Emily Kilburn

Thesis title:

Pragmatic Integralism: towards an alignment of dualism within the texts if Sri Aurobindo and the intentional community Auroville.


Dr Sondra Hausner, Professor Gavin Flood


I examine the relationship between text and action, individual and community, and spirituality and materiality, with reference to the work of the Indian thinker Sri Aurobindo and the Utopic community, Auroville. I argue that both Sri Aurobindo’s Integralism and the Auroville community propose a correspondent move towards a paradigm beyond such conceptual and lived dualities.

I recently returned from a four month fieldwork trip to Auroville, South India, where my research was re-enlivened through fascinating interviews, community discussion groups and group study.


AHRC funded

Other research interests:

I am interested in the relationship between human belief and social action, and the role Religious Studies may play in an integrated approach to the Humanities. Theoretically, I am influenced by literary theory and its relationship with social theory, and apply phenomenology, hermeneutics and pragmatism within my current work. Contextually, I work on a thinker from within the Indian tradition, but am interested in the relationship between Eastern and Western thought, and a proposed movement towards “global” philosophy, spirituality and sociology.

About me:

Originally from Leeds, my interest in religious/ spiritual ideas was sparked by volunteering in the local convent, spending time in a Buddhist commune and engaging with the nearby Hindu, Muslim and Inter-faith community. My undergraduate dissertation examined the role of renunciation in Hindu traditions and how this might be explained through socio- structural factors.

On a trip to India, I stumbled across the Sri Aurobindo ashram, New Delhi. This switched my focus from the role of “religious” ideas in the abandonment of society, to their role in its proposed transformation. Further, to my masters dissertation which unpacked Sri Aurobindo’s concept of “Knowledge by Identity”, my current project moves from the purely textual to examine the theoretical, social, and personal implications of Sri Aurobindo’s ideas.