Peter Gottschalk

in Religion, Science, and Empire

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393019
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979264 | DOI:

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This introduction to the historical study of religion in South Asia demonstrates both the larger policy, intellectual, and religious dynamics at work in the everyday operations of the British Indian empire and how these contributed to a recasting of communal relations. These dynamics include the coalescence of period understandings of what religion is, the development of disciplinary knowledge in Britain, the crystallization of the near universal authority of empirical science, and the views of Britons in regard to Hindus and Muslims, and themselves. Various historical threads of social and epistemic change caught the villagers of Chainpur in a Gordian knot entwining external forces with local collusion and resistance. These can be glimpsed in the on-the-ground engagements of British information orders with rural Indians as British and South Asian painters, surveyors, travellers, missionaries, and archaeologists engaged Chainpur residents in the pursuit of their various agendas. The conclusions that they took away from these engagements influenced—in varying, though sometimes miniscule degrees—the perspectives and policies of orientalists, other scholars, imperial administrators and the self-understandings of a great many Indians.

Keywords: religion; science; scientism; Hindus; Muslims; Britons

Chapter.  8413 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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