Can the nation be an object of worship? Do religious and national identities fortify each other? How must we understand religious violence? What is the relationship between religion and politics in a secular world? Can religion be deployed as an instrument of political mobilization and transformations?
Bearing the above questions in mind, this course will examine the relationship between the Nation and Religion in South Asia. Home to almost every major Religion of the world, the region of South Asia has also witnessed a variety of movements and mobilizations that explicitly invoke religion in the service of the nation. The partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947, the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India, and pro-democracy movements in Myanmar, religion is never too far from politics, nor neatly privatized. We will examine the following case studies from the subcontinent that shed light on the intersections between religion and nation: the idea of ‘Mother India,’ the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent, the controversy over Rama’s ‘birthplace’ in India, the notion of ‘Jihad,’ and Buddhist monks’ participation in pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. The course will be divided into broad thematic sections dealing with community formation, national identity, religious fundamentalisms, and political mobilizations.
Course objectives include fostering a nuanced understanding of the myriad ways in which religious collectives find expression in politics and society and contribute in forging modern national identities. Students will gain critical insight into religious nationalisms in South Asia and beyond. In addition, students will be able to take what they learn from this course about religion and the nation to other situations and parts of the world. This course is not meant to provide final answers. Its primary objective is to make students think and reflect in a critical fashion, and provide them with the material and intellectual tools necessary to do so.
Course evaluation will be based upon attendance and class participation, two short essays, group presentations, a film review, and a final paper.
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