The Colonization of Kali
by Tara Knowland
As I was reading an article on the Western Kali, I began to wonder to what degree the figure of Kali is still perceived, at least on some level, on a colonialist level. Let me clarify: if Kali is indeed the most prevalent of Indian goddesses who appear among the many Western goddesses in the New Age fascination with the goddess, I think that says something about the way the West perceives the East. If Kali, the black goddess, is appropriated by the West and connected with sex, anger, violence, etc., I cannot help but feel that this perpetuates the cycle of colonialism and domination.
Certainly in Christianity, black has been a color of evil for a long time. This coupled with her character, particularly the character emphasized by her Western devotees, offers an interesting paradox. While at once people desire to get in touch with their anger, with their dark side, effectively, it is only in a subdued and controlled way. Thus Kali becomes, still, dominated by cultural and social norms, often relegated to an outcast state, and likely seldom spoken of outside of certain fenced in spheres and circles.
This is not to say that Kali should or should not be subdued. But if she is relegated to the cremation ground in Indian culture, she is even more limited in Western culture. And I think that it is significant that Kali is the most present of the Indian goddesses. I think that it is representative of a cutural and religious condescention in the West. Furthermore, I feel that, perhaps, taking her outside of her religious and cultural context is effectively colonializing her.
I realize that this is a very debatable issue, and, moreover, even I realize that there are problems with it. But nonetheless, I think it is a thought-provoking question and I hope that it helps you challenge your own perceptions of the goddess and question the way that you really feel about her.
If you have comments or questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org