Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationBrown U.
Grant numberGr. 10221
Approve DateOctober 7, 2021
Project TitleHasan, Nomaan (Brown U.) "Encounters Between Secularism and Islam in Contemporary India"
What comes after the critique of secularism? Anthropology has usually been skeptical of the concept. Interrogating its Eurocentrism, several authors have argued that secularism is the source of discrimination against Muslims in particular, calling Islam its ‘other’. Are there other ways to understand the relationship between secularism and Islam? In the wake of escalating attack on secularism by the Hindu majoritarian government, India is witnessing the biggest political movement by Muslims in its history. As Muslims organize to reclaim the country’s endangered secular foundations, this project examines the transformations Islam and secularism are undergoing in contemporary India through twelve-months of fieldwork in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, considered the main laboratory of Hindu majoritarian ideology. Using participant observation, household surveys, interviews, and digital ethnography I investigate: a) the local understandings of secularism emerging through Muslim political practices; b) how Muslims are drawing upon the Islamic tradition in their articulation of secularism; and c) how Muslims negotiate tensions between secularism and Islam, as manifested in competing imaginations of temporality. At a time when liberal secularism is waning across the world, this project takes the political struggle of Indian Muslims as an opportunity to rethink the relationship between secularism and Islam.