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New Books in Hindu Studies

Marshall Poe

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access_time2 months ago
McKenzie Wark’s new book offers 21 focused studies of thinkers working in a wide range of fields who are worth your attention. The chapters of General Intellects: Twenty-One Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century (Verso, 2017) introduce readers to important work in Anglophone cultural studies, psychoanalysis, political theory, media theory, speculative realism, science studies, Italian and French workerist and autonomist thought, two “imaginative readings of Marx,” and two “unique takes on the body politic.” There are significant implications of these ideas for how we live and work at the contemporary university, and we discussed some of those in our conversation. This is a great book to read and to teach with! Carla Nappi is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh. You can learn more about her and her work here.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
access_time2 months ago
Sumantra Bose's new book Secular States, Religious Politics, India, Turkey and the Future of Secularism (Cambridge University Press, 2018) is a fascinating comparison of the rise of religious parties in the non-Western world’s two major attempts to establish a post-colonial secular state. The secular experiments in Turkey and India were considered success stories for the longest period of time but that has changed with the rise of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in Turkey and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in India and the capture of state power by political forces with an anti-secular vision of nationhood. In his ground-breaking book, Bose attributes the rise of secularism to the fact that non-Western states like Turkey and India never adopted the Western principle of separation of state and church and instead based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. In doing so, Bose distinguishes between the embedding of secularism in Turkey in authoritarianism entrenched in the carving out of the modern Turkish state from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and the fact that secularism in India is rooted in culture and a democratic form of government. With the anti-secular trend in Turkey and India fitting into a global trend in which cultural and religious identity is gaining traction, Bose’s study constitutes a significant contribution to the study of the future of secularism and the often complex relationship between religious parties and the secular state.James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. 
access_time2 months ago
People sometimes forget—if they are even aware—that France’s empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries included a colonial presence in South Asia, a presence that at one time rivaled that of the British. Danna Agmon’s A Colonial Affair: Commerce, Conversion, and Scandal in French India (Cornell University, 2017) zooms in on the 1716 arrest and conviction of a Tamil commercial agent and employee of the French East India Company, a legal case that resonated throughout the empire for decades, even centuries, afterward. The “Nayiniyappa Affair” at the heart of this microhistory is Agmon’s way into a complex web of interests and fractures: the aims and actions of French traders, missionaries, and administrators, as well as the roles and agency of indigenous subjects and intermediaries. Moving from colonial Pondicherry to metropolitan France and back again, A Colonial Affair focuses on a local story and context with much broader implications for how we think about the workings of imperial power, authority, and sovereignty.In chapters that revisit the narrative of Nayiniyappa’s case from different angles, Agmon treats the affair as a prism illuminating aspects of the history of French colonialism. Examining the scandal from various perspectives, A Colonial Affair considers the myriad ways in which the origins and outcomes of the Nayiniyappa scandal were and might be understood. Throughout the book, Agmon weaves together the richness of the abundant archival material on the affair with careful analysis of the social, political, economic, and cultural dynamics of the case and context, including the meanings and effects of language, religious belief, local and kinship networks. A Colonial Affair will be of wide appeal to readers interested in the histories of France, India, Early modern capitalism, law, and empire in its multiple forms.Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the cultural politics of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send an email to:*The music that opens and closes the podcast is an instrumental version of “Creatures,” a song written by Vancouver artist/musician Casey Wei (performing as “hazy”). To hear more, please visit
access_time3 months ago
Dr. Philip Lutgendorf is Retired Professor of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies at the University of Iowa. He is currently working on a seven-volume translation of the Hindi devotional text, the Rāmcaritmānas written by the sixteenth-century North Indian poet, Tulsīdās. The first four volumes of the translation, entitled The Epic
access_time3 months ago
Anand Taneja’s Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi (Stanford University Press, 2017) is a landmark publication that interrogates modes of religious practice and imaginaries of time that disrupt dominant claims and narratives of the post-colonial state about religion and religious identity. Centered on the ruins
access_time5 months ago
In Hinduism: A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation (Routledge, 2018), Shyam Ranganathan argues that a careful philosophical study reveals telling philosophical disagreements across topics such as: ethics, logic, epistemology, moral standing, metaphysics, and politics. His analysis offers an innovative stance on the very study of Hinduism, and tensions between scholars and practitioners of...
access_time5 months ago
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the foundational texts of Hinduism and probably the one most familiar and popular in the West. The moral problem that motivates the text – is it right to kill members of one’s extended family if they are on the other side in a war?...
access_time6 months ago
What role, if any, do mythological texts play in philosophical discourse?  While modern Hindu Studies scholars are becoming increasingly attuned to the extent to which Indian narratives encode ideology, Sucharita Adluri’s Textual Authority in Classical Indian Thought: Ramanuja and the Vishnu Purana (Routledge, 2014) explores the extent to which the great medieval Hindu...
access_time7 months ago
Dr. Lavanya Vemsani is Distinguished Professor of India History and Religions at Shawnee University and the editor of the new volume entitled Modern Hinduism in Text and Context (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).  The essays in this volume look at a variety of topics ranging from Shaivite religious texts to biographies, novels,...
access_time8 months ago
Elaine Fisher’s Hindu Pluralism: Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South Asia (University of California Press, 2017) sheds light on the variegated, pluralistic texture of Hinduism in precolonial times. Drawing on Sanskrit, Telugu, and Tamil sources, Fisher argues for a uniquely South Asian form of religious pluralism, evidenced by religious...
access_time9 months ago
For many people language is a central characteristic of their social identity. In modern South Asia, the production of Urdu and Hindi as national languages was intricately tied to the hardening of religious identities. South Asian lexicographers, those folks who were most intimately working with language, were at the center...
access_time1 year ago
Many contemporary spiritual movements are characterized by denial of material pleasures, subjugation of the self, and focus on transcendence. A spiritual program that cultivates embodied satisfaction is often seen as inauthentic and fraudulent. These public understandings of new religious movements are part of the reason why the Indian Guru, Bhagwan...
access_time1 year ago
Scholars regularly assert that at Chicago’s World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893 Swami Vivekananda initiated Hinduism in America. Many histories of Hinduism in America reproduce this type of synthesizing narrative. But how was Hinduism defined by Vivekananda and how was it understood by his American audience? How did it relate...
access_time2 years ago
Amar Akbar Anthony is a film like no other. When you see it you cannot forget it. Filled with music, comedy, drama, and love it captures audiences in multiple ways. But what can we learn from a deeper look at this classic of Hindi cinema? William Elison, Assistant Professor at...
access_time2 years ago
The so called “Pariah Problem” emerged in public consciousness in the 1890s in India as state officials, missionaries and “upper”caste landlords, among others, struggled to understood the situation of Dalits (those subordinated populations once called untouchables). In The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India (Columbia University...
access_time2 years ago
Roman Sieler’s

 Lethal Spots, Vital Secrets: Medicine and Martial Arts in South India (Oxford University Press, 2015) is a fine-grained ethnographic study of varmakkalai–the art of vital spots, a South Indian practice that encompasses both martial and medical activities. The interview explores how varmakkalai relates to the wider field of...
access_time2 years ago
Arie L. Molendijk is Professor of the History of Christianity and Philosophy in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He has written Friedrich Max Muller and the Sacred Books of the East (Oxford University Press, 2016) to study how this seminal series...
access_time3 years ago
Sangay Mishra is the author of Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). Mishra is an assistant professor of political science at Drew University. While the number of South Asian Americans living in the U.S. has been growing rapidly over the last several...
access_time3 years ago
Waiting several hours in line for a hug is well worth it for thousands of people, the devotees of the Guru, Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi. In Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace (University of California Press, 2014), Amanda Lucia, Associate Professor of Religion at UC Riverside, provides a rich...
access_time3 years ago
New Subaltern Politics: Reconceptualizing Hegemony and Resistance in Contemporary India (Oxford University Press, 2015), edited by Alf Gunvald Nilsen and Srila Roy, is a wonderfully rich and theoretically coherent collection of texts that critically assess the legacies of Subaltern Studies through research into political movements in India today. The case...
access_time4 years ago
Joyce B. Flueckiger‘s new bookWhen the World Becomes Female: Guises of a South Indian Goddess (Indiana University Press, 2013) is a rich and colorful analysis of the goddess Gangamma’s festival and her devotees. During the festival men take on female guises, whilst women intensify the rituals that they perform throughout...
access_time4 years ago
Is yoga religious? This question has not only been asked recently by the broader public but also posed in the courts. Many argue that of course it is. The story of yoga in the popular imagination is often narrated as an ancient wisdom tradition that informs contemporary postural movements which...
access_time4 years ago
When did religion begin in South Asia? Many would argue that it was not until the colonial encounter that South Asians began to understand themselves as religious. In Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India (Oxford University Press, 2012), Peter Gottschalk, Professor of Religion at Wesleyan...
access_time4 years ago
Dalits and Adivasis in India’s Business Economy: Three Essays and an Atlas (Three Essay Collective, 2013) is a wonderful new book by Barbara Harriss-White and small team of collaborators – Elisabetta Basile, Anita Dixit, Pinaki Joddar, Aseem Prakash and Kaushal Vidyarthee – published by the Three Essays Collective. The book...
access_time5 years ago
If you’re going to teach a broadly themed survey course, you’ll probably need to assign some readings. One option is to assemble one of those photocopied course readers, full of excerpts taken from different sources. However, what you gain in flexibility may be sacrificed in coherence of presentation. A textbook...
access_time7 years ago
What is the relationship between religion, secularization, and education? Parna Sengupta, Associate Director of Introductory Studies at Stanford University, explores their connections as she reexamines the categories religion, empire, and modernity. In her new book, Pedagogy for Religion: Missionary Education and the Fashioning of Hindus and Muslims in Bengal (University...
access_time8 years ago
Bombay (Mumbai), India, is a city that has never lacked chroniclers from Rudyard Kipling to Salman Rushdie to Suketu Mehta, bards of pluralism have written about Bombay’s divers religions and peoples and the interactions between them. Now here comes a fantastic new book on the much touted ‘cosmopolitan culture,’ as...

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