The afterlife of micro-utopias: monastic experiments and pedagogical models in South India
(Central European University)
Paper short abstract:
Monastic experiments are often born from a vision meant to live on in a pedagogical model beyond the visionary's life. While the ideal may inspire or inhibit pursuit, newcomers come to inhabit a space shaped by an extended relational ethics, contingent and undetermined.
Paper long abstract:
This paper responds to the invitation to engage with micro-utopias through an exploration of the afterlife of a monastic experiment in Kerala, South India. Well-known and forever attractive for all kinds of spiritual seekers and idealistic projects, India has generously accommodated and eventually domestified them. Among the visionary figures and hopeless romanticists, Francis Acharya, a Belgian Cistercian monk arrived in the wake of Indian independence to build a community that pioneered Christian inculturation and Gandhian economics. His vision, to establish a contemplative ashram that integrates Eastern and Western spirituality, became a lifetime project that impacted many lives and left behind an impressive heritage. Such projects live on through pedagogical models that articulate the original vision into a set of practices, norms and values. They are meant to extend the vision and relationship with the founder over time, into a space that comes to be inhabited by new people with different aspirations and sensibilities. This space of ethical practice enables individual creativity and expanded agency making one act and be acted upon in a process that shapes new subjectivities and redefines the utopian project.
Micro-utopias: exploring connections in anthropology, relationality and creativity