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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Collective participation and social identification: A study of the individual, interpersonal and collective dimensions of attendance at the Magh Mela.

The project brings together UK and Indian researchers to study one of the world’s most remarkable collective events – the Magh Mela at Prayag (Allahabad, Northern India). For a month each year hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims gather on the banks of the Ganges, and, although the site is crowded and noisy, it appears that Mela is ordered, harmonious and joyful. The researchers are interested in how this is possible and will explore

  1. the social dynamics shaping the experience of such participation, and,
  2. the longer-term consequences of this collective experience.

The project draws on a tradition of social psychological research into group process which recognises the importance of collective identities in self-definition. Typically, this work focuses on how an individual’s identification with a group impacts on their group activity. We know much less about how participation in group-related activity impacts back on identification. Moreover, we know little about other outcomes – such as how involvement in identity-related social activity impacts on physical and mental well-being. Our aim is therefore to use the Mela in order to develop a broader psycho-social model of the pleasures of collective participation.