Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

(Post) Secular Discomforts: Religio-Secular Disclosures in the Indian Context

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

(Post) Secular Discomforts: Religio-Secular Disclosures in the Indian Context

Article excerpt

If the pronouncement of a post-secular age has been productive for scholarship that unpacks secular discomforts, a point of departure for this essay is to trace the entanglement of the secular and the religious in its colonial incarnation to contribute to extant scholarship on secularism and the post-secular in the Indian context. I trace some of the contrapuntal debates on the secular and the post-secular that have significance for questions of co-existence within the Indian nation-state. What does a reconsideration of the secular, a probing of its discomforts, offer for the question of religio-secular co-existence in the Indian context? And what are the limits of a post-secular turn-in the sense of a reconsideration of spiritual belief or theological conventions as a resource for co-existence-if we think through the forms of power generated by this turn? How do questions of majoritarianisms and minoritisations inflect these debates? As I suggest in this essay, these questions reveal what is at stake in discussions of the secular and its post.

-POST-SECULAR THEORY/POSTCOLONIAL IMPLICATIONS

The post-secular turn at the intersection of the fields of political philosophy, anthropology and religious, postcolonial and cultural studies has highlighted theological political formations which have informed differential histories of the secular. This turn has witnessed a reconsideration of the secularisation thesis.1 Yet, in order to flesh out the intricate philosophical relationship between the religious and the secular, perhaps the best way to begin this discussion is with reference to Derrida's deconstruction of religion. In his essay, 'Faith and Knowledge', which comments on the Kantian text, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Derrida unpacks the religious and the secular through tracing their etymological genealogy during the Enlightenment period.2 Derrida argues that Kant arrogates for Christianity a morality and a reason. But the evangelicism of this reason also constitutes something that comes to be defined as the other to religion-a world without God. This other emerges in the move to validate practical reason above faith. As Derrida traces it, the conduct of morality also necessitates a 'radical dissociation' from God or at least the need to suspend the 'existence of God' in theory.3 Derrida describes this move by asking 'Is this not another way of saying that Christianity can only answer to its moral calling' to its 'Christian calling if it endures in this world, in phenomenal history, the death of God?'4 For Derrida, this Christianity is also 'the death of God' that is 'announced and recalled by Kant to the modernity of the Enlightenment'.5 Derrida's deconstructive move, therefore, identifies in Kant's formulation of proper rational religion (Christianity), an emergence of the secular, through the emphasis on reason. But in the process of this deconstruction, Derrida traces how the thesis of religion, limited by reason, is subject to an aporia or a conundrum. One of the aporias present in 'Faith and Knowledge' appears to be this: even as suspension and death of religion (implying the emergence of the secular) is heralded through an attempt to define a rational religion, the vocabulary of Christian theology (an integral part of the history of its link with different forms of political power) remains present in all that is considered secular in the present.6

Perhaps referring to the opposition between globalisation and religion invoked by writers like Samuel Huntingdon in The Clash of Civilizations, Derrida suggests that 'from here on, the word "religion" is calmly (and violently) applied to things which have always been and remain foreign to what this word names and arrests in its history'.7 Derrida then makes a significant suggestion: 'the history of the word "religion" should in principle forbid every non-Christian from using the name "religion", in order to recognise in it what "we" would designate, identify and isolate there'. …

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