In yesterday’s book post, I spoke about how Evangelical Christianity is not a “white” or even “American” phenomenon, but a growing worldwide movement that has experienced great success in the global South. For today’s post, here is a new book from Cambridge that discusses the growth of Evangelical Christianity in India and the resulting political conflicts: Pentecostalism and Politics of Conversion in India, by Sarbeswar Sahoo (Indian Institute of Technology, Dehli). The publisher’s description follows:
This book studies the politics of Pentecostal conversion and anti-Christian violence in India. It asks: why has India been experiencing increasing incidents of anti-Christian violence since the 1990s? Why are the Bhil Adivasis increasingly converting to Pentecostalism? And, what are the implications of conversion for religion within indigenous communities on the one hand and broader issues of secularism, religious freedom and democratic rights on the other? Drawing on extended ethnographic fieldwork amongst the Bhils of Northern India since 2006, this book asserts that ideological incompatibility and antagonism between Christian missionaries and Hindu nationalists provide only a partial explanation for anti-Christian violence in India. It unravels the complex interactions between different actors/ agents in the production of anti-Christian violence and provides detailed ethnographic narratives on Pentecostal conversion, Hindu nationalist politics and anti-Christian violence in the largest state of India that has hitherto been dominated by upper caste Rajput Hindu(tva) ideology.
In February, I.B. Tauris released “Women and Violence in India: Gender, Oppression, and the Politics of Neoliberalism,” by Tamsin Bradley (University of Portsmouth). The publisher’s description follows:
India’s endemic gender-based violence has received increased international scrutiny and provoked waves of domestic protest and activism. In recent years, related studies on India and South Asia have proliferated but their analyses often fail to identify why violence flourishes. Unwilling to simply accept patriarchy as the answer, Tamsin Bradley presents new research examining how different groups in India conceptualise violence against women, revealing beliefs around religion, caste and gender that render aggression socially acceptable. She also analyses the role that neoliberalism, and its corollary consumerism, play in reducing women to commodity objects for barter or exchange. Unpacking varied conservative, liberal and neoliberal ideologies active in India today, Bradley argues that they can converge unexpectedly to normalise violence against women. Due to these complex and overlapping factors, rates of violence against women in India have actually increased despite decades of feminist campaigning.
This book will be crucial to those studying Indian gender politics and violence, but also presents new data and methodologies which have practical implications for researchers and policymakers worldwide.
In May, Stanford University Press will release “Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King,” by Audrey Truschke (Rutgers University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir is one of the most hated men in Indian history. Widely reviled as a religious fanatic who sought to violently oppress Hindus, he is even blamed by some for setting into motion conflicts that would result in the creation of a separate Muslim state in South Asia. In her lively overview of his life and influence, Audrey Truschke offers a clear-eyed perspective on the public debate over Aurangzeb and makes the case for why his often-maligned legacy deserves to be reassessed.
Aurangzeb was arguably the most powerful and wealthiest ruler of his day. His nearly 50-year reign (1658–1707) had a profound influence on the political landscape of early modern India, and his legacy—real and imagined—continues to loom large in India and Pakistan today. Truschke evaluates Aurangzeb not by modern standards but according to the traditions and values of his own time, painting a picture of Aurangzeb as a complex figure whose relationship to Islam was dynamic, strategic, and sometimes contradictory. This book invites students of South Asian history and religion into the world of the Mughal Empire, framing the contemporary debate on Aurangzeb’s impact and legacy in accessible and engaging terms.
In February, Oxford University Press will release Religion and Modernity in India by Sekhar Bandyopadhyay (Victoria University of Wellington) and Aloka Parasher Sen (University of Hyderabad). The publisher’s description follows:
Modernity, which emphasizes the relegation of religion firmly to an individual’s private life, is a challenging idea for any culture. In India it faces a particularly unusual problem: the persistence of numerous traditional and religious practices means that religion and modernity co-habit here in a complex, plural, transient, and historically evolving relationship.
Religion and Modernity in India explores this complex relationship through a series of case studies on the quotidian experiences of people practicing a variety of religions. It presents the dynamically interacting textures of society engaging with modernity in divergent ways, both historically and in contemporary times.
The essays in this collection consciously bring in the idea of inclusivity by factoring in the small and local contexts. They raise important questions about marginality and sexuality, and discuss the oral and cultural traditions of both mainstream and marginal communities such as tribal communities and women. In doing so, they put forward the perspectives of groups that represent difference but at the same time are linked to a larger whole.
In September, I.B. Tauris will release “Muslim Rule in Medieval India: Power and Religion in the Delhi Sultanate,” by Fouzia Farooq Ahmad (Quaid-i-Azam University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Delhi Sultanate ruled northern India for over three centuries. The era, marked by the desecration of temples and construction of mosques from temple-rubble, is for many South Asians a lightning rod for debates on communalism, religious identity and inter-faith conflict. Using Persian and Arabic manuscripts, epigraphs and inscriptions, Fouzia Farooq Ahmad demystifies key aspects of governance and religion in this complex and controversial period. Why were small sets of foreign invaders and administrators able to dominate despite the cultural, linguistic and religious divides separating them from the ruled? And to what extent did people comply with the authority of sultans they knew very little about? By focusing for the first time on the relationship between the sultans, the bureaucracy and the ruled Muslim Rule in Medieval India outlines the practical dynamics of medieval Muslim political culture and its reception. This approach shows categorically that sultans did not possess meaningful political authority among the masses, and that their symbols of legitimacy were merely post hoc socio-cultural embellishments.Ahmad’s thoroughly researched revisionist account is essential reading for all students and researchers working on the history of South Asia from the medieval period to the present day.
In June, the Oxford University Press released “Filing Religion: State, Hinduism, and Courts of Law,” edited by Daniela Berti (National Centre for Scientific Research), Gilles Tarabout (National Centre for Scientific Research), and Raphaël Voix (National Centre for Scientific Research). The publisher’s description follows:
The Indian Constitution posits a separation between a secular domain that the state can regulate and a religious one in which it should not interfere. However, defining the separation between the two has proved contentious: the state is involved in various ways in the direct administration of many religious institutions; and courts are regularly asked to decide on rights linked to religious functions and bodies. Such decisions contribute to (re)defining religious categories and practices.
This edited volume aims at exploring how apparently technical legalistic action taking place in courts of law significantly shapes the place Hinduism occupies in Indian and Nepalese societies, perhaps even more so than the ideology of any political party. Thus, this volume does not deal so much with politics of secularism in general, but with how courts deal in practice with Hinduism. The approach developed in this volume is resolutely historical and anthropological. It considers law as part of social, religious, and political dynamics while relying on in-depth ethnography and archival research.
In June, the University of California Press will release “Becoming Religious in a Secular Age,” by Mark Elmore (University of California, Davis). The publisher’s description follows:
Religion is commonly viewed as a timeless element of the human inheritance, but in the Western Himalayas the community of Himachal Pradesh discovered its religion only after India became an independent secular state. Based on extensive ethnographic and archival work, Becoming Religious in a Secular Age tells the story of this discovery and how it transformed a community’s relations to its past, to its members, and to those outside the community. And, as Mark Elmore demonstrates, Himachali religion offers a unique opportunity to reimagine relations between religion and secularity. Tracing the emergence of religion, Elmore shows that modern secularity is not so much the eradication of religion as the very condition for its development. Showing us that to become a modern, ethical subject is to become religious, this book creatively augments our understanding of both religion and modernity.
In September, Oxford University Press released “Cases on Muslim Law of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh,” by Alamgir Muhammad Serajuddin (University of Chittagong, Bangladesh). The publisher’s description follows:
Muslim law is an integral part of the South Asian legal system, and case law plays a major role in its interpretation, application, and development. Through a selection of principal judicial decisions and significant fact situations from pre- and post-independent India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, this volume provides an easy access to the basic principles and rules of Muslim law, and shows how case law acts as a social barometer and an instrument of change.
The cases discussed cover such diverse areas as sources and interpretation of law, institution of marriage, polygamous marriages, dower, restitution of conjugal rights, talaq, khula, irreconcilable breakdown of marriage, legitimacy, guardianship, and maintenance of wives and divorced wives. Among the important legislations, it covers Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, and Muslim Women Act 1986.
The book also shows how religion-based rules of personal law have been interpreted by secular courts during certain epochs in history and how the trend of interpretation has changed over the last 150 years.
In August, the Oxford University Press released “Beyond Hybridity and Fundamentalism: Emerging Muslim Identity in Globalized India,” edited by Tabassum Ruhi Khan (University of California, Riverside). The publisher’s description follows:
The question of identity, and especially its formation among youth, has received significant academic attention as our worlds become intricately and unpredictably connected through satellite televisions, mobile telephones, Internet, and social networking platforms. Marking a distinct addition to such scholarship, this volume is an ethnographic study of the under-investigated issue of Indian Muslim youth’s emergent subjectivity in a media-saturated globalized Indian society.
The author develops the idea of ‘convoluted modernity’ to explain Muslim youth’s reactions to multifarious and divergent influences both from the East as well as the West shaping their everyday life. The concept illustrates how Muslim youths’ ideas about self and community draw equally on MTV as on Peace TV to create a complex truck between consumerist hedonism and globalized Islam.
Introducing a new perspective to studies on globalization, media, and cultural politics, this book shows how interpolation of local and global in the accelerated virtual spheres, and their contextual interpretation within an expanding economy, notwithstanding Muslim youth’s disadvantaged position, shape alternate modernities rife with ambiguities and beyond binaries of progress and regression.
In September, Oxford University Press will release “Locale, Everyday Islam, and Modernity: Qasbah Towns and Muslim Life in Colonial India,” by M. Raisur Rahman (Wake Forest University). The publisher’s description follows:
Scholarship has mostly privileged larger cities as the leading centres in India at the expense of belittling the role and significance of smaller entities. Villages are typically seen on the receiving end of the spectrum and qasbahs (small towns) are often clubbed with them. This book presents qasbahs as centers of intense intellectual and cultural activity in colonial India and as networks of social life, education, print culture, literary production, and intellectual dialogue. Drawing upon a wealth of untapped Urdu, English, Hindi, and Persian sources, it focuses on qasbahs as the new nuclei of Muslim social and cultural life upon the decline of the regional Indian states and their urban centers in the late nineteenth century, just as the successor-states had taken over from the Mughal Empire earlier. It also demonstrates that the emergence of modernity among the Muslims was a process during their colonial encounter in which qasbah residents were active agents and the Islam that emerged was that of everyday living. This volume looks into why locales remain major identity-markers, in addition to affiliations such as nation and religion, and what makes qasbahs still invoke memory and nostalgia among related Muslim individuals and families across the globe.