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Disenchantments of secularism: the West and India
chapterposted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by Purushottama Bilimoria
This Chapter is an exercise in comparative secularism. In this chapter I will be concerned basically with a critique of Western conceptions of secularism, beginning with Hegel’s invention of a particular reading of secularism that, through imperialist literature, gave a preeminent direction to the ideology of the less-religiously orientated Indian nationalists during their drawn-out independence struggle. My main concern will be to contrast the Western debates on ‘the secular’, particularly in its recent permutations or attempted revisions as a response to the crisis of modernity, with the current Indian debates—where ‘ the secular; has all but been hijacked by the Hindu Right—and to show—reversing Hegel’s trajectory—what impact the latter could have on the former. There is some evidence of this already occurring, particularly in Charles Taylor’s work and travels wherein he does make some gestures towards looking at non-Western experiences of secularism (which is taken more or less to be synonymous with secularization). There are severe limitations to this overture however, and the chapter hopes to sound a word of caution on the kind of excitement over which Taylor seems to have become something of a celebrity in the academe. Even more disappointingly, one does not find a similar emphatic approach or opening to non-Western experiences and rethinking of the secular in the works of other modernists; and I point to Habermas and Žižek as my examples, who I touch on, albeit very briefly. This lack or lacuna makes both the discourse of modernity and the supplementary critique of secularism much the poorer for it.