About

About Me

I received my B.A. from Rollins College where I completed honors in the religion and minored in philosophy.  In 2013, I graduated with an M.A. from the religion department at Syracuse University.  I am currently a doctoral candidate in the religion department at the University of Florida where I am dual tracking in both the Asias and Americas track.  My research focuses on Hinduism in the Caribbean and the intersection between religion, race, and nationhood.  I am interested in global Hinduism, religion in the Caribbean, and issues concerning race, identity, and post-colonialism.  I have also worked as an intern for the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) where I helped to increase archival material on the Caribbean and support collaboration among scholars.

In Fall 2018, I will begin as a lecturer at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte where I will teach courses in Hinduism and the Caribbean. Contact email: ppersaud@ufl.edu

 

 

About My Dissertation

“God Must Be a Trini: Transforming Hinduism into a Caribbean Religion”

Between the years 1838 and 1917, approximately half a million Indians were brought to the Caribbean through the indentured labor trade.  144,000 of those laborers were brought to twin island of Trinidad and Tobago.  Initially a disorganized group, Indo-Trinidadians soon united their community, using a remembered Hinduism as a platform upon which they could carve out a distinct space for themselves within the larger society.  They created religious schools, modeled their temples after Presbyterian churches, developed Hindu organizations, and advocated for Indo-Trinidadians at all levels of the government.  Having developed their own form of Hinduism which reflects the restrictions of plantation life, the tensions with the Afro-Caribbean community, and the influence of both the Presbyterian Church and Arya Samaj missionaries, present-day Indo-Trinidadians are unwilling to abandon their practices for those that do not seem to reflect their hyphenated identities.  Yet, because they also wish to distinguish themselves from other groups in the Caribbean, they still turn to India to authenticate their beliefs and practices.  The result is a version of Hinduism that emerges from the particularities of the Caribbean and the land of their ancestors.  My dissertation, “God Must be a Trini: Transforming Hinduism into a Caribbean Religion,” examines the ways in which Hindus in Trinidad sacralize the local landscape, create new traditions and practices, and reuse and challenge colonial narratives.  Using ethnographic methods, I focus on the lived Hinduism on the island today rather than the colonial period.  I argue that Hinduism in Trinidad fits within the category of “Caribbean or Creole religion,” a category that is usually reserved for traditions such as Santeria and Voodoo.  By including Hinduism within this category, I challenge categories of religion which I argue work to reinforce colonial assumptions about civilization and culture.