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Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality, and the Politics of Translation (Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture) [Hardcover]

Arvind Mandair

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Book Description

13 Nov 2009 Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture
Arguing that intellectual movements, such as deconstruction, postsecular theory, and political theology, have different implications for cultures and societies that live with the debilitating effects of past imperialisms, Arvind Mandair unsettles the politics of knowledge construction in which the category of "religion" continues to be central. Through a case study of Sikhism, he launches an extended critique of religion as a cultural universal. At the same time, he presents a portrait of how certain aspects of Sikh tradition were reinvented as "religion" during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. India's imperial elite subtly recast Sikh tradition as a sui generis religion, which robbed its teachings of their political force. In turn, Sikhs began to define themselves as a "nation" and a "world religion" that was separate from, but parallel to, the rise of the Indian state and global Hinduism. Rather than investigate these processes in isolation from Europe, Mandair shifts the focus closer to the political history of ideas, thereby recovering part of Europe's repressed colonial memory. Mandair rethinks the intersection of religion and the secular in discourses such as history of religions, postcolonial theory, and recent continental philosophy. Though seemingly unconnected, these discourses are shown to be linked to a philosophy of "generalized translation" that emerged as a key conceptual matrix in the colonial encounter between India and the West. In this riveting study, Mandair demonstrates how this philosophy of translation continues to influence the repetitions of religion and identity politics in the lives of South Asians, and the way the academy, state, and media have analyzed such phenomena.

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Overall, Mandair's broad temporal, spatial, and intellectual perspectives make this a very interesting volume. By exploring Sikhism from the perspectives of deconstructionist, postcolonial, and postsecular theory, he fills in an important gap in Sikh philosophy and charts out provocative new directions. -- Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh History of Religions Vol 51, No 2, 2011

About the Author

Arvind-Pal S. Mandair teaches at the University of Michigan. He is a founding coeditor of the journal Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, and Theory.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a new bridge to "east meets west" 24 April 2013
By barryb - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE "ABDA-GURU". And the "abda-guru" was with god; and the "abda-guru" was god. Mandair's new book on how the east can move beyond colonialism to post-colonialism is a significant contribution from Columbia's insurrection series. This time, however it is not post-modern thought. It goes beyond that to post-colonial thought. The fundamental premise is to move forward by adopting Zizek, with a few modifications. This means that Europe and India look at the same events and hold the same purpose from two distinct perspectives. Their paths will run parallel to each other, but will never converge or synthesize. A past attempt at a synthesis was colonialism and it absorbed and obliterated India's distinct identity. Parallax is the only workable solution.

neo-colonial texts have emerged that provide false signification for India. These were Singh's Sikh theology and Mcleod's systematic theology. What is needed is a new signifier to couple with the hermeneutic of parallax. That new signifier is "sabda-guru" or "word". The word-model will transcend both false models of "humanism" and "post-modernism". This model is constructed through the "vanishing mediator of an authentic India-identity and voice.

something you should be aware of: the presentation of de-construction and neo-colonialism is very detailed and is no problem assimilating. However, the material dealing with re-construction is full of gaps where you are expected to already be familiar with zizek; very familiar. This problem shows up in two places: an introduction that ends abruptly without completing itself; and the last chapter which is supposed to give the finer detail of re-construction.

I like Mandair. I watched him on u-tube also. This book is a treasure; a real treasure to westerners like myself who benefitted greatly. But do a tutorial on Zizek first or you'll scream at some of the missing parts. I'm going 5 stars; I truly enjoyed the research presented here.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read 1 Jan 2012
By Reviewer - Published on
An amazing piece of work unrivaled by any modern thinker addressing post-colonial theory. A densely packed and laser-sharp look at the bedrock of 'religion'. An essential read!
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Misleading about Sikhism in everyway.... 6 Jan 2014
By Mr. Singh - Published on
Just because someone who looks like a Sikh, doesn't mean he is a sikh. If his inner and outer thoughts and beliefs are not in parallel to Sikhism, THEN HE IS NOT A SIKH. This person, who wrote this book CANNOT BE A SIKH. He may look.... but looks are deceiving. This author is obviously trying to Deceive in terms of that he is trying to gain some advantage with the western world in terms of his thoughts and beliefs. He doesn't understand Sikhism. No Sikh will ever back this book because this is not the beliefs of Sikhism. To other cultures and religions, from this book, please don't be mislead of what Sikhism is... Because this book is very misleading.....[...]
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gross misinterpretation of Sikhism 6 Jan 2014
By John Sull - Published on
This book grossly misinterprets what Sikhism is in reality, and fails to accurately describe its fundamental essence. Sikhs have openly and globally denounced this book over the years in print and media due to its flawed viewpoint on the Sikh religion.
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