Religion Under a Social Scientific Lens

Understand religion in India today through themes like identity, praxis, and authority.

One of the promises of modernity, of being modern, in the world was to minimize, if not remove, the influence of one of the most remarkable creations of human mind and society — religion. But religion, broadly conceived, has proved to be remarkably resilient in grafting itself into pretty much every aspect of public life in the modern world, either explicitly or implicitly. Taking the famous French sociologist-philosopher Emile Durkheim’s landmark formulation of religion being an eminently social thing’, this course focuses on the following key categories through which to understand religion in the contemporary world: identity, authority, institution, and practice. In involving students to seriously engage with the question of religion through these categories, this course, offered in the fourth semester, will cover the following illustrative contexts: the formation of modern religious identities in India — the role played by the colonial state, anti-colonial national movements, and the emergence of popular, democratic politics in pre and post-independence; the close interrelationship between caste and religion in India, as well as explore how gender and religion interact with each other; and religious praxis, that is the practices, and ideologies informing those practices, across a range of domains that mark out social, cultural, and political phenomena as religious’. After doing this course, students should be able to critically engage with debates and controversies in society that emanate from religious contexts and/​or invoke religions in other contexts, for different ends.