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Limiting Secularism

Limiting Secularism: The Ethics of Coexistence in Indian Literature and Film

Priya Kumar
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Limiting Secularism
    Book Description:

    Limiting Secularism probes the urgent topic of secularism and tolerance in Indian culture and life. Priya Kumar unpacks the implications of the Nehruvian doctrine of tolerance—with all of its resonances of condescension and inequality—and asks whether more ethical cohabitation can replace the “arrogant compulsive tolerance” of the state and the majority. Kumar envisions the radical possibilities of going beyond tolerance to living well together.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5665-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: At Home with the Stranger
    (pp. xiii-xxviii)

    This book considers the fraught question of religious coexistence in post-Partition India and its entanglement with the concept of secularism. At least since independence, secularism has been called upon to represent several intractable agendas and interests, primary among which is the hope of a united and peaceful Indian nation. Closely aligned with the termnationalism, secularism has come to connote an ideal of tolerance and multireligious coexistence among elite groups brought up on the Nehruvian vision of India as a plural and diverse nation made up of many religions and cultures, nonetheless one that is marked by a “unity in...

  5. 1 Rethinking Secularism
    (pp. 1-44)

    What does it mean that a project dedicated to stemming religious hatred and fostering coexistence has come together under the sign of “secularism”? Secularism has been expanded from its traditional concern with emancipation from religion or the privatization of religion to a far more wide-ranging and heterogeneous agenda in postcolonial India. It has been called upon to resolve a number of thorny social and political issues, including primarily (but not only) the possibility of multireligious and multicultural coexistence within the nation and the complex question of the place of religious minorities in a liberal democratic state. Indeed, secularism has become...

  6. 2 For God’s Sake, Open the Universe a Little More: Cosmopolitan Fictions
    (pp. 45-84)

    Cosmopolitanism has reemerged within current cultural theory as a philosophical project for a more habitable and just world. The old sign of cosmopolitanism has come to name an ethos of mutuality and openness to others in response to contemporary conditions of increasing proximity. In the work of scholars as wide-ranging as Martha Nussbaum, Bruce Robbins, Pheng Cheah, Paul Rabinow, Anthony Appiah, Homi Bhabha, and David Hollinger, cosmopolitanism has come to signify an ethical stance of thinking beyond one’s group—most typically “the nation”—in order to envision justice on a global scale.¹ It also emerged as a critical concept in...

  7. 3 Acts of Return: Literature and Post-Partition Memory
    (pp. 85-122)

    The year 1947 saw the formal end of the British Raj in India, but independence simultaneously brought with it the division of India into the two new postcolonial states of India and Pakistan. A subcontinental holocaust of tremendous magnitude, Partition was attended by immense dislocation and devastation for millions of people as they crossed the newly drawn borders of the two nation-states. In this chapter, I sketch out some of the historical, imaginative, and affective reasons for considering Partition as a moment in history that has come to shape and confirm India’s very sense of nationhood in formative ways, especially...

  8. 4 Fictions of Violence: Witnessing and Survival in Partition Literature
    (pp. 123-176)

    Although contemporary discussions of secularism and coexistence in India have emerged largely as a response to the Hindu Right–orchestrated ascendance of religious violence in the last two decades, rarely, if at all, do these debates address the issue of violence itself in its terrifying impact on people’s lives and everyday worlds. If state authorities are guilty of effacing or ignoring stories of individual pain and suffering, secular academic discourse also, in large part, has been unable to address the effects of communal violence in its disciplinary narratives, perhaps because violence in its very viscerality demands a different kind of...

  9. 5 It’s My Home, Too: Minoritarian Claims on the Nation
    (pp. 177-230)

    What happened to those Muslims who remained in India in spite of the creation of a separate Islamic homeland across the border? A central argument of this book is that any effort at thinking about multireligious coexistence in India necessarily entails a rethinking of the anomalous place of Muslims in the modern Indian nation, not just in the more virulent discourses of the Hindu Right but also in the discourses of secularism, nationalism, and citizenship. One of the first steps toward such a task, as I have indicated, is rethinking the demand for Partition itself. While the accepted nationalist wisdom...

  10. Postscript
    (pp. 231-238)

    On July 11, 2006, eight bombs exploded aboard seven commuter trains in Bombay in less than fifteen minutes, killing about 180 people. The incident has been referred to as 7/11 in the English-language media of India, an obvious allusion to the events of September 11, 2001. What makes this a self-conscious effort at validation by correlation is the use of 7/11 rather than the typical 11/7. Clearly, the idea is to establish the magnitude of the attack by means of association with what has now been constituted as a limit event—a kind of yardstick by which all future “terrorist”...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 239-280)
  12. Index
    (pp. 281-299)