Hindu Pluralism: Religion and Public Space at the Dawn of Modernity

In a landscape thoroughly inflected by religious difference, what does it mean to literally wear your religion on your forehead? Since the height of Orientalist scholarship, Hindu difference has been read through the lens of the term “sectarianism,” a concept that translates devotion as dissent, and community as a potential precursor to communalism. And yet, sectarian identities were embodied and performed in public space, with geographies that often seamlessly overlaid with one another a pluralistic religious landscape that mediated conflict through independent coexistence. This lecture examines how religion came to inhabit public space in Hinduism’s Sectarian Age, as coexistence came to be mediated by the shared performance of plural religiosities.

Elaine M. Fisher is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. She completed her PhD in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia University in 2013. As a Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Mysore in 2016-2017, she conducted research on the textual history of Sanskritic V?ra?aivism from its novel innovations at ?r??ailam in the twelfth century.

Her first book, Hindu Pluralism: Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India (University of California Press, 2017), excavates the intellectual and cultural history of Hindu sectarianism in early modern south India, focusing on the origins of the Sm?rta-?aiva community in Tamil Nadu. She is a member of Academic Advisory Council of the Muktabodha Indological Research Institute and an Associate Editor of The Journal of South Asian Intellectual History.

Shail Mayaram is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Monday, 17 July 2017
5 pm, CSDS Seminar Room