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Indian AsceticismPower, Violence, and Play$
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Carl Olson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190225315

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190225315.001.0001

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Violence, the Demonic, and Power

Violence, the Demonic, and Power

(p.81) 4 Violence, the Demonic, and Power
Indian Asceticism

Carl Olson

Oxford University Press

It is common to comprehend the Indian ascetic as a nonviolent figure, but this impression would be deceiving because various narratives portray a different image. Ascetics often inflict violence on themselves by forms of self-sacrifice and the practice of fasting, which necessitates a consideration of the religion between food and violence. Narratives often depict demons practicing asceticism, which calls for a consideration of the nature of the demonic and ways that power and violence can be countered. These various points invite a consideration of theories of power and violence. Violence enacted by ascetics is usually more spontaneous and situational, whereas violence inflicted by demons is a strategy of action. The ascetic’s exercise of power embodies features of the demonic, such as its heterology, its unthinkable nature, its paradoxically creative and destructive nature, its excessive nature, its uncanny character, and its untimely aspect.

Keywords:   violence, demonic, power, performative violence, theories of violence

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