My current research makes two key interventions in recent humanistic and social scientific research. First, in the field of Religious Studies, I aim to complicate our scholarly narrative of the “unification” of Hinduism, and second, in the interdisciplinary study of South Asia, I contribute to the ongoing dialogue on the nature of Indian early modernity, particularly concerning the relationship between religion and the early modern world.
Within the study of Hinduism, recent decades have witnessed an explosion of interest in the origins of Hinduism as a unified world religion, whether from within the Indian cultural sphere or from the extrinsic imposition of British colonialism. To qualify this crucial assumption, this manuscript interrogates the crucial valences of difference that emerged under the initial rubric of Hinduism: traditions such as Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism, in their early history can best be described as functionally distinct religions, only during the second millennium came to represent themselves as candidates for the most orthodox representative of what we now describe as Hinduism.
Second, I aim to intervene in recent interdisciplinary debate on the role of religion and secularization in early modernity around the globe. Despite recent progress in the study of South Asian early modernity, no scholarship to date has applied the evidence of early modern India to interrogating a central metanarrative in our shared understanding of modernity: the rise of rationality in the place of religion, or, in other words, the emergence of secularization. To make sense of the empirical emergence of a new Hindu sectarianism, I aim to articulate a theory of publicity tailored not to the context of European early modernity but to south Asia prior to the dawn of colonialism.