The Role of Religious Belief in the Formation of Political Opinions: Proposal for a Study in Delhi, India

Wahl, Rachel

Liberal political theorists such as John Rawls (1993) maintain that citizens engaging in political discourse should not rely on religious rationales. However in the last several decades religion has emerged as a driving force behind social movements, revolutions, and debates regarding national laws (Casanova, 1994; Applyby, 2000; Philpott, 2002; Habermas, 2006). One explanation for the global resurgence of religion is that it is a response to the factors that were predicted to secularize, such as modernization and the disorienting changes that accompany it (Huntington 1996; Fukuyama 1992). Research further suggests that religiosity does not represent a static resurgence of tradition, but rather is a dynamic response to the modern world (Casanova, 1994). India is experiencing social and economic changes brought about by a rapidly developing economy and the globalization of communication, work and education (Delong, 2001; Nandy, 2002). As a location of rapid change with high levels of religiosity, Delhi is an ideal setting to understand the way people draw from their religious beliefs to form judgments about what is just, as they negotiate tensions between inherited beliefs and the pressures of contemporary life. This paper proposes dissertation research that investigates the salience of religion for how religiously engaged citizens in Delhi, India judge what is right in their own lives, their families, issues at work and in school, in national policy, and in international issues. Particular attention will be paid to how people view the distinction between 'public' and 'private' matters, and within which spheres religion is most salient for how people make moral and political judgments.

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Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Published Here
June 2, 2010


Presented at the Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, Columbia University, April 15-17, 2010.