Author: Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair
Link: “The Unbearable Proximity of the Orient: Political Religion, Multiculturalism and the Retrieval of South Asian Identities”, Social Identities: Journal of Race, Nation and Culture, Vol. 10, No. 5, 2004: 647-663
About: The phenomenon of religion — specifically its recent return as ‘political religion’, and its seeming incompatibility with the demands of multiculturalism — continues to be a vexed issue in attempts to rethink retrievals of South Asian identity beyond a neo-colonial imaginary. This move ‘beyond’ has routinely followed a deconstruction of the ‘religious effects’ of Orientalism whose conceptual matrix, some argue, can be located in Hegel’s writings on history and religion. Taking its cue from Derrida’s enigmatic remark — ‘what if religio remained untranslatable?’ — this paper re-examines Hegel’s writings on India, revealing the workings of an ontotheological matrix which underpins not only the recent resurgences of religious nationalism or political religion in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora, but also, paradoxically, the secular frameworks of contemporary multiculturalism and anti-imperialist critique. Despite sharing the same onto-theological matrix, these bastions of secular modernity still refuse to recognise that retrievals of religious identity might constitute a significant reorientation of the political, instead continuing to put into play a series of well rehearsed distancing techniques which serve merely to sanitize the ‘religious effects’ of the Orient.