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Accepted Paper:

Sidewalk religion and indoor sacred atmospheres: Tamil Hindus in Paris  
Natalie Lang (University of Göttingen)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper investigates how Tamil Hindus create sacred space through rituals in (sub)urban Paris. “Sidewalk religion” points to the nuanced dimensions of place making and diversity governance between barely visible temples, hidden sacred atmospheres and colorful festival processions.

Paper Abstract:

Hinduism in Paris is characterized by a contrast between barely visible temples installed in residential buildings or old factories and colorful processions during festivals attracting large audiences. In this paper, I reflect upon the nuanced dimensions in between these seemingly opposing ways Tamil Hindus create sacred space through rituals in central and suburban Paris. I examine placemaking through rituals by two temples in the Tamil neighborhood La Chapelle, where Sri Lankan Tamils installed themselves in the 1980s before many moved to the suburbs due to limited space, high costs, and gentrification processes, and by one temple in a suburb with a high Tamil population. What I call “sidewalk religion” refers to moments when one of the temples in La Chapelle is too small to accommodate all devotees and the narrow pavement between the temple entrance and the street becomes an important site of religious worship. The notion of sidewalk religion was carried to extremes when a festival in the suburb was spontaneously conducted entirely indoors and on the sidewalk, as the planned procession was not allowed due to a replacement bus line passing in front of the temple. The sidewalk becomes a space of ritual innovation, confrontation with pedestrians, prudent self-governance of a religious minority, and also a place of wonder for outsiders upon hearing ritual sounds from the inside of another temple which lowers the shutters when pedestrians try to look through the dark windows. The paper is based on preliminary fieldwork in Paris between 2019 and 2023.

Panel P192
Rituals against gentrification: drama, performance and religious practices in spaces of urban conflict
  Session 1 Friday 26 July, 2024, -