Political Studies Association

Religion in the making of a region

Religion has been varyingly discussed as a source of radicalisation, as also human development and well being. Certainly, it continues to be an important factor in South Asian societies and polities. This project explores its multidimensional influence in the making of a region -­ Gujarat, western India. A hub of Indian Ocean trade networks for centuries, Gujarat has seen rich interaction between Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Parsis and Christians and their sectarian traditions. This complex history is being erased today, as neo-liberal growth is accompanied by increasing violence against religious minorities under a Hindu nationalist government.

Our aim has been to produce a unique narrative by delving into seven thematic areas -­ religion and politics in early modern and contemporary times; religious communities and the making of the region; caste and community today; religion in the economy; religion on the margins; and gurus in a democratic developmental space. Overall, the idea is not to reify religion, but to highlight its role in the producing, sustaining and sometimes endangering of Gujarat. The web of religious experience and possibilities that we construct is analytically achievable only in the focused spatiality of a study such as ours. However, our findings have relevance to the resurgence of studies of religion more broadly.