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Prof. Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider

Senior Research Fellow

(present April - September 2019)

Areas of interest

  • Media and social change
  • Family and gender relationships in South Asia
  • Gender media studies
  • Islamic personal law in India

Research project: Indian secularism redefined? Current negotiation processes and entangled secularities in India

This investigation focuses on a heavily mediatised debate that has been repeatedly reignited in India since the second half of the 1980s by the use of terms such as “pseudo-secularism”, “Hindu secularism” and, most recently, “neo-secularism”. The project investigates the conditions, actors and dynamics that are currently shaping the conflictual negotiation surrounding the status and meaning of the term “secularism” in the Indian context. The project assumes that the entanglement of ideas, discourses and practices can never be regarded as a completed historical process, but is instead a process that continues in the present, especially through international media and communications.

It has frequently been stated that a key difference between “Indian secularism” and Western guiding principles is that Indian secularism is less oriented towards the privatisation of religion, and instead focuses on state neutrality in religious matters and the equal treatment of religions in India. The ongoing debate surrounding the “crisis of secularism” in India over the past three decades makes it clear, however, that the Indian constitution is in no way the only normative point of reference for the manifestation and determination of prevailing guiding principles.

It is ironic that, over the last few decades, the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has, for example, continually attacked the “pseudo-secularism” of the Indian National Congress (INC), which it alleges has given India’s Muslim minority a privileged status and resulted in a failure to replace personal laws based on religion with a uniform civil code with a secular basis. It could be argued that the BJP’s calls for a uniform civil code as a prerequisite for “national integration” and successful modernisation have made substantial reference to laicistic policy, particularly that of the Kemalist modernisation project. Equally, the BJP’s discourse on integration has arguably been shaped by current, international media debates in Europe such as the headscarf debate in France and Germany.

The enormous popularity of both Narendra Modi and his ‘Gujarat economic success model’ contributed significantly to the BJP’s success in the 2014 parliamentary elections. The term “neo-secularism”, coined by Prime Minister Modi, is supposed to underline that Modi’s government recognises the principle of state neutrality in religious matters and the equal treatment of all religions. Despite this, the BJP-led government used a photocopy of the original preamble to the Indian constitution in an official Indian Republic Day advertisment in 2015, which did not include the two terms “socialist” and “secular” that were later added in the Forty-second Amendment of the Indian Constitution in 1976, thereby sparking the debate anew.


2017 - present
​2016 - 2017

Deputy Professor of Visual and Media Anthropology, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg University (Germany) 

​2009 - 2016

Junior professor for Mediality and Intermediality in Asian and African Societies, Department of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin 

​2014 - 2015

Visiting Research Fellow, Department of History, University of Delhi (India) 


Visiting Research Fellow, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg


Research Assistant, Institute of Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany) 

​2006 - 2009

Lecturer, Department of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin


Ph.D. (Dr. phil.), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Relevant Publications

  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina and Carola Richter, eds. New Media Configurations and Socio-Cultural Dynamics in Asia and the Arab World. Baden-Baden: Nomos/Bloomsbury, 2015.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Intersecting Dynamics: Representational Activism and New Mobilities among ‘Muslim Women’ in India,” in Contesting Feminisms: Gender and Islam in Asia. Edited by Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, 135–58. New York: State University of New York Press, 2015.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Filming Urban Spaces and Entangled (Im)Mobilities: Experimental Documentaries by and about Young 'Muslim Women' in Delhi,” in Studying Youth, Media and Gender in Post-Liberalisation India: Focus on and beyond the 'Delhi Gang Rape'. Edited by Nadja-Christina Schneider and Fritzi-Marie Titzmann, 167–90. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2015.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina and Fritzi-Marie Titzmann, eds. Studying Youth, Media and Gender in Post-Liberalization India: Focus on Sexual Violence, New (Im)Mobilities and Evolving Gender Identities. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2014.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Islam und Gender in Indien. Perspektiven der Geschlechtergerechtigkeit in der Minderheitensituation,“ in Geschlechtergerechtigkeit durch Demokratisierung? Transformationen und Restaurationen von Genderverhältnissen in der islamischen Welt. Edited by Susanne Schröter, 297–318. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina, ed. Islam, Youth and Gender in India and Pakistan: Current Research Perspectives. Special Issue of ASIEN, 126 (2013).
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. „Being Young and a ‘Muslim Woman’ in Post-Liberalization India: Reflexive Documentary Films as Media Spaces for New Conversations.” ASIEN, 126 (2013): 85–103.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Neue Mobilitäten muslimischer Frauen in Indien: (Trans-)lokale Dynamiken des ‚islamischen Feminismus‘.“ SüdasienChronik / South Asia Chronicle, 1 (2011): 111–34.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina and Bettina Gräf, eds. Social Dynamics 2.0: Researching Change in Times of Media Convergence: Case Studies from the Middle East and Asia. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2011.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. ”Islamic Feminism and Muslim Women’s Rights Activism in India: From Transnational Discourse to Local Movement – or Vice Versa?” Journal of International Women’s Studies. 11/1–2 (2010): 56–71.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “‘Konversion‘ zum Islam versus ‚Neubestätigung‘ des hinduistischen Glaubens: Weshalb Religionsübertritte in Indien so unterschiedlich wahrgenommen werden.“ Südasien, 2 (2007): 22–5.
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Islamic Personal Law in India: Political Mobilisations along Religious Lines?,” - Dialogue with the Islamic World, 5 January, 2007,    
  • Framke, Maria, Nadja-Christina Schneider, and Carola Sprung, eds. “Islam in Südasien,", 17 November, 2006,
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. „Die Debatte über das islamische Personenstandsrecht in Indien,“, 17 November, 2006,
  • Schneider, Nadja-Christina. Zur Darstellung von 'Kultur' und 'kultureller Differenz' im indischen Mediensystem: Die indische Presse und die Repräsentation des Islams im Rahmen der Zivilrechtsdebatte, 1985-87 und 2003. Berlin: Logos, 2005.