Much of the scholarship dealing with religious offence in South Asia focuses on the unintended effects of blasphemy laws, showing, for instance, that laws presumably intended to promote religious tolerance end up informing, if not encouraging, disputes around religious sensitivities. But while debates about the effects of law are crucial, this collection widens the scope of the enquiry by suggesting that a more nuanced understanding of religious offence can be gained by looking past full-blown legal proceedings and the spectacular violence performed in the streets during religious offence controversies. Drawing on the extensive empirical field research of six scholars of religion and politics, this book directs attention to frictions around religious sensitivities that are handled and often mitigated locally—either entirely outside the courts or through bottom-up initiatives that unfold in combination with, or as a reaction to, top-down measures. While documenting a range of containment modalities in diverse geographical and socio-religious settings in India and scrutinising their functioning and outcomes, the book is a first attempt to bridge research on religious offence with critical understandings of peace and scholarship on the micro-mechanisms of coexistence.
Beyond Courtrooms and Street Violence is a significant new contribution to the study of religion, politics and communities in India, and will be a great resource for academics, researchers, and advanced students of Anthropology, History, Politics, Cultural Studies, and Sociology.
The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.
Table of Contents
1. Rethinking religious offence and its containment: towards a new research agenda
Kathinka Frøystad and Vera Lazzaretti
2. Ritual remedies: overcoming murder in a South Indian temple
3. Ritualising offence: mitigating re-enactment of sectarian rivalry in Kanchipuram
4. Beyond demarcations: handling a sensitive hagiography of a medieval Sufi saint in Modi’s India
5. A dialogue of shrines: eclipsing offence in Amritsar’s Heritage Street
6. Raising alarm or swallowing hurt? The case of a broken deity tile in Kanpur
7. ‘We know how to behave and that’s why we feel safe’: peace and insecurity in Banaras
Vera Lazzaretti is Researcher at the Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA) in Lisbon, currently working on heritage and security in urban South Asia. Her research interests include the anthropology of space and place, religion and politics, heritage, securitisation and policing, religious violence, pilgrimage, religious nationalism, inequality, and ethnography.
Kathinka Frøystad is an anthropologist and Professor of Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Oslo, Norway, specialising in everyday religious complexity in Northern India. Her research interests include new religious formations, religious nationalism, ritual engagement beyond ‘official’ religious boundaries as well as the anthropological field methods through which such phenomena may be studied.