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Title: Producing heritage: culture as commodity in Madurai

Authors: Gita V. Pai

Addresses: Department of History, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 403M Wimberly Hall, 1725 State Street, La Crosse, WI 54601, USA

Abstract: This paper explores the actual and potential museumification of living cultural and religious forms at the Minakshi-Sundareshvara temple complex in Madurai, a major pilgrimage site in the state of Tamil Nadu, south India. It focuses primarily on attempts to sanitise and thus reinvent tradition by removing commerce from within the 17th-century Pudu Mandapam (Tamil, 'new hall'), where it has had a longstanding place. This endeavour is ironically related to larger attempts to produce 'heritage' as a commodity that can be marketed in the context of a growing cultural tourism industry. The finished museum will reconfigure everyday life, transforming the ephemeral into static, ahistorical displays that appeal to foreigners, foreign nationals of Indian ancestry and visitors from other parts of India.

Keywords: commerce; commodity; culture; cultural tourism industry; cultural heritage; Minakshi-Sundareshvara temple; Madurai; museum; museumification; Nayaka period; pilgrimage sites; preservation; Pudu Mandapam; restoration; sanitation; India; tradition.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTA.2016.076775

International Journal of Tourism Anthropology, 2016 Vol.5 No.1/2, pp.47 - 70

Available online: 31 May 2016 *

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