Living with Radical Diversities and Being One’s Own Self1
There is vague, random, empirical support for the persistence of some features in the South Asian concept of hospitality even among those who have experienced or witnessed large-scale ethnic cleansing and massive pogroms. Foremost among these features is the ability to live with radical diversities of the kind that can be easily seen as humiliating to other communities and capable of provoking ethnic and religious hostility and serious conflicts. The caste system with its ornate concepts of purity and pollution—and the touchable and the untouchable—is often seen as a prime example of this. Yet, persons, families, and communities can be found who navigate these barriers sometimes playfully and casually, sometimes by reading the offensive practices as cultural oddities of an otherwise friendly community that one must learn to respect. In the first case, by not taking the offending practices seriously enough; in the second case, by taking them seriously, as an essential part of the faith of another community that demands almost unconditional respect.
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