ANTH Colloquia Series 2021-22: Dr. David Geary, “Taking Selfies with the Buddha: tourists, pilgrims, and archaeological intimacies in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh”

Thursday October 28, 2021
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
ANSO 205 (& Hybrid)

Zoom Link for Virtual Attendees:

Meeting ID: 693 2316 8033
Passcode: 670928


David Geary is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Community, Culture and Global Studies at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan campus). His research focuses on the reinvention of Buddhism in modern/contemporary India and how the politics of national heritage and tourism development intersect with wider transnational communities of religious practice. He is the author of ‘The Rebirth of Bodh Gaya: Buddhism and the Making of a World Heritage Site’ (2017) University of Washington Press (Global South Asia Series).


This talk examines the complex interests and motivations of Buddhist pilgrims and Indian tourists at Sarnath (“the place of Buddha’s first discourse”) shedding light on the spatial practices of localization and domestication of Buddhist heritage. By focusing on the significance of selfies and romantic engagement within Sarnath’s archaeological park, I argue that Buddhist sites provide meaningful leisure spaces for youth to navigate the moral pressures around tradition and modernity in their daily lives. Concurrently, the Buddha image also provides a significant marker of global cultural power that is also distinctively Indian allowing younger generations to communicate their identity in creative ways involving self-reflexivity and improvisation.