Hinduism and Law: An Introduction.

Author:Brick, David
Position:Book review
 
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Hinduism and Law: An Introduction. Edited by TIMOTHY LUBN, DONALD R. DAVIS, JR., and JAYANTH K. KRISHNAN. Cambridge: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2010. Pp. xvi + 303. $90 (cloth), $34.99 (paper).

As its title suggests, Hinduism and Law: An Introduction is an edited volume of essays that deal, in a multitude of ways, with both Hindu religious traditions and law, thereby elucidating the deep and pervasive connections between these two social phenomena. Although the volume's editors do not specify why they have chosen to refer to the work as an introduction, the presumed reason is that it is explicitly intended to provide an "accessible analysis of the main features and periods of what has conventionally been called Hindu law, and of the interrelations between law and Hinduism more broadly, up to the present day" (p. 1). In this way the editors' stated hope (p. 1) is that the work will contribute significantly to the vast body of scholarship already dedicated to exploring the complex intersections between law and religion outside of South Asia. In more concrete terms, the introductory character of the volume means that most of the essays contained therein are essentially surveys or summaries of specific topics related to Hinduism and law, such as the creation of Anglo-Hindu law and the system of caste-based reservations in modern India. When taken together, the specific subjects covered within the volume reflect a broad picture of Hinduism and law that certainly befits an introductory text. Moreover, all of the volume's essays attempt to present Indian materials in a manner that is easily accessible to non-specialists. Thus, for instance, the contributors to the volume generally avoid quoting long passages from primary sources and often cite sources originally composed in Indian languages only in English translation.

At the outset, a brief introduction written jointly by the volume's three editors establishes two points of fundamental importance to the book as a whole. Firstly, it explains and justifies the use of the terms "Hinduism" and "law" that together constitute the work's self-proclaimed subject (pp. 1-7). Secondly, it explains the logic behind the overall layout of the book, which consists of sixteen "chapters" (the term used to denote the contributors' essays) arranged into three parts. The six chapters that comprise the first part, which is entitled "Hindu Law," all deal directly with either the pan-Indian tradition of Brahmanical...

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