Goddes and the Virus

Ravinder Kaur and Sumathi Ramaswamy, in this essay, explore the viral art of twenty-first-century pandemic politics in India. Grounded in the world’s “harshest” lockdown, the essay traces the hyper-nationalist battle against the virus with and through images on the twin fronts of health and economy. A key figure in this viral warfare is the familiar Bharat Mata/Mother India, but this time transformed into a disease Devi entrusted with the task of protecting the nation from the contagion. The new goddess differs from her previous incarnations as indeed from Hinduism’s more conventional disease divinities: she is neither a reservoir of the contagion nor does she offer a cure. The contagion itself is located outside the body of the goddess, external to the national borders in the form of the “China virus” and internal as Muslim “super spreader,” that the goddess sets out to vanquish. What becomes visible here is the making of the political agency of the virus and its divine vanquisher, both visually reconfigured to wage modern viral warfare to safeguard the health and the economic wellbeing of the nation.

Read more: Goddess and the Virus  

Ravinder Kaur and Sumathi Ramaswamy. 2020. “Goddess and the Virus”, The Pandemic: Perspectives from Asia, New York: Columbia University Press.

Ravinder Kaur

Author: Ravinder Kaur

Date: January 8, 2021