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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Just as in the period of British imperialism, today too the social categories used by one group to know others tell us as more about those fashioning the categories than they do those being classified. Now, as then, the characterizations accompanying religious categories have helped justify foreign interventions by Western countries that enjoy asymmetrical political, economic, and military power. Meanwhile, similar dynamics continue to enable and empower communalists in South Asia. Yet, those who search for the origins of these dynamics seldom find satisfaction in merely instrumentalist presumptions of divide-and-rule agendas. Nevertheless, the classifications and the representations of the state both coercively and persuasively helped refashion the self-understandings of many Indians, who always maintained some agency in their self-identification. Specifically, the representations of a particular set of villages demonstrate the breadth of disciplinary interest that took religion as a primary category of analysis and traces the capillary action that wicked “on-the-spot” “local knowledge” into the larger, more popular arteries of knowledge transference regarding India and Indians, providing data for Orientalists and scholars in Indian and European cities, while still influencing many Indians today.

Keywords: religion; science; scientism; discipline; communalism; category; classification

Chapter.  3864 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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