Announcement and Call for Papers - Rethinking Religion in India II: 'Rethinking Secularism'

Esther Bloch esther.bloch at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 23 08:56:47 UTC 2008

Announcement and Call for Papers
Rethinking Religion in India II: 'Rethinking Secularism'
10-13 January 2009 – India (venue will be announced soon)

Dear colleagues,

We would like to invite you for the second conference of Rethinking Religion
in India: 'Rethinking Secularism'.

When India became independent in 1947 there were high hopes that secularism
would adequately protect the nation against communal strife. Six decades
later, however, recurrent communal riots, the rise of Hindutva and key
events like the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya have led to a
crisis of Indian secularism. Nevertheless, no adequate understanding of the
nature of these problems is provided by the current social sciences.
Instead, an ideological struggle between secularism and Hindutva has
hijacked all reflection and debate on the nature of Indian culture and

Rethinking Religion in India II is the initiative of a group of
intellectuals who think this clash between secularism and Hindutva is
pernicious. Within the general aims of the five-year conference cluster,
this second conference intends to move beyond the framework which presents
liberal secularism as the only possible solution to communal strife. Under
the motto of "Rethinking Secularism," it will examine the limitations of the
conceptual framework shared by Hindutva and secularism. The Research Centre
Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap (Ghent University, Belgium), India Platform
UGent (Ghent University, Belgium), the Centre for the Study of Local
Cultures (Kuvempu University, India) and the Karnataka Academy of Social
Sciences and Humanities (Karnataka, India) invite you for four days of
reflection on the possibilities that lie beyond this normative straitjacket.

The conference will work towards these ambitions in four formats:

- The Platform Sessions will have a one-on-one debate between two thinkers
who will focus on the question "Is secularism the solution to communal
conflict in India?" Achin Vanaik (Delhi University) and Jakob De Roover
(Ghent University) have been invited as central speakers in the debate.

- The Roundtable Sessions will invite a distinguished group of thinkers to
reflect on three different problems related to the aim of rethinking
secularism: (1) Freedom of Religion and Religious Conversion; (2)
Secularism, Hindutva and the Aryan Invasion Theory; and (3) Liberal
Secularism and Religious Fundamentalism: Opposites or Alter Egos? A
preliminary list of speakers and respondents consists of Ashis Nandy (Centre
for the Study of Developing Societies); Dilip K. Chakrabarty (University of
Cambridge); Edwin Bryant (State University of New Jersey); Scott Appleby
(University of Notre Dame); Winnifred F. Sullivan (State University of New
York); Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University); Geoffrey Oddie (The University
of Sydney); Laurie L. Patton (Emory University); Richard King (Vanderbilt
University); S.N. Balagangadhara (Ghent University); Vivek Dhareshwar
(Centre for the Study of Culture and Society), Timothy Fitzgerald
(University of Stirling).

A call for papers is open for the following two sessions (  >  call for papers):

- The Parallel Paper Sessions will deal with (1) Indian Religion and the
Issue of Conversion; (2) The Caste System and Indian Religion; (3)
Colonialism and Religion in India; (4) Religion and Law in India. We invite
submission of abstracts for these sessions. The abstracts should clearly
address the questions formulated on our website.

- "How To…?" Workshop sessions: One of the workshops will deal with the
question 'How to teach about the Indian traditions and religions?' We invite
proposals for workshops dealing with similar questions. Workshop proposals
should explain why this workshop is relevant in India today and why it is
important vis-à-vis the general objectives of Rethinking Religion in India.

For more information, please visit our website at

A number of interviews, presentations and debates of the first conference,
Rethinking Religion in India I, can be watched on

 Looking forward to welcoming you at our conference,

The Organising Committee


Marianne Keppens & Esther Bloch
Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap
Ghent University
Apotheekstraat 5
B-9000 Gent, Belgium
tel: +32 (0)9 264 93 71
fax: +32 (0)9 264 94 83
e-mail: Marianne.Keppens at  &  Esther.Bloch at

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