Indian Secularism: A Social and Intellectual History, 1890-1950

Overview

Many of the central issues in modern Indian politics have long been understood in terms of an opposition between ideologies of secularism and communalism. Observers have argued that recent Hindu nationalism is the symptom of a crisis of Indian secularism and have blamed this on a resurgence of religion or communalism. Shabnum Tejani unpacks prevailing assumptions about the meaning of secularism in contemporary politics, focusing on India but with many points of comparison elsewhere in the world. She questions the...

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Overview

Many of the central issues in modern Indian politics have long been understood in terms of an opposition between ideologies of secularism and communalism. Observers have argued that recent Hindu nationalism is the symptom of a crisis of Indian secularism and have blamed this on a resurgence of religion or communalism. Shabnum Tejani unpacks prevailing assumptions about the meaning of secularism in contemporary politics, focusing on India but with many points of comparison elsewhere in the world. She questions the simple dichotomy between secularism and communalism that has been used in scholarly study and political discourse. Tracing the social, political, and intellectual genealogies of the concepts of secularism and communalism from the late nineteenth century until the ratification of the Indian constitution in 1950, she shows how secularism came to be bound up with ideas about nationalism and national identity.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
"Indian Secularism... provides us with a nuanced, historical account of the developmental relationship of ideas of nationalism comunalism, and secularism in India. It will be of interest to many readers." —Manu Bhagavan, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, V.10.2 Fall 2009

— Manu Bhagavan

American Historical Review
"Tejani draws our attention to the evolution of secularism as a political concept in colonial India, and to the often unexpected conceptual anchors that continue to exert a determinative, though hidden, influence over secular politics up to the present day." —Srirupa Roy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, American Historical Review, Vol. 115 Feb. 2010

— Srirupa Roy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

H-Asia
"Indian Secularism is a provocative book. It begins with the judgment that secularism is dead, for reasons of semantic vaporization and loss of prescriptive value. It ends with the aspiration for a 'more democratic and plural society." —Dilip Simeon, Independent Scholar and Historian, H-Asia, May 2010

— Dilip Simeon, Independent Scholar and Historian

R. D. Long

'Secularism--the idea that was supposed to secure social integration and reflect the universal character of human enlightenment--is dead,' (p. 5) provocatively states Tejani (School of Oriental and African Studies, Univ. of London). She then states, quite correctly, that secularism, as well as such concepts as modernity and religion, was given different meanings by different people at different moments in history. She looks at the concept of secularism by examining what it has meant to India in modern times. The author divides the six chapters into three sections: 'Nationalism,' which focuses on Hindu nationalism in Maharashtra in the 19th century; 'Communalism' of the 1920s and early 1930s, in which she reaffirms the point that Gandhi's claim to be a sanatani (orthodox) Hindu was central to the alienation of Muslims (and Sikhs and untouchables); and 'Secularism,' wherein she argues that the concept of secularism replaced that of nationalism in 1947 when any idea of quotas for religious minorities became political anathema. What comes through in Tejani's study is that despite claims to the contrary, India was (and is) dominated by one ethnic group, variously orthodox but homogeneously Hindu. Paradoxically, by coding for nationalism, Indian secularism ended up impeding nation building. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. --ChoiceR. D. Long, Eastern Michigan University, October 2009

Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History - Manu Bhagavan

"Indian Secularism... provides us with a nuanced, historical account of the developmental relationship of ideas of nationalism comunalism, and secularism in India. It will be of interest to many readers." —Manu Bhagavan, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, V.10.2 Fall 2009

American Historical Review - Srirupa Roy

"Tejani draws our attention to the evolution of secularism as a political concept in colonial India, and to the often unexpected conceptual anchors that continue to exert a determinative, though hidden, influence over secular politics up to the present day." —Srirupa Roy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, American Historical Review, Vol. 115 Feb. 2010

H-Asia - Dilip Simeon

"Indian Secularism is a provocative book. It begins with the judgment that secularism is dead, for reasons of semantic vaporization and loss of prescriptive value. It ends with the aspiration for a 'more democratic and plural society." —Dilip Simeon, Independent Scholar and Historian, H-Asia, May 2010

From the Publisher
"Tejani draws our attention to the evolution of secularism as a political concept in colonial India, and to the often unexpected conceptual anchors that continue to exert a determinative, though hidden, influence over secular politics up to the present day." —Srirupa Roy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, American Historical Review, Vol. 115 Feb. 2010
Choice

"What comes through in Tejani's study is that despite claims to the contrary, India was (and is) dominated by one ethnic group, variously orthodox but homogeneously Hindu." —Choice, October 2009

Choice

"What comes through in Tejani's study is that despite claims to the contrary, India was (and is) dominated by one ethnic group, variously orthodox but homogeneously Hindu." —Choice, October 2009

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253220448
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 9/17/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Shabnum Tejani is Lecturer in Modern South Asian History, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

1 A Hindu community in Maharashtra? : cow protection, Ganpati festivals, and music before mosques 1893-1894 27

2 Regionalism to nationalism : Swadeshi and the new patriotism in Maharashtra 1905-1910 76

3 From 'religious community' to 'communal minority' : Muslims and the debates around constitutional reform 1906-1909) 113

4 The question of Muslim autonomy : the Khilafat movement and the separation of Sind 1919-1932 144

5 From untouchable to Hindu : Gandhi, Ambedkar, and the depressed classes question 1932 199

6 From nationalism to secularism : defining the secular citizen 1946-1950 234

Bibliography 266

Index 297

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