The political as a practice: the sadhus' art of self-fashioning

  • Yubraj Aryal The University of Montreal


This paper examines the sadhus’ ways of fashioning the ‘self’ and body, creating ‘a style of existence’ by one’s relation to oneself as a model of life-style politics. The sadhu as non-sovereign subject, constitutes a new power relation in relation to himself, which Foucault calls ‘self-fashioning’ one’s own existence, marking the radical impossibility of domination and control by the coercive institutions of society and state. This paper focuses mainly on questions of life-style politics as concomitant forms of politics, rendering dominant power relations ineffective in ruling over life, as well as how the sadhus’ non-sovereign mode of life ‘becomes resistance to power when power takes life as its object’ (Deleuze 1988).

Author Information

Yubraj Aryal, The University of Montreal
Postdoctoral Researcher


Alter, Joseph S, “The Body of One Color: Indian Wrestling, the Indian State, and Utopian Somatics,” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Feb., 1993pp. 49-72.

Balakrishna, Gopal, The Enemy: Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt (New York: Verso, 2000).

Bloch, Maurice and Parry, Jonathan (eds.), Death and the Regeneration of Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

Burgess, Vincent E., 2007, ‘Indian Influences on Rastafarianism’, unpublished Senior Honors Thesis, Ohio State University. Accessed 13 October 2016. Online at:

Chua, Liana, Cook, Joanna, and Long, Nicholas, "Introduction: Power and Orientation in Southeast Asia" in Southeast Asian Perspectives on Power, ed. Liana Chua, Joanna Cook, Nicholas Long (New York: Routledge, 2012).

Deleuze, Gilles, Foucault, trans & ed Sean Hand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988).

_____, Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin V. Bounds, trans. Mark Lester (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).

Flood, Gavin, The Ascetic Self: Subjectivity, Memory and Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Foucault, Michael, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Westminster: Vintage, 1995).

_____,Essential works of Michel Foucault, Vol. 1: Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, ed. P. Rabinow, (London: Allen Lane 2000), p. 200.

_____,Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Random House, 1965).

_____,Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. C. Gordon, trans. C. Gordon L. Marshal J. Mepham and K. Sober (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980).

_____,The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France 1981-1982, ed. Fredric Gros, trans Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

_____,The History of Sexuality: The Care of the Self Vol. III (New York: Vintage Books, 1988).

_____,The History of Sexuality Volume II: The Use of Pleasure (New York: Random House Inc. 1990).

_____,The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Routledge, 1994).

Gros, Fréderic, “Le souci de soi chez Michel Foucault,” a review of The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981-1982,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 31, No 5-6, September, 2005.

Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio, Declaration (Perseus Books Group: Kindle Edition, 2012).

Hartsuiker, Dolf, Sadhus: Holy Men of India (Vermont; Inner Traditions, 1993).

Hausner, Sondra L. Wandering with Sadhus: Ascetics of the Hindu Himalayas (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008).

Lacan, Jacques, “The Function of the Written,” On Feminine Sexuality. The Limits of Love and Knowledge, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XX, 1972-1973 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998).

Mehta, Gita, A River Sutra (London: Minerv, 1993).

Milner, Marion, The Suppressed Madness of Sane Men: Forty-four Years of Exploring Psychoanalysis (New York: Rutledge, 2002).

Svobodap, Robert E., Aghora: At the Hand of God (Albuquerque, New Mexico: Brotherhood of Life, Inc., 1999).

Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani, Tantra Unveiled (Honesdale, PA: Himalayan Institute, 2007).

Valantasis, Richard, “Constructions of Power in Asceticism” in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol.63, No.4, 1995.
How to Cite
Aryal, Y. (2016, September 11). The political as a practice: the sadhus’ art of self-fashioning. The South Asianist, 4(2). Retrieved from