Democracy Made Local: Managing Religious Diversity in Pre-modern and Post-colonial India (History,Religious Studies, MESALC)
Since at least the time of the European Enlightenment, the Euro-American intellectual tradition has fervently insisted that “secularism” and “religious tolerance” go hand-in-hand. As nineteenth- and twentieth-century voices progressively elevated liberal democracy to the privileged form of modern governance, the idea that secular democracy is the form of government best equipped to promote religious tolerance, and to create social unity out of diversity, has become effectively axiomatic for much of European, American, and, increasingly, global political thought. In the current international moment, however – including in the U.S. –we are witnessing staggering challenges to this claim, with the rise of religious nationalisms across the globe vociferously decrying their alienation and oppression under the stifling weight of secularism, while calling for a return to “local” cultural norms against the tide of multiculturalism. The question then arises” is this inability to effectively manage religious and cultural diversity long-term a fatal flaw of secular democracy per se, or else merely the result of particular missteps taken by particular democratic governments? In an attempt to begin to answer the question of diversity’s challenge to democracy, Democracy Made Local will invite UVA faculty to examine the past, present, and future of democratic societies in South Asia.