Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion

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University of California Press, Oct 14, 2003 - Religion - 388 pages
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A complex body of religious practices that spread throughout the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions; a form of spirituality that seemingly combines sexuality, sensual pleasure, and the full range of physical experience with the religious life—Tantra has held a central yet conflicted role within the Western imagination ever since the first "discovery" of Indian religions by European scholars. Always radical, always extremely Other, Tantra has proven a key factor in the imagining of India. This book offers a critical account of how the phenomenon has come to be.

Tracing the complex genealogy of Tantra as a category within the history of religions, Hugh B. Urban reveals how it has been formed through the interplay of popular and scholarly imaginations. Tantra emerges as a product of mirroring and misrepresentation at work between East and West--a dialectical category born out of the ongoing play between Western and Indian minds. Combining historical detail, textual analysis, popular cultural phenomena, and critical theory, this book shows Tantra as a shifting amalgam of fantasies, fears, and wish-fulfillment, at once native and Other, that strikes at the very heart of our constructions of the exotic Orient and the contemporary West.

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About the author (2003)

Hugh B. Urban is Assistant Professor of Religion and Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. He is the author of The Economics of Ecstasy: Tantra, Secrecy, and Power in Colonial Bengal (2001) and Songs of Ecstasy: Tantric and Devotional Songs from Colonial Bengal (2001).

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