The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity, and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition
In this major reinterpretation of religion and society in India, Harjot Oberoi challenges earlier accounts of Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam as historically given categories encompassing well-demarcated units of religious identity. Through a searching examination of Sikh historical materials, he shows that early Sikh tradition was not concerned with establishing distinct religious boundaries. Most Sikhs recognized multiple identities grounded in local, regional, religious, and secular loyalties. Consequently, religious identities were highly blurred and several competing definitions of what constituted a Sikh were possible.
In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, however, the Singh Sabha, a powerful new Sikh movement, began to view the multiplicity in Sikh identity with suspicion and hostility. Aided by social and cultural forces unleashed by the British Raj, the Singh Sabha sought to recast Sikh tradition and purge it of diversity. The ethnocentric logic of a new elite dissolved alternative ideals under the highly codified culture of modern Sikhism.
A study of the process by which a pluralistic religious world view is replaced by a monolithic one, this important book calls into question basic assumptions about the efficacy of fundamentalist claims and the construction of all social and religious identities. An essential book for the field of South Asian religions, this work is also an important contribution to cultural anthropology, postcolonial studies, and the history of religion in general.
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Page 26 - By episteme, we mean . . . the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized systems...
Page 26 - The episteme is not a form of knowledge ... or type of rationality which, crossing the boundaries of the most varied sciences, manifests the sovereign unity of a subject, a spirit, or a period; it is the totality of relations that can be discovered, for a given period, between the sciences when one analyses them at the level of discursive regularities'.
Page 13 - The analysis of a culture's terminological systems will not, of course, exhaustively reveal the cognitive world of its members, but it will certainly tap a central portion of it. Culturally significant cognitive features must be communicable between persons in one of the standard symbolic systems of the culture. A major share of these features will undoubtedly be codable in a society's most flexible and productive communication device, its language.
Page 1 - In reality, then, there are no religions which are false. All are true in their own fashion; all answer, though in different ways, to the given conditions of human existence.
Page 26 - Vintage, 1970), p. xi; later in that book a less equivocal definition is given, stating that "in any given culture and at any given moment, there is always one episteme that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in a theory or silently invested in practice,