The Blasphemy Laws: A South Asian History


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2016-2017


This project traces the trajectory of a set of criminal and penal codes that were instituted over the course of a century in South Asia. A consequence of the British tendency to view each major religious community as imbued with characteristics that were presumed to be mutually antagonistic, these laws seeking to regulate relations between religious communities have had contradictory afterlives in the postcolonial successor states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. This history unravels the specific, contingent circumstances that produced these laws, draws out their relationship to religiously informed politics, and accounts for whether, as many others claim, the laws themselves are responsible for the increasing targeting of religious minorities across South Asia.