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Podcast: The Secular Imaginary

After presenting it at our book launch in September here in Leipzig, our Senior Research Fellow Sushmita Nath was recently invited to present her first book “The Secular Imaginary: Gandhi, Nehru and the Idea(s) of India” in a talk with host Tiatemsu Longkumer for the New Books Network Podcast. In roughly 60 Minutes Sushmita and her host take the audience through the main theses of the book, its academic, political and personal context and Sushmita's current research interests.

About the book:

Nath, Sushmita. The Secular Imaginary: Gandhi, Nehru and the Idea(s) of India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022.

Given the popularity and success of the Hindu-Right in India's electoral politics today, how may one study ostensibly 'Western' concepts and ideas, such as the secular and its family of cognates, like secularism, secularisation and secularity in non-Western societies without assuming them simply as derivative, or colonial legacies or contrast cases of Western societies? While recognizing that the dominant language of political modernity of Western societies is not easily translatable in non-Western societies, The Secular Imaginary elaborates upon an intellectual history of secularity in modern India by focusing on the two most influential political leaders – M.K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. It is an intellectual history of both idea(s) and intellectuals, which sheds light on Indian narratives of secularity – the Gandhian sarva dharma samabhava, Nehruvian secularism, and unity in diversity. It revisits this dominant narrative of secularity of the twentieth century that influenced and shaped the imagination of the modern nation-state.