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Poulomi Saha | Algorithm to Krishna Consciousness

The Entanglement Project logo
Monday, February 27, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Poulomi SahaPoulomi Saha, UC Berkeley
Entanglement | Strange Life

Please join ENTANGLEMENT: STRANGE LIFE for its first public event: "Algorithm to Krishna Consciousness," a lecture by Poulomi Saha, Associate Professor of English at UC Berkeley.

This talk tracks the 50-year rise and fall of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, popularly known as the Hare Krishnas. It will argue that over these five decades, we see developed a set of techniques of collective enthrallment, the allure of which is their purported foreignness. Because the promise of shared mystical experience can only come from outside a nation that imagines itself to be compromised of autonomous individuals. That promise, and the carefully crafted techniques it requires, collides with the cornerstones of mainstream society, producing what we see to be the recognizable signs of the "cult." The story of Krishna Consciousness is an iconic American story-showing the desires of a society hungry for transcendence and producing the familiar scandals of kidnapping, brainwashing, sexual abuse, murder, and financial impropriety.

Poulomi Saha is Associate Professor of English and co-Director of the Program in Critical Theory. Her teaching and research focus on race and empire, bringing together ethnic American literature, postcolonial studies, and critical theory, especially psychoanalytic critique and queer/feminist theory. Their first book, An Empire of Touch: Women's Political Labor & the Fabrication of East Bengal (Columbia UP, 2019) was awarded the Harry Levin Prize for outstanding first book by the American Comparative Literature Association in 2020. They are currently at work on Fascination: America's "Indian" Cults which considers the intense cultural enthrallment and fear of "Indian" spirituality in the American imagination. And they are always interested in hearing about people's own cult stories.


STRANGE LIFE is part of The Entanglement Project, a multi-stranded initiative at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute focused on race, health, and climate.