Dharma and Ethics IV: Rethinking Political Thought in Modern India

The fourth Dharma and Ethics conference will interrogate the contributions of the canonical Indian political thinkers of the modern period: Rammohan Roy, Vivekananda, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Jyotiba Phule, Dadabhai Navroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo, Maulana Maududi, Maulana Azad, M.K. Gandhi, V.D. Savarkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R.Ambedkar, M.S. Golwalkar, and Rammanohar Lohia. These thinkers are generally divided into two opposing camps: "traditionalists" and "modernists"; a distinction that often corresponds to that between "cultural nationalists" and "secularists". However, the thinkers slotted in these two camps unexpectedly share common views, attitudes and presuppositions, when it comes to their understanding of Indian society and politics. How do we account for this situation? Is it because they share a common cognitive framework and/or borrow from the same sources of knowledge about Indian culture? What actually distinguishes these two camps then?


The conventional categorizations and the studies based on them do not help us in either articulating the genuine political questions that these thinkers struggled with or understanding the conceptual resources they were drawing upon in their reasoning. They also fail to tell us how the political thought of the relevant thinkers may or may not be able to help us resolve our contemporary political problems. It is no surprise, then, that the post-independence period in India has not produced any thinker of the same stature or genuinely new political concepts and thinking.

We therefore propose that this year’s Dharma and Ethics conference will begin the process of radically evaluating the contributions of the canonical modern Indian thinkers. The papers presented will examine some of the following problems in the political thought of the mentioned thinkers:

1. The idea of India as nation, state and nation-state.
2. The understanding of religions and traditions in India, and their relations with India’s statehood, nationalism and community formation.
3. The problem of communalism, communal representation, and its relation to nationalism.
4. The perception of caste and the problem of untouchability, and the limitation they place on the formation and the functioning of the Indian nation.
5. The notion of ethnicity and the problem of ethnic conflicts.
6. Problems of cultural pluralism or cultural difference and their resolution.
7. The nature of the political domain. Does the Indian political thought reveal a different conceptualization of what we familiarly call "politics" or "the political"?


Centre for The Study of Local Cultures (CSLC), Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap



type (discipline):

Conference / Congres / Symposium | Collaborations of UGent Faculty | Building the Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities (ĀSHA) (Political Sciences | Humanities)

Sun, January 18th 2009

Dharma & Ethics IV: Rethinking Political Thought in Modern India read more


Mon, January 19th 2009

Dharma & Ethics IV: Rethinking Political Thought in Modern India read more


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