The Macksey Journal


Whether we identify ourselves or our societies as being secular or religious, it cannot be denied that from the simplest forms of speech to pressing ethical concerns, numerous aspects of our daily lives and our very selves are influenced by religion. Radical religious tendencies point to overwhelmingly negative events throughout the course of history and the establishment of social norms which are questioned by society today; however, religion can be just as much a uniting phenomenon that calls for the questioning of these arbitrary norms and pushes for liberation. This project builds on the use of religious images— particularly the image of Vishnu, a popular Hindu deity— to speak to contemporary concerns of social justice, such as colorism, casteism, and gender inequality. How might a careful and sensitive reinterpretation of the image and stories of Vishnu be made to speak to modern social issues in India? This paper gathers traditional myths of Vishnu and seeks to construct the identity of the divine as an omni-joyous entity that delights in plurality and liberates through diverse embodiment. By taking on various identities through his various incarnations, Vishnu represents the immanence, transcendence, and fluidity of an all-embracing divine with regard to labels of skin color, caste, and gender.