Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Is Comparative Religion a Colonial Project?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Kim Koo Library

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"Is Comparative Religion a Colonial Project?" 

Tomoko Masuzawa
History and Comparative Literature, University of Michigan


Michael Puett
East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

4:00 - 6:00pm
Watson Institute
Kim Koo Library

In the past generation, a variety of postcolonial critics have emphasized the colonial genealogy of the universalizing impulse – a mode of domination that may persist implicitly in many of the categories of “comparative” religion, as well as in the very idea of secular modernity. In this light, we ask – is the very idea of comparative religion necessarily a colonial project? We conceive of colonialism not only as a historical event in the past, but as a mode of implicit or explicit epistemic violence that may continue well into the present. Bearing in mind these genealogies of violence, is it even possible to conceive of concepts that may enable comparisons within, or between, different religions and secularities, in ways that are not wholly mediated by Eurocentric notions of the “universal”?

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