“Pluralism and Democracy in India: Debating the Hindu Right” (Doniger & Nussbaum, eds.)

In December, Oxford University Press will release “Pluralism and Democracy in India: Debating the Hindu Right”  edited by Wendy Doniger and Martha C. Nussbaum (both from the University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:

Wendy Doniger and Martha Nussbaum bring together leading scholars from a wide array of disciplines to address a crucial question: How does the world’s most populous democracy survive repeated assaults on its pluralistic values? India’s stunning linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity has been supported since Independence by a political structure that emphasizes equal rights for all, and protects liberties of religion and speech. But a decent Constitution does not implement itself, and challenges to these core values repeatedly arise-most recently in the form of the Hindu Right movements of the twenty-first century that threatened to destabilize the nation and upend its core values, in the wake of a notorious pogrom in the state of Gujarat in which approximately 2000 Muslim civilians were killed.

Focusing on this time of tension and threat, the essays in this volume consider how a pluralistic democracy managed to survive. They examine the role of political parties and movements, including the women’s movement, as well as the role of the arts, the press, the media, and a historical legacy of pluralistic thought and critical argument. Featuring essays from eminent scholars in history, religious studies, political science, economics, women’s studies, and media studies, Pluralism and Democracy in India offers an urgently needed case study in democratic survival. As Nehru said of India on the eve of Independence: ”These dreams are for India, but they are also for the world.” The analysis this volume offers illuminates not only the past and future of one nation, but the prospects of democracy for all.

Abraham, “Islamic Reform and Colonial Discourse on Modernity in India”

This December, Palgrave Macmillan will release  “Islamic Reform and Colonial Discourse on Modernity in India: Socio-Political and Religious Thought of Vakkom Moulavi” by Jose Abraham (Concordia University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islamic ReformColonialism was much more than another account of imperialism in human history. It introduced European categories and concepts into everyday habits of thought of the colonized. Focusing on writings of Vakkom Moulavi, who is known as the father of ‘Islamic reform’ in Kerala, South India, Abraham argues that the socio-religious reform movements of the colonial period was largely shaped by the discourse on modernity. In the wake of the socio-political changes initiated by colonial rule in Kerala, Vakkom Moulavi motivated Muslims to embrace modernity, especially modern education, in order to reap maximum benefit. In this process, to counter the opposition of conservative leaders and their followers, he initiated religious reform arguing that the major themes of colonial discourse were fully compatible with Islamic traditions. However, though modernization was the overall purpose of his socio-reform movement, he held fairly ambivalent attitudes towards individualism, materialism and secularization and defended Islam against the attacks of Christian missionaries.

Vaitheespara, “Religion and Nation in South India”

This December, Oxford University Press will release “Religion and Nation in South India: Maraimalai Adigal, the Neo-Saivite Movement and Tamil Nationalism, 1876-1950” by Ravi Vaitheespara (University of Manitoba).  The publisher’s description follows:

While most scholarship on nationalism have focused on the recent secular foundations of nationalism, this work examines the religious roots of nationalism and specifically the (Neo) Shaivite roots of Tamil nationalism and the Dravidian movement. The book traces the anti-Aryan, anti-Brahmin character of Tamil nationalism and the Dravidian movement to the Tamil Neo-Shaivite movement that emerged against the background of Neo-Vedantic and Vaishnavite revivalist current that accompanied the rise of pan-Indian nationalism. Drawing from a range of influences including European Orientalist and Missionary critiques of the philosophical idealism found in Brahmanism and Neo-Vedantic thought, the Neo-Shaivite articulation of non-Brahmin Tamil nationalism endowed Tamil nationalism with a critical spirit and critical grammar that not only rejected such idealism—but also celebrated the more firmly grounded and sensuous Tamil tradition celebrated in ancient Tamil and Bhakti poetry. The book presents these insights and arguments through a critical exploration of the life and work of Maraimalai Adigal (1876-1950) who not only played a central role in consolidating the intellectual and cultural foundation for non-Brahmin Tamil nationalism but whose life intersected with many of the pioneer figures in the Tamil nationalist and Dravidian movement.

Schonbeck & Andersen, “All Religions Merge in Tranquebar”

This month, the University of Hawaii Press published All Religions Merge in Tranquebar: Religious Coexistence and Social Cohesion in South India by Oluf Schonbeck and Peter B. Andersen (both of the University of Copenhagen). The publisher’s description follows.

With globalization helping those who assert incompatible differences between their respective faiths, clashes of faith are increasingly common in different parts of the world. As a result, the study of religious conflict is also increasing.

This book reverses that perspective by addressing a case of peaceful religious coexistence and social cohesion, namely in the South Indian village of Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) in Tamil Nadu. The birthplace of the Lutheran mission to India in 1706, this former Danish colonial settlement is now a famous heritage site.

Although badly hit by the 2004 tsunami and today numerically dominated by members of a Hindu fishermen’s caste, so far the town has managed to steer clear of the kind of religious conflicts too often found in a number of states in present-day India, including Tamil Nadu. This in-depth study, based on post-tsunami field studies in 2006 and 2007, examines the ways in which Hindus, Muslims and different Christian denominations interact in their day-to-day lives. Further, it demonstrates that the role played by religion – as far as social cohesion is concerned – is invariably tied up with several other factors (social stratification, economic development, educational institutions and such social communities as caste councils, etc.) and may serve as a basis for unity as well as division.

Gottschalk, “Religion, Science, and Empire”

In October, Oxford University Press will publish Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India by Peter Gottschalk (Wesleyan University). The publisher’s description follows.

Peter Gottschalk offers a compelling study of how, through the British implementation of scientific taxonomy in the subcontinent, Britons and Indians identified an inherent divide between mutually antagonistic religious communities.

England’s ascent to power coincided with the rise of empirical science as an authoritative way of knowing not only the natural world, but the human one as well. The British scientific passion for classification, combined with the Christian impulse to differentiate people according to religion, led to a designation of Indians as either Hindu or Muslim according to rigidly defined criteria that paralleled classification in botanical and zoological taxonomies. Continue reading

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