RELIGIONS OF EMPIRE: ISLAMICATE TEXTS, IMPERIAL TAXONOMIES, AND SOUTH ASIAN DEFINITIONS OF RELIGION Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
Creator
  • Morgenstein Fuerst, Ilyse R.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
Abstract
  • This dissertation explores South Asian, Islamicate definitions of religion, imperial uses of those definitions, and their relationship to later colonial definitions and uses. Contemporary debates in religious studies center on the relationship between the developments of the discipline of religious studies itself alongside European colonial and imperial missions of the modern period. This dissertation takes seriously these debates, and offers a South Asian set of examples by which to further consider the term “religion” and the field of study it spawned. It traces, genealogically, Persianate and Islamicate understandings of religion (dīn) through two primary sources: first, Abu’l al-Fazl ibn Mubarak’s Ā'īn-i Akbarī or Institutes of Akbar (c. 1590 CE); and second, Mathurānāth’s Riyāz al-maẓāhib or Garden of Religions (1813 CE). Both texts demonstrate a robust structure of classification for universal concepts of religion as well as particular and varied religions, and in this way demonstrate that definitions of religion are and can be indigenous to Islamicate and South Asian systems. This dissertation posits two primary arguments. First, that contemporary debates that focus on “religion” as a foreign imposition upon non-Western locations, intellectual systems, and cultures ignore corollaries found within indigenous institutions; I therefore argue that “religion” cannot be imagined as entirely foreign, but instead must be read alongside indigenous definitions and systems. Second, this dissertation argues that Islamicate definitions of religion came to inform those of European Orientalists through a process of co-imperialism; I therefore argue that multiple agents of Mughal and British imperial entities crafted, maintained, and constituted definitions of religion together.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Ernst, Carl
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012
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