Religion and the Subaltern Self: An Exploration from the Indian Context
This paper explores the interface between religion and the contours of the subaltern self in the Indian context. While the first part of the essay discusses some of the methodological themes of the academic study of the interface, the second part points out to some salient instances of the occurrences of the interface during the pre-modern and modern contexts of India. Since the Subaltern Studies Project (SSP) is one of the significant historiographical efforts that has emerged in the recent past to explore the agency of the subaltern self, the essay begins with critically observing the way the SSP introduced the debate on subaltern agency, and goes on to explore the interface, taking cue from the view of David Arnold, one of the founding members of the SSP collective, that SSP, at the outset, ‘failed to take religion seriously enough.’ Basing on independent initiatives of studying religion in relation to the subaltern self, the essay goes on to argue that religion needs be approached as a sui generis reality especially when exploring from subaltern perspective, which, according to the present author, is different even from the post-colonial perspective. The second part of the essay, then, cites examples from pre-modern and modern periods, wherein individuals as mystics and religious leaders or socio-religious movements emerged as typical examples of the interfacing between religion and the subaltern self. Based on these examples, the essay concludes that religion has occurred as singular ‘experiences of the subaltern self to interpret itself into emancipatory existence.’
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