Crossing the Threshold: Understanding Religious Identities in South Asia, by Dominique-Sila Khan, is a new publication of the Institute which examines the shaping of religious identities in South Asia. In particular, the author considers the role played by Ismaili Islam in the intricate interface between South Asian religious communities, which has to this day remained largely unexplored.
The questions ‘Who is a Hindu, who is a Muslim?’ are amongst several addressed in this study that are found to be not as simple as generally assumed. The author argues that the perception of ‘Islam’ and ‘Hinduism’ as two monolithic and perpetually antagonistic faiths, coexisting uneasily in South Asia, has become so deeply ingrained that the complexity of the historical fabric is often overlooked or ignored.
The emergence of clear-cut religious categories in South Asia is demonstrated to be a comparatively recent phenomenon. The jacket illustration on the cover of the publication, of a seventeenth century Mughal painting depicting four men of different traditions engaged in a discussion, is an excellent illustration of the dialogue amongst religious identities in the South Asian past which has been characterised by remarkable fluidity and diversity in the social and religious milieus.
By analysing documents as well as original field data, the author explores the historical mechanisms that have led to the emergence and crystallisation of religious identities, giving rise to an increasing number of conflicts which threaten the harmonious co-existence of South-Asian communities today.
Crossing the Threshold is an important contribution to the research on understanding the development of religious and national identities in South Asia, and will be a useful resource for those interested in the study and development of communal identities in the contemporary period.
Information about the Institute’s future publications is available on the Publications page.