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Secularism and Religion-Making

Markus Dressler and Arvind Mandair

Oxford University Press Sept 2011

This book conceives of “religion-making” broadly as the multiple ways in which social and cultural phenomena are configured and reconfigured within the matrix of a world-religion discourse that is historically and semantically rooted in particular Western and predominantly Christian experiences, knowledges, and institutions. It investigates how religion is universalized and certain ideas, social formations, and practices rendered “religious” are thus integrated in and subordinated to very particular – mostly liberal-secular – assumptions about the relationship between history, politics, and religion.

The individual contributions, written by a new generation of scholars with decisively interdisciplinary approaches, examine the processes of translation and globalization of historically specific concepts and practices of religion – and its dialectical counterpart, the secular – into new contexts. This volume contributes to the relatively new field of thought that aspires to unravel the thoroughly intertwined relationships between religion and secularism as modern concepts.


“This is an excellent collection of essays. Its unusual perspective allows the talented contributors to explore not just the concept and practice of secularism, but also the development of religion in our time. Anyone interested in this theme will profit from reading this

book.”– Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York About the Author(s)

Markus Dressler has published extensively on Turkish Alevism. His further interests include the sociology and politics of Islam in Turkey, nationalist Turkish historiography, and Sufism in the West.

Theoretically, his research engages in the work of concepts in the study of religion and Islam, as well as the interaction between religion, secularism, and nationalism.

Arvind-Pal S. Mandair is S.B.S.C. Associate Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan. His recent books include Religion and the Specter of the Westand Teachings of the Sikh Gurus. He is a founding editor of the journal Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture and Theory and Assistant editor of Culture and Religion.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Modernity, Religion-Making, and the Postsecular Arvind Mandair, Markus Dressler

2. Imagining Religions in India: Colonialism and the Mapping of South Asian History and Culture Richard King

3. Translations of Violence: Secularism and Religion-Making in the Discourses of Sikh Nationalism Arvind Mandair

4. On the Apocalyptic Tones of Islam in Secular Time Ruth Mas

5. Secularism, “Religious Violence,” and the Liberal Imaginary Brian Goldstone

6. The Politics of Spirituality: Liberalizing the Definition of Religion Kerry Mitchell

7. Comparative Religion and the Cold War Transformation of Indo-Persian ‘Mysticism’ into Liberal Islamic Modernity Rosemary Hicks

8. Apache Revelation: Making Indigenous Religion in the Legal Sphere Greg Johnson

9. Making Religion through Secularist Legal Discourse: The Case of Turkish Alevism Markus Dressler

10. Bloody Boundaries: Animal Sacrifice and the Labor of Religion Mark Elmore

11. Religion Making and Its Failures: Turning Monasteries into Schools and Buddhism in a Religion in Colonial Burma Alicia Turner

12. Precarious Presences, Hallucinatory Times: Configurations of Religious Otherness in German Leitkulturalist Discourse Michael Nijhawan