Religions dream team, and the result is a book that captures the sexy, gory power of the dark goddess who is the most exciting of all Hindu deities-and perhaps the most controversial and notorious of all deities. Academically profound and theoretically subtle, these essays are also vivid and juicy."Wendy Doniger, author of "The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade"
"If any subject ever called for a book of many parts, it is Kali. These original and provocative essays, well chosen and thoughtfully organized, point to all sides of the Goddess's character. The result is a sharp and challenging book-the essential starting point for a new century of encountering Kali."John Stratton Hawley, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Religion, Columbia University and co-editor of "Devi: Goddesses of India""

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Format: Paperback
This is a very valuable book for anyone interested in the Goddess Kali. The combination of articles from various viewpoints (scholarly and personal) and various parts of the world give tantalising glimpses to the perception of the Goddess worldwide.

The only thing I'd criticise in the book is Jeffrey J. Kripal's psychoanalytic interpretation of Kali--his Freudian, sex-obsessed interpretations of Kali and her worshippers are a century out of date, which is especially jarring in what is an otherwise balanced and well-researched volume. This is the only reason why I'm not giving the book the five stars it'd deserve otherwise.

However, one chapter is easily skipped, and the readers can immerse themselves in such varying studies as the Kali-worship of heartbroken, war-ravaged Ceylon Tamils, in-depth and intriguing information on the daily worship at Kalighat and the role of Kali in Caribbean Hindus' daily lives, and last but not least, the modern guises of Kali in the West and on the Internet. Highly recommended.
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This book covers many aspects of a huge area - but most importantly, in a coherent fashion. Split into 2 parts- essentially part one is the scriptural and living tradition of the worship of Kali, including an excellent section that compares and contrasts 2 approaches to the goddess. Only 4 stars though as the second part (which deals with "western" traditions- like sociology- focusing on Kali) contains more chaff than wheat. For anyone who is unaware, psychoanalysis is the 100-year-old-plus system of therapy devised by sigmund freud. It is not a mainstream psychological approach, and has been widely discredited. It may even have caused vast amounts of harm during its tenure. Devoting an entire chapter to the silly theory of "castration anxiety" somehow being indexed to religious devotion is stretching credulity to the extreme!! The travelogue type chapter is also not much good, essentially a high powered femino-academic gets jerked around by some disrespectful locals whilst visiting a shrine to Kali tended by an elderly woman. Here seems to be the only mention of the "western" notion tacked on to the figure of Kali- that she somehow represents a kind of aggressive feminist domination of the "patriarchy". Again, complete nonsense, and tacked on by academic philosophizing rather than anything real. Even internet groups are examined- which should prove shocking for those unfamiliar with the ad hominem and hardline opinion dogmatists operating in internet communities.
This all sounds negative, but despite these 2 flaws the book is engaging and informative, and should give anyone a great and thorough grounding in approaching Kali, and the sheer variety therein. Very good for a knowledge base.
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