Auto-Immunity in the Study of Religions

Author: Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair

Link: “Auto-Immunity in the Study of Religions”, Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy of Religion, Theology and Ethics, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2004: 63-85. Reprinted in Postcolonial Philosophy of Religion, ed. Purushottama Bilimoria and Andrew Irvine, B.V. Netherlands: Springer, 2009.

About: Despite the prevalence of post-colonial theory in the humanities and social sciences, why is it that the two main secular formations in the study of religion(s), as philosophy of religion and history of religions, continue to deploy very similar mechanisms that reconstitute past imperialisms such as the hegemony of theory as specifically Western and/or the division of labor between universal and particular knowledge formations? To answer this question this paper stages an oblique engagement between the seemingly divergent discourses: (i) philosophy of religion, (ii) history of religion—more specifically the area specialism called South Asian religions, and (iii) post-colonial theory especially where these discourses intersect with the discipline of Indology and the representation of Indic phenomena. A different version of this engagement occurs in Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (LPR). A post-colonial reading of the LPR reveals closer and often unacknowledged connections between the birth of these two disciplines. More importantly the LPR anticipates the auto-immunizing mechanism that underpins the continued lack of engagement between the various disciplines of contemporary religions. Ironically, this mechanism, it will be argued, is located in the very heart of the comparative enterprise itself.


Arvind-Pal S. Mandair
Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures 

Tara Singh & Balwant Kaur Chattha, Gurbax Singh & Kirpal Kaur Brar Professor of Sikh Studies

Philosophy/Religion/Postcolonial Theory/Sikh Studies/South Asian Studies

Office: 202 South Thayer Street
Office 6016
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1608

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