Communication ETDs

Publication Date



Using a transmodern philosophical approach, this study illustrates the different ways in which women devotees and participants in the Amma Community in United States experience processes of personal and social identification and disidentification as they strive to follow a spiritual path. The study uses the framework of spirituality, which is defined as the journey of disidentification from personal and social identities to the state of connectedness, to highlight how spirituality works in particular and contextual ways amongst Amma's daughters in the community to enable alternative transmodern articulations of self and difference. The study focuses on four areas--personal, gender, cultural, and religious identities--to make the argument that the particular ways in which identities are negotiated in these areas can provide insights for theoretical reflection and praxis on social change and global peace. In each area of study, modern understandings in that area is used as the foundation on which ancient knowledges and conceptualizations create new dimensions and articulate new readings to result in a transmodern understanding of that subject area. Each dimension of identity studied showed its characteristic movements. In the area of personal identities, devotees and participants struggled with each other for Amma's attention and for each other's recognition and acceptance to validate and secure their personal identities. At the same time, many also disidentified and stepped inwards to a state of deep self-awareness and regulation to find the root of conflict not in external differences but in the very state of difference created by ego (forces of individuation). In the area of gender identity, Amma's teachings have motivated some devotees and participants to articulate gender by disidentifying the concept from the notion of "who am" into mutable, voluntary roles that they could play in different social situations. At the same time, they understood their gender identity as a composite of masculine, feminine, and any other aspect in the universe which they bracketed in a very feminine term of "motherhood." This grounding allowed some of them to transform their interaction with male partners from confrontation to education and mutual respect. In the area of cultural identity, devotees and participants found unique ways to consolidate their Western cultural identities and at times found it difficult to develop a full cultural awareness of the East Indian practices and norms. This, I have argued, could be improved through an intracultural awareness, a process by which we can understand the cultural roots of our assumptions and disengage from it. At other times, devotees and participants did succeed in disidentifying from their cultural structures through either a theoretical postulation or an experiential reality of an underlying unity. Finally, in the area of religious identity, the dialectics of identification and disidentification allowed for a deeper inquiry into religious differences in the form of intrareligious dialogue. The findings pointed to the importance of including disidentification and self-awareness in the scholarship in communication and presented a revision of the transactional communication model which may enable Asiacentric scholars to study communication in new ways.




Amma, Intercultural, Identity (post), Gender, Transmodern, Spirituality, Asiacentrism, Ethnography, Amma Community

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Rodriguez, Ilia

First Committee Member (Chair)

Schuetz, Janice

Second Committee Member

Balas, Glenda

Third Committee Member

Galvan, Ruth Trinidad

Project Sponsors

University of New Mexico, Office of Graduate Studies (Research Project Travel grant)