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Title: People Beliefs and Converging Traditions
Authors: Shyam, Rama
Keywords: Roy Burman, J.J.
School of Social Sciences
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Abstract: Abstracts of the Five Papers Paper I: The Concept and Theories of Religion The intention of the present paper is to look at the evolution of religion historically as discussed by anthropologists and sociologists. It intends to look at the importance of defining religion from various perspectives and then moving towards the various anthropological and sociological theories that have been attempted in the course of studying religion, both at an academic as well as at the ethnographic level. The paper is divided into three main parts; Part I deals with the conceptual clarity regarding religion and spills over into the evolutionary history of religion - the study and concept of religion mostly conceived by anthropologists and sociologists. Part II looks at the various sociological and anthropological approaches along with the major contributions of the three most famous names in sociology: Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Marx. Part III attempts to sum up the arguments in the paper and examine the contemporary influences on sociology of religion. Paper II: Beyond Essentialised Religion: Lived in Experience, Popular Religion and Syncretism The key argument in the paper is built around 'religion as faith'2 (Nandy 1990), closer to the quotidian practices of everyday human existence. By religion, one generally understands the faith one follows by virtue of ascription. At the same time it is considered that, the only faiths existing in the world are the ones that are widely spoken of such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and so on-religions with distinct boundaries that are considered closed to those who are not co-religionists. In fact, the tendency is to look upon these world religions as essentialised criteria of one's identity-a distinct marker of one's social self that readily marks out the 'other' as different and therefore alien to the worldview of the 'religious self. This paper is an attempt to look beyond such stereotypes by attempting to examine various perspectives and arguments that have tried to comprehend the layers of the human self, manifest in societal interactions at all levels and across established religious communities. Paper III: Religious Pluralism and the Nation-State: A Socio-historical Analysis with Reference to India There are certain attributes of identities that are constructed based on certain parameters. Today, in the age of globalisation and a continuous movement of populations from one place to another, it becomes all the more important to identify oneself with a nation or a state in terms of nationality and citizenship. This paper uses these identities as the reference point to understand the concepts of nation, nationality, state, nation-state etc. Further, it attempts to understand the role played by religion in forging bonds within/without or across nations. It is important to understand that human beings possess multiple identities and reveal each of them based on the context and situation in which s/he finds oneself. Hence, the paper would try to look at how concepts are not adequate to capture all the layers of these identities that may be used to establish different affiliations at different points in time. Section I deals with the concept of Identity and the related concepts of nation, state, nation-state, citizenship and religious affiliation. The intention is to illustrate how all these concepts are in reality various expressions of the primary idea of 'identity', on the basis of which boundaries are demarcated and differences constructed. Once these concepts and their interlinkages between them have been discussed, Section II touches upon the concept of pluralism as outlined in various theoretical discourses. It also attempts to frame the concept of secularism as envisaged within the liberal democratic framework. This would entail a comparison with the idea of secularism emphasised in the Indian Constitution as well. Paper IV: Religious Contestation and Social Conflict in India: Perspectives from History The key intent of the paper is to examine the existing body of knowledge that has recorded analysed and interpreted causes of religious conflict in India. The paper has been divided into three sections, each dealing with a particular phase in history. In studying various dimensions of intercommunity interactions, the paper seeks to find answers to the following questions: What are the processes that have gone into the construction of religious identities that the present generations of Indians have been clutching on to? Which are the various stakeholders that determine the relationship between socio-religious groups? Can one decisively point out a set pattern of religious contestation without analysing contextual dimensions? What have been the changes in form and content of religious contestation in India over the decades? What has been its impact upon social interactions between various religious groups and what are the present implications? Paper V: Social Formations in Maharashtra: A Historical Overview So far, the previous pre-doctoral papers have dealt with various conceptual and theoretical frameworks related to religion, popular religion, identity and contestations. The idea behind the exercise has been to get an understanding of the various complexities underlying the concepts, theories and debates - both historical and contemporary - that outline the discussions on religion, society and history in India. Since the doctoral study would be geographically located in Maharashtra, it is imperative to look into how these debates can be applied to the history and society of this region. Herein lies the significance of this paper, which is an attempt to understand the diverse strains that contributed to the formation of society in Maharashtra starting with medieval history. It is an attempt to study a phenomenon that holds multiple interests and meanings for different people. It may be termed as a phenomenon that operates outside the state structure, leading towars an anarchic streak [guided more by the moral order prevailing in society rather than institutions and codified laws]. Keeping in mind the diversity of the society in this region, the paper attempts to examine the existing literature that deals with the historical interpretations of the transitions in the social sphere that has influenced group formation, identity construction and subsequently contemporary debates on religion, nationality and plurality.
Appears in Collections:M.Phil.

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