Spatial Trends and Social Change Among South Asian Religious Minorities

This project deals with religious minorities in contemporary India. These minorities account for nearly 20% of the Indian population, out of which Muslims represent the “dominant” religious minority. The members of the project will examine how religious minorities, be they Indian Muslims or Christians in India, or Hindus in Pakistan, are socially and politically constructed during the contemporary period.

The competing processes of registering social and religious identities are of particular interest here. While the implementation of the decennial census and its social effects during the colonial period has been the subject of numerous works, few researchers, however, have attempted to deconstruct the more complex processes whereby the production of social and religious statistics by various groups and organizations led to controversies which, in turn, generated conflicts of representation of the social and political spaces of these minorities. The study of these politics of numbers will enable us to better understand, on one hand, how certain segments of society are categorized and, on the other, the renegotiation of the status of religious minorities.

In parallel, attention will be paid to the contents of affirmative action-like policies towards social and religious minorities, which have not only structured the public and political debate during the postcolonial period, but also fostered processes of socio-spatial marginalization. For instance, various public policies (linguistic, reservation, education) designed by the government since Independence to better integrate weaker sections of society also contributed to the marginalization of religious groups in the social and educational landscapes.