Convictions religieuses et engagement en Asie du Sud depuis 1850/Religious Convictions and Social Commitment in South Asia since 1850. Edited by CATHERINE CLEMENTIN-OJHA. Etudes thema-tiques. vol. 25. Paris: ECOLE FRANCAISE D' EXTREME-ORIENT, 2011, Pp. 228. [euro]40.
This volume offers an interesting set of essays on a variety of thinkers who have used religious ideas and practices to address social issues of their day. The book consists of seven chapters plus an introduction, all but one of which are in French. There are helpful summaries of each contribution in both French and English at the back of the book, making it possible for readers of either language to get a sense of its contents. Each of the chapters focuses on the life, thought, and career of a specific South Asian thinker, three of whom are Muslim, three of whom are Hindu, and one of whom is Jain. Five of the seven chapters deal with individuals active during the colonial and early nationalist periods; the final two chapters bring the volume into the present.
The essays are grouped according to the religious identity of the individuals under study, with each section being further structured along historical lines. The first three chapters deal, respectively, with the Muslim thinkers Zaka Ullah, Iqbal, and Maududi and span the period of 1850 to 1999. The next three deal with Hindu thinkers active between 1875 and the present. The final chapter is a study of the Jain missionary Gurudev Shri Chitrabhanu and his contemporary community of followers. Despite the book's organization around religious identity, the editor seeks to avoid a deterministic view of religion's role in modern South Asian social and political activism. In the volume's introduction, Clementin-Ojha argues that, while classifying a social movement as "religious" highlights its references to timeless beliefs and practices, the volume's biographical approach situates each thinker in his context. This emphasizes the role of historical contingency and individual agency in articulating a link between religious ideas and social realities. It also highlights the inherent susceptibility of religious traditions to a variety of possible interpretations.
Indeed. one of the volume's main strengths is the way in which it reveals important intellectual and pragmatic differences between the individual thinkers considered. This is true despite the fact that many were working under similar circumstances, came from similar...