Secularism as Misdirection: Critical Thought from the Global South
Clayman Institute for Gender Research
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
William J. Perry Conference Room
The Center for South Asia and the Clayman Institute for Gender Research invite you for an in-person talk with Nivedita Menon, Professor at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, on November 17, 2023.
Speaker Biography: Nivedita Menon is a Professor at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Her latest book is Secularism as Misdirection: Critical Thought from the Global South (Permanent Black and Duke University Press 2023).
Apart from research papers in Indian and international journals, her previous books are Seeing like a Feminist(2012/updated 2nd Edition 2022), Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law (2004); and (co-written) Power and Contestation: India after 1989 (2007/2nd Edition 2014). She also has two edited volumes Gender and Politics in India (1999) and Sexualities (2007); and a co-edited book Critical Studies in Politics. Exploring Sites, Selves, Power (2014).
She is a regular commentator on contemporary issues on the collective blog kafila.online (of which she is one of the founders), and active in democratic politics in India.
She has translated fiction and non-fiction from Hindi and Malayalam into English, and from Malayalam into Hindi, and received the AK Ramanujan Award for translation instituted by Katha.
Summary: In the performance of a magic trick, misdirection draws attention away from where the trick is happening to another place which appears more fascinating. This book addresses the grid of meanings secularism produces, which effects such a misdirection. Certain features become hypervisible (religion, women) while others are obscured (caste, capitalism, the non-individuated, non-rational self). The perspective is from (but the book is not about) the global South and India, and reconceptualizes secularism more generally.
Secularism is merely a strategy of rule, being compatible with democracy and authoritarianism, with capitalism and socialism. Once we are no longer dazzled by the misdirection, meaningful values - democracy, social justice and ecological justice – come centre stage.
The chapters explore intertwined issues around religion, state and women; Hindu supremacist politics (Hindutva) in India and how a certain discourse of secularism plays into that project while Hindutva projects Brahminism as “Hinduism”; psychoanalysis and the self in the global South; and finally, how new visions of constitutionalism, citizenship, and anti-capitalist modes of existence are being articulated in the 21st century.
This event is co-sponsored by the Center for South Asia and the Clayman Institute for Gender Research.
Registration is required.