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New Book: Religion and Secularity: Reconfiguring Islam in Contemporary India


Sudha Sitharaman is Professor, Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University, Puducherry.

Anindita Chakrabarti is Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

The resurgence of religion and its militant mixing with politics is now a ubiquitous feature of our times. Since 9/11, discussions on religion, particularly Islam, have been characterised by debates surrounding the rise of political Islam, war on terror and the ascent of religious politics globally. Islam, particularly, appears as the bearer of a frightening tradition, and stereotypes render it an anathema in the modern world. The notion of a unitary, timeless and unchanging religion has been reinforced not only by sections of academia and the media, but also through the Muslim communities’ interpretations and representations of their own religion.

Religion and Secularities challenges these quotidian ‘facts’ about Islam. It brings together a collection of essays focusing on the reconfiguration of Islam in the world’s largest democracy, India. Investigating the relationship between religion, civil society and the state, this volume explores the nation’s long history with Islam as well as the categorisation of Muslims as a minority community.

Based on ethnographic studies conducted in different regions of the country—from Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to Karnataka and Kerala—this volume addresses the diverse issues of religious piety that include community activism and civic participation; disputes and debates around visitation to historic-religious sites; the changing contours of matrilineal practices in a Muslim community; and how Muslim women negotiate personal/Islamic law in a plural judicial landscape. The essays highlight the impossibility of understanding contemporary Islam outside the logic of modern, secular-liberal governance—a standpoint that helps take the secularism debate forward.

This volume will be valuable for students and scholars of sociology, social anthropology and religious studies.