Susan Visvanathan

Professor, Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems
Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

"The Greening of a Holy Mountain: Ecological and Spiritual Aspects of Feminist Intervention in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India" 
My paper is concerned with the way in which a charismatic individual, by following a dream, supported by scientific and folk knowledge, can combine these skills to bring an entire community into a network of individuals who transform an arid terrain. Collective attempts at reforestation are sustained over thirty years, including school children, greens activists, housewives and college students in the praxis of this movement. The detailed record, using photographs as well as narratives, tries to show the vitality of people's movements, and how sustained it is on the ground, by public participation. It presumes, then, that the Anthropologist is someone who follows a story by returning to the field, and defining the way in which archivalisation shows that there are yearly changes in the discourse about greening. A court case, on the greening of the holy mountain, Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai, show how unsettling the motifs of urbanisation become, as they run in tandem with activists' interests.

Susan Visvanathan is the author of "The Christians of Kerala: History, Belief and Ritual" which was a doctoral dissertation submitted to Delhi University in 1987, and then published by OUP, Chennai in 1993, republished frequently as paperback since then. She has engaged with the Sociology of Religion for the last thirty years with a primary interest in the Dialogue of Religions. Her work on Ramana Maharshi, began in 1995, and continues with specific interest in how mysticism is translated into every day practise. Prof Visvanathan has had a long teaching career, thirteen of which were spent in the Hindu College, in Delhi, and the remaining 19, at JNU. She has  been Chairperson of the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, JNU from 2009 to 2011, and was Teacher in Charge at Hindu College from 1992 to 1997. 

Professor Visvanathan is a writer of fiction, who has been classified as one of India's "Eight Writers" who are representative of innovative traditions in Fiction writing, by the eminent critic Bruce King. 

She has been a Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, from 1989-1992, Honorary Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla from 1990 to 1995, Charles Wallace Fellow to Queen's University , Belfast, 1997, Visiting Professor to MSH, Paris, 2004, Visiting Professor to Universite Paris 13, 2011 and Visiting Professor to University of California at Santa Cruz and at San Diego 2014, Guest Faculty at Freie University, Berlin 2011 and 2014, and Visiting Professor to SASNET, Lund University in 2014. She is Guest Faculty to University of West Indies, Jamaica in 2016.