Nandini Deo

Assistant Professor, Political Science
Lehigh University, U.S.A.

"Liberal Secularism and the Public/Private Divide in Historical Perspective

To understand postsecular feminism we examine the ways in which the categories of the religious and the secular came into being. We argue that these categories are deeply implicated in the construction of the private and public boundaries so essential to the liberal state. As such, these boundaries are constantly being contested by feminists as they seek to redefine the privatization of women's lives. This contestation by feminisms makes the turn to post secular feminism theoretically plausible. However, the empirical reality of how religion and patriarchy interact is much messier and we invite reflections on how to conceptualize post secular feminism without subsuming feminism to other ends. 

"Hinduism and Democracy: Through the Lens of Gender"
The stunning—and largely unpredicted—electoral victory by the Hindu nationalist BJP in India last year raises critical questions about the intersection between Hinduism and democracy. As the overwhelming majority religion in India, was it inevitable that in a democracy, Hinduism was eventually going to take political power? In other words, is the politicization of religion inevitable in a democracy? In this chapter, we examine the evolution of Hindu nationalism (as politicized religion) in Indian democracy over time, distinguishing it from Hinduism (as religion), through the lens of gender. We undertake close reading and interpretation of two different literatures—the general literature on politicized religion and democracy, and the literature on women in Hindu nationalism in India—reading them against each other to determine where they overlap and diverge. We find the case of Hindu nationalism in India does not suggest that politicized religion is inevitable in a democracy, for two reasons: first, Hinduism must be distinguished from Hindu nationalism; instead (and second), the politicization of religion is a process that must be assiduously constructed over time—as Hindu nationalism has been. These findings also suggest that democracy alone may be insufficient to check the rise of religious majoritarian politics.

Nandini Deo is an associate professor in the Political Science department at Lehigh.  Her new book "Mobilizing Religion and Gender in India: The role of activism" provides a provocative reading of the Indian women's movement and Hindu nationalism in comparative perspective.  Her previous book with Duncan McDuieRa is called "The Politics of Collective Advocacy in India" and examines the contestation within NGO networks.  She launched a new project on corporate social responsibly and civil society in India this past summer.