'Exercising post-secular citizenship: a guru’s court, the state, and development in contemporary rural Karnataka’

Saturday, 14 December 2013 (All day) - Sunday, 15 December 2013 (All day)
Kyoto University, Japan

Aya Ikegame speaks on 'Exercising post-secular citizenship: a guru’s court, the state, and development in contemporary rural Karnataka’ in Session 3: Rethinking Secularism and Democracy organised by Contemporary India Area Studies, Japan at the International Conference: In Search of Well-being: Genealogies of Religion and Politics in India being held in Kyoto University, Japan.

The Nyaya Peetha (the seat of justice) is an informal arbitration court established by an influential Lingayat guru in central Karnataka. Most disputes brought to this court are concerned with family matters, such as inheritance, land division, and marital problems amongst the Sadar Lingayats, who constitute  a majority of the devotees. However, the numbers of new types of disputes involving non-Lingayats is increasing. This paper looks at one such dispute, between residents of four villages and local mining companies, which has now grown to involve mining workers, lorry owners, and drivers as well.  The guru’s court and this particular case have become a platform to which anyone can bring his/her grievances against the disruptive activities of the mining companies. Through the intercession of the guru’s court, residents received compensation of several kinds, including funding for local development and certain controls over mining activities. It seems that the guru acts on behalf of the state, but close examination of the case reveals a more complex relationship. The ways in which villagers use this informal legal body shows the working of a post-secular form of citizenship that lies beyond conventional liberal definitions, but which is not irrationally anti-democratic.

Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism is funded by an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (Institutions, values, beliefs and behaviour ERC-AG-SH2).

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