Aditya Bhattacharjee (he/him)

Nominated by member scholarly associations of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the 2022 Congress Graduate Merit Awards recognize exceptional graduate students who will be presenting their work at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Photo of Aditya Bhattacharjee, CGMA recipient


Tell us about yourself. 

I am a doctoral candidate in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Religious Studies and hold BA and MA degrees from McGill University. My research primarily investigates the global dispersal and contemporary revival of devotional communities and worship practices dedicated to elephant-headed deity Ganesha, in both Southeast Asian and North American contexts. 

List the scholarly association(s) of which you are currently a member.

  • Association for Asian Studies
  • American Academy of Religion
  • Council on Thai Studies

 At which conference(s) will you be presenting and/or attending?

Canadian South Asian Studies Association Annual Meeting

What is the title of your Congress 2022 presentation? 

An Elephant amid Rice Fields: Ganesha’s Thai Diaspora

How would you describe the research you will be presenting at Congress 2022?

While Ganesha is popularly imagined as an Indian-Hindu deity, his largest statues are located outside South Asia, in suburban Bangkok, and at sites of worship that are curated not by members of the local Indian diaspora, but by monks and laypeople who self-identify as Thai Buddhists. My presentation describes the present-day revival of Ganesha worship in Central Thailand, focusing on three Buddhist temples that possess three of the world’s tallest Ganesha statues. Combining surveys of recent Thai history with ethnographic insights, these case studies explain how notions like Hinduism, Indian-ness, and diaspora are mobilized in contemporary Thai religious frameworks.

How does the research you will be presenting connect with the Congress 2022 theme, Transitions?

The academic study of Hinduism and Buddhism has tended to emphasize aspects that distinguish these traditions from each other, often drawing out doctrinal or historical tensions and minimizing the shared universe of ideas and culture they undoubtedly partake in. Through spotlighting a contemporary intersection of these ancient traditions, my presentation aims to restore balance and nuance to scholarly perspectives that highlight difference. I investigate the lived experiences of Buddhist devotees of a Hindu god to highlight the smooth transitions rather than hostile ruptures that mark interreligious boundary-crossing and interaction.

Share your hopes for Congress 2022.

This will be my first time attending the Congress. I hope to meet and network with colleagues and seniors located across Canada who share my passion for religion, culture, and history in different parts of the world.