The Politics of Religion in Secular Law

Tuesday Seminar
Event Speaker: 
Ratna Kapur
Event Time: 
03:30 PM to 05:00 PM
Event Venue: 
Committee Room (Ms 610)

In this talk I address the politics of religion in secular law. The category of religion is a modern creation that emerged in Europe, and subsequently became a trans-historical phenomenon conceived of as a distinct space of human practice and belief, and as having an autonomous essence. European scholars developed the category of world religions, including `Hinduism’ and `Buddhism’, modelled on a distinctly Christian epistemology and ontology, that included a belief system, a central scripture or text as key components, and was combined with the secular idea that political power and religious authority could be segregated. The entire construction of the category of religion is thus not only thoroughly modern, it is also limited, exclusive and based on a Abrahamic genealogical schema. And this schema informs the ways in which religion is taken up in law, both in India and other liberal secular democracies.

The talk will focus on three concerns: first how religion is integral to secularism in liberal democratic states; second, how religion is invariably set up in opposition to gender equality in legal advocacy, and in the process obscures the majoritarian underpinnings and normative scaffolding of the right to gender equality; and finally, how progressive groups, including feminists, leftists, and human rights advocates, are implicated in the type of politics of religion being advanced in and through the discourse of secularism and gender equality rights as well as how the legal contests are occluuding some of the deeper epistemological challenges.

Ratna Kapur is Visiting Professor, School of Law, Queen Mary University of LondonDistinguished Professor (Sessional) Symbiosis School of Law, Pune and Senior Faculty, Institute of Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School

She teaches and publishes extensively on postcolonial, critical, and feminist legal theory, Human Rights, and Liberal Rights Discourse.

Her books include ""Secularism's Law Sight? Hindutva and the (Mis)Rule of Law"" (OUP, coauthored) (2001 reprint)
Erotic Justice and New Politics of Postcolonialism (Glasshouse Press/Taylor and Francis, 2005)
Makeshift Migrants and Law: Gender and Belongingness (Routledge 2010)
Her forthcoming book is ""Gender, Alterity and Human Rights: Freedom in a Fishbowl"" (Edward Elgar Publishers 2018).