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RELIGION AND POLITICS / Vol. 59, No. 1 (Spring 1992)

Talal Asad, Guest Editor
Arien Mack, Journal Editor

Analyzes the sociopolitical effects since the 16th century of the separation of church and state in Europe (and later in the modern West). An introductory essay to a special issue on religion and politics in selected societies.

This article deals with the need to reexamine the various meanings of the distinction between private and public religions. Of all social phenomena, none is perhaps as protean and, consequently, least susceptible to binary classification as religion. Of all dichotomous pairs of relational terms, few are as ambiguous, multivocal, and open to discoursive contestation as the private/public distinction. Yet the private/public distinction is crucial to all conceptions of the modern social order, and religion itself is intrinsically connected with the modern historical differentiation of private and public spheres.

This article examines the form of religion embodied in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment in Europe. Unlike Ernst Cassirer but rather like Habermas, most Anglo-American historiography about the Enlightenment does not know what to do with religion. In the 1930s the US historian Carl Becker grappled with the problem when he argued that the Enlightenment took its categories of belief, reason, progress, happiness, and substituted them for the obsolete categories of traditional religiosity: grace, salvation, redemption. He rendered enlightenment itself into a new version of religion. In the 1960s Peter Gay denied the force of Becker's essentially psychological argument.

This article deals with the construction of sacred time and space in Hindu nationalism. It specifically discussed the Hindu shrines of the god Rama in Ayodhya and of the god Shiva/Somanatha in Somnath, West India and their contested histories. Religious shrines are often contested spaces. They may constitute arenas for conflict between different constituencies, between religious specialists and laity, between different groups of specialists. Major pilgrimage shrines, especially, are not at all scenes of the ultramundane tranquillity and peace which religious literature promises pilgrims. Sacred sites are not only contested as markers of space but also as markers of time.

This article traces the history and nationalization of Hinduism in India. History is today, the pretext for violent political conflict in India, a conflict which threatens to tear apart what was for several decades taken to be the consensus about the fundamental character of the nation-state which the constitution calls India, that is Bharat. For almost three years now, the most contentious debate that has preoccupied the very center of organized political life in India, as distinct from the continuing insurgencies in Punjab, Kashmir, and Assam which to a large extent have been kept to the margins, is a dispute over the status of a certain mosque in a small town called Ayodhya in the state of Uttar.

This article examines the theories offered by philosopher Oskar Goldberg on religious metaphysics and the nation-state. Goldberg today is virtually unknown, but he fascinated people, Jews and Gentiles alike, many of whom were political anarchists and shared Goldberg's vigorous opposition to all branches of Zionism. Known as the leading proponent of the school of mystical rationalism, Goldberg published Die Wirklichkeit der Herbräer (The Reality of the Hebrews) in 1925. Controversial and intriguing, Goldberg had an impressive circle of admirers, some of whom, rejected him in the end, while others remained faithful.

At this moment, it may be as premature as it is altogether speculative to speak of the “defeat” of liberation theology and of its leading exponents and countless practitioners in Brazil. But is high time to admit that a strategy, designed at the very least to checkmate that highly original reading of faith and society, has been in effect for more than a decade. It’s authors, moreover are to be found not among Catholicism’s historic or recent enemies, but rather among some of its present-day policymakers both within the walls of the Vatican City and in chancery offices around the world.

This article explores on the outlook of Iranian President Hashimi Rafsanjani on temporary marriage and female sexuality. In November 1990, political and religious leader Rafsanjani formally acknowledged female sexuality, and suggested that women should feel secure enough to initiate a relationship when they felt the need. Rafsanjani's provocative argument made the news headlines in Iran and abroad. It set off a lively debate in the local press and heated arguments in public and private gatherings both inside and outside the country.


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