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Veins of Devotion

Blood Donation and Religious Experience in North India

Jacob Copeman

Publication Year: 2009

Veins of Devotion details recent collaborations between guru-led devotional movements and public health campaigns to encourage voluntary blood donation in northern India. The book analyzes the operations of several high-profile religious orders that organize large-scale public blood-giving events and argues that blood donation has become a site not only of frenetic competition between different devotional movements, but also of intense spiritual creativity.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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Table of Contents

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p. v

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pp. vii-ix

From the end of 2003 to the beginning of 2005 I lived for fifteen months in an inner-city colony of Delhi. On my arrival in the metropolis, my intention was to pursue a study that would be classically anthropological, insofar as I wished to document holistically the interrelations between voluntary blood donation activity and kinship, politics, economics, and religion. While I did indeed ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-36

In 2002 the spiritual head, or guru, of the Beas branch of the Radhasoami movement was given a guided tour of the newly established Rotary blood bank in Delhi. According to the blood bank’s director, Dr. N. K. Bhatia, the guru “was extremely happy, he blessed us all, he had some snacks with us, he even took a Coke.” Later the guru granted a private audience to a member of the blood bank ...

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2. Generative Generosity

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pp. 37-49

This chapter concerns the re-production of donated blood in the blood bank through a technological procedure called blood component therapy and explores connections that have developed between this technology and some Indians’ ideas about the reproduction of families and the calculability of spiritual credit. It demonstrates that familial narratives are not restricted to the ...

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3. The Reform of the Gift

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pp. 50-76

Modern Hinduism, it has been argued, is a fractured world consisting of “a curious medley of ancient monuments and half-formed new structures” (Madan 1987: 15). This chapter explores in detail the nature of this medley, arguing that one set of highly significant, and yet markedly undertheorized, “half-formed new structures” are those existing rituals, occasions, and in particular giving ...

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4. Devotion and Donation

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pp. 77-104

One of the most striking features of blood donation practices in contemporary India is the embrace of voluntary blood donation as a key focus of organized spiritual service by major devotional orders associated with the north Indian sant tradition. These orders have emerged over the last fifteen to twenty years as some of India’s highest-profile proselytizers of blood donation as a critical act of ...

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5. Blood Donation in the Zone of Religious Spectacles

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pp. 105-131

The “Medical Marvels” section of the Guinness Book of World Records, 2005 includes such entries as most fetuses in a human body, most surviving children from a single birth, most operations endured, and most hand amputations on the same arm. Also included is the achievement of a north Indian devotional order in collecting most units of blood in a single day: the 12,002 450ml units collected by ...

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6. Utility Saints and Donor-Soldiers

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pp. 132-148

The aims of this chapter are to complement my account in the previous chapter of blood donation as a nonviolent form of protest through a deepening of the exploration of the relationship between blood donation and violence/nonviolence, and to reflect more fully on the special role played by gurus in the field of blood donation and in Indian society more generally as “gateways” to universal ...

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7. The Nehruvian Gift

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pp. 149-168

The physical incorporation by recipients of corporeal gifts of organs and blood is in a literal sense integrative inasmuch as it enacts a physical connectivity between persons. In India as elsewhere, this connectivity is often subjected to political readings. What I seek to show in this chapter is that in addition to integrative physical connection (i.e., acts of transfusion), the practical processes ...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 169-184

To conclude I begin by reviewing the themes of time-space distanciation and Nehruvian thinking, and demonstrate a significant connection between them. In my discussion of “donor-soldiers” in chapter 6, I noted that blood donation enables Sant Nirankari and Dera Sacha Sauda devotees, from a distance, to play an intimate role in the nation’s military affairs. The distanciating function of ...


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pp. 185-204

Glossary of Gurus and Organizations

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pp. 205-208


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pp. 209-226


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pp. 227-233

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About the Author

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pp. 253-254

Jacob Copeman is a research fellow in social anthropology at Jesus College,...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813545967
E-ISBN-10: 081354596X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813544489
Print-ISBN-10: 0813544483

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 13 illustrations
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 301797166
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Veins of Devotion

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Blood -- Collection and preservation -- India -- Delhi.
  • Blood donors -- India -- Delhi.
  • Blood -- Social aspects -- India -- Delhi.
  • Blood -- Religious aspects.
  • Kinship -- India -- Delhi.
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