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Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques

Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Asiengesellschaft - Revue de la Société Suisse-Asie

Editor-in-Chief: Suter, Rafael

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Religion and the Public Sphere in Premodern India

Christian Lee Novetzke
Published Online: 2018-03-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2017-0055


When in 1962 Habermas formulated his theory of the public sphere as “a society engaged in critical debate” he sought to describe something he felt was unique to the modern liberal democratic Western world. Yet the creation of discursive spheres where people across lines of social difference debate questions of the common good, mutual interest, and forms of equality long predates the modern era and flourished well outside the “Western” world. This essay adapts Habermas’ influential concept to highlight the emergence of a nascent public sphere at the earliest layers of Marathi literary creation in 13th century India. At this inaugural stage of a regional language’s full shift to writing, we see traces of a debate in the language of everyday life that struggled over the ethics of social difference, a public deliberation that might presage key aspects of Indian modernity and democracy today.

Keywords: Religion; public sphere; India; vernacularization; Marathi


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-03-03

Published in Print: 2018-04-25

Citation Information: Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques, Volume 72, Issue 1, Pages 147–176, ISSN (Online) 2235-5871, ISSN (Print) 0004-4717, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2017-0055.

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