Friday, 10 August 2012

Case Studies for Religion and Society (Sociology)

Indira Khangembam, 2007
Socio-cultural, and religious beliefs of the Lois of Manipur, and the challenges to these beliefs brought about by the Hinduization of
the dominant Meitei society in the state. The Lois comprise about two per cent of the total population of Manipur state and are generally considered to be a distinct ethnic group.
Religion is one of the most important aspects of Lois culture.  It is firmly rooted in the physical ecology, and is the basis of their distinct cultural identity.  The Lois’ religious practices and beliefs contain elements of naturism, animism and ancestor worship.with the ascent of Hinduism in Manipur, a gap has
been created between the Lois and Meiteis, the degraded status of the former being further reinforced as a result of their denomination as a Scheduled Caste by the government of independent India. The Lois now face political subordination and social discrimination in the Meitei-dominated Hinduized society of Manipur.

Meera Nanda, 2007 Secularism without Secularization
The very idea of secularism, its origin and various manifestations, is constantly being called into question in the so-called ‘secular state’. Using a comparative approach, this article discusses the origins of secularism and its influence on the shaping of contemporary state politics in the United States and India. Both nations have prescribed secularism through constitutional provisions, but these secular laws are not firmly anchored in a secular civil society. On the contrary, secularism at the state level encourages the flourishing of a thriving religious supermarket in civil society. Christian theocracy in the US is associated with the idea of liberty, while Hindu nationalism in India is associated with the idea of spiritual enlightenment. 
The existing malfunctions of the secular state arise due to the imposition of secularism without the concomitant secularization of civil society. She argues that the defense of secularism in the present time must start with the defense of scientific reason along with the cultivation of secular culture. Only then can a constitutionally imposed secularism grow meaningfully. 
Mohan Jharta and Sneh 2007,  Religious Conversion of Dalits from Hinduism to Christianity
Oppressed castes from the Hindu fold have always moved out of its fold in search of a religion which might give them security and better social status, embracing Islam, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, and also Christianity. While conversion to Christianity is observed to have brought about some changes in the social status of Dalit Christians, the author argues that there has not been much change in their economic status, and they remain economically more or less on par with their nonconverted Scheduled Caste brethren. The author therefore surmises that Dalits are embracing Christianity in order to improve their social status, and that it is not religion but the caste factor that provokes the decision to convert. In conclusion the authors suggest that further efforts are required by the government and the upper castes to assure Dalits of a respected and dignified status in society, and thereby to retain them within the folds of the Hindu community.

Madan, T.N 2007. Studying Islam
The author contends that Islam is a social reality which resides in the dialectic of a particular Qur’anic tradition and a ‘lived’ tradition. For the same reason an anthropological study of its communities requires that the communities be studied from within their historical, regional, cultural, and linguistic settings. To make an impact Islam has had to become ‘malleable’, ‘multivocal’ and ‘syncretistic’, as Clifford Geertz has shown with examples from Indonesia, Morocco and also the Philippines. 
The author explore its spread all over South Asia and into Bangladesh, Bengal and Kashmir during the medieval period as a result of both coercive conversion as well as the appeal of Islam’s egalitarian social order and tolerant message, etc. The rise and growth of Islam in these regions have been influenced to a large extent by the geographical, linguistic and political context of the local Muslims. The author contends that the fundamental issue for the anthropology of Islam in India is the nature of the relationship of a single scriptural Islam and a variety of lived Islams.

Naz, Farhaz:  Swaminarayan Movement and Gujarati Diasporic Identity. Man in India 87, 1 & 2 (2007): 129-36.
The author of this article looks at the varieties of diasporic migration, depending on the historical circumstances of migration, the relation of the diasporic communities to the host countries, and the response of the host countries. The South Asian diaspora has had two distinct phases: in the first place, forced migration for indentured labour, and subsequently migration in search of opportunity.  Both groups of migrants are further distinguished by the causes and patterns of migration, and the historical period of the migration. These differentiations make the Indian diaspora a complex and heterogeneous phenomenon.

The author takes as a case study the Gujarati communities spread over East Africa, the United Kingdom and North America. Though the groups differ in their migration patterns, histories and destinations, a common binding force has been the Swaminarayan Movement, a modern form of Vaishnavite Hinduism formulated in 19th century Gujarat. The author looks specifically at the prominence of this movement among Britain’s Gujarati immigrants. The prestigious Swaminarayan movement circuits the globe. Membership brings social advantage and attracts many wealthy followers.  It is also a vehicle for Sanskritization. The most important aspect of the movement is the transmission of tradition through the global convergence of religious identity with social and cultural identity, forming a powerful agent for the preservation of Gujarati ethnic identity. The Swaminarayan cult’s rituals, temples, organizations and festivals provide for an exclusive Gujarati meeting place.  This probably accounts for its success among the Gujarati diaspora.  Furthermore, its appearance of flexibility without the compromise of basic values appeals to the youth of the diaspora.

Patel, Sujata: Sociological Study of Religion, Colonial Modernity and 19th Century Majoritarianism.  Economic and Political Weekly 42, 13 (2007): 1089-94.
This article weaves together the 19th century representation of Hindu majoritarianism with an analysis of earlier and contemporary writings on the sociology of religion in India. Contemporary South Asian religious, ethnic, communal and sectarian conflicts are deeply rooted in the political processes of modernity, underpinned by a matrix of binaries. These binaries, developed in the nineteenth century, form the core concepts of the sociological study of religion in India, fashioning a discourse which is deeply imbricated with modernity theory. Politically, the creation of majoritarianism or the idea of the ‘great tradition’ is part of the reaffirmation of tradition to interrogate the ‘modern’, typical of the era, and the fashioning of tradition according to ‘upper caste’ perceptions. Thus religion as tradition naturalized relationships of domination-subordination, and various inequalities and exclusions.
In short, the writings of indigenous intellectuals created Hinduism as a majority religion, including all kinds of ideas and cultural practices, as a ‘great tradition’ and a timeless civilization. During this process, ideas of India and Hinduism collapsed into one another, defining the subcontinent by its relationship with Hinduism.  Castes and tribes directly related with Hinduism form the ‘majority’, while the ‘minorities’ constitute the people practicing Islam and Christianity. In conclusion the author underlines the relationship between the set of binaries and the acceptance, generation and promotion of the process of structural domination. She therefore stresses the importance of developing an alternative sociological language and sociology of religion that will be free from the language of colonial modernity.

Robinson, Rowena: Marginalization and Violence: Concerns for India and its Muslims. Social Action 57, 3 (2007): 233-43.
Based on a critical analysis of secondary data and the author’s own research data on the Indian Muslim community, this paper examines the issue of the social exclusion and marginalization of Muslims in India. With regard to literacy and education levels, Indian Muslims are far below the national average except in some southern and western states.  In consequence, they also have low representation in formal employment. Focusing on data on employment, income and position in decision-making bodies, the author observes that a very high share of Muslim workers are engaged in self-employment, particularly in urban areas, in the form of street vending and smallscale trading. They have low asset accumulation and lack access to bank credit, leaving them economically vulnerable and backward. Muslims are poorly represented in defense and security-related activities. There are only 36 Muslims in the current Lok Sabha of 545 representatives.  Moreover, analysis of the 2001 Census indicates that Muslims are usually excluded from the available developmental resources.  For instance, villages with a high concentration of Muslims are not well-connected with ‘pucca’ roads and generally lack postal and telegraph services, educational infrastructure, and banking facilities.
In sum, the data show that Muslims experience relatively high levels of poverty and deprivation, and live in the shadow of vulnerability. The economic and political marginalization of Muslims is compounded by evidence of poor and discriminatory provisioning by the state. Such a situation, the author argues, is exacerbated by the expectation of recurring communal violence adversely impacting on this minority group. The author concludes that the existing marginalization of Indian Muslims and their overall sense of insecurity need urgent solution. Otherwise, the expanding gap between Muslims and others will surely create a big hiatus in the overall development process.

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