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Conference To Consider "The Future Of Secularism"


The Future of Secularism, March 26-27

Drawing scholars on India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, and the former Yugoslavia, this international conference on "The Future of Secularism" will examine the growing tensions between secular and theocractic forms of government. Participants include Fakir Syed Aijazuddin (historian, Pakistan); Jagdish Bhagwati (Columbia University, USA); Rajeev Bhargava (University of Delhi, India); Amila Buturovic (York University, Canada); Dilip M. Menon (University of Delhi, India); Goenawan Mohamad (activist and editor of Tempo, Indonesia); Dani Rodrik (Harvard University, USA); Romila Thapar (Jawaharlal Nehru University, India); Nur Yalman (Harvard University, USA). Complete schedule at http://www.yale.edu/ycias/southasia/events/secularism.htm.

The conference will explore questions about the separation of religion from the state and the implications of the rise of theocratic states and the opposition to secularism in democracies. It will also examine whether secularism was imposed on societies with no secular traditions by charismatic founding leaders such as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Gamal Abdul-Nasser, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sukarno and Josip Tito, and whether it came under threat after their demise.

"There cannot be a more timely moment to discuss these issues which have enormous implications for political and economic life," says T.N. Srinivasan, the Samuel C. Park Jr. Professor of Economics and chair of the South Asian Studies Council, who convened the conference. Understanding the political and religious tensions over secularism, he adds, is central to understanding current crises in the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia and the Balkan states.

The 20th century was marked by conscious attempts to insulate the state and the public sphere from the private practices of religion, says Srinivasan, but those attempts to create secular states are now under threat. Geo-politics such as the fall of the Soviet empire is one cause for the decline of secularism, he contends, but there are other political and ideological forces at work as well.

In addition to considering the status of secularism, the conference participants will probe the implications of rising religiosity in political life for economic liberalism and globalization and consider viable options for national and international institutions to diffuse the threat.

The presenters will include internationally renowned scholars on secularism in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, as well as discussants from the Yale faculty. The latter will include Abbas Amanat, Faisal Devji, Michael Holquist, Gustav Ranis, Lamen Sanneh and Shyam Sunder.

"The Future of Secularism" is sponsored by the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund and the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, with support from the South Asian Studies Council and the Council on Middle East Studies at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.

Sahitya Goshthhi, Hindi Literature in the Diaspora, April 2-3
Six critically-acclaimed Hindi writers visit Yale for the "Sahitya Goshthhi." Umesh Agnihotri, Susham Bedi, Dhanajay Kumar, Madhu Maheshwari, Gulshan Madhur, and Vishkha Thakker will discuss Hindi literature in the South Asian diaspora as part of a Master's Tea at Calhoun College on April 2 at 4:30 PM. On April 3, at the Whitney Humanities Center, the writers will read from and discuss their writings and participate in writing workshops with Yale students enrolled in Hindi. Complete schedule at http://www.yale.edu/ycias/southasia/events/hindi_lit.htm.

Rethinking Images of South Asia, April 2-3
International conference seeks to initiate discussion between international students and South Asian Americans, to rethink misconceptions and preconceptions of South Asia, and to encourage activism locally and in South Asia. For this conference, four topics have been selected: rethinking boundaries, US policy and South Asia, caste and religion, and women's rights in South Asia. Complete schedule at http://www.yale.edu/sacc/

Gandhi: The Politics of Modernity, April 5
International symposium on "Gandhi: The Politics of Modernity" examines the complexity of Gandhi's politics and its relevance in contemporary India. Participants include Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago); Arjun Appadurai (New School University); Uday Singh Mehta (Amherst College); Ritu Birla (University of Toronto); Vyjayanthi Rao (New School University); Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University); Ajay Skaria (University of Minnesota); Carol A. Breckenridge (New School University); Faisal Devji (Yale University). Complete schedule at http://www.yale.edu/ycias/southasia/events/gandhi.htm. --

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