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Two Concepts of Conversion at Meenakshipuram: Seeing through Ambedkar's Buddhism and Being Seen in EVR's Islam

Abstract : The 1981 Dalit mass conversion to Islam at Meenakshipuram, Tamil Nadu, arguably began the Hindu Right's political rise. The conversion raises two different concepts for understanding mass conversion's relationship to democracy. Though it is commonly framed in terms of B. R. Ambedkar's thought, whereby conversion's core is an interior psychic process of changing principles to see the world differently, I suggest that Meenakshipuram's event may more appropriately be framed by E. V. Ramasami's [EVR] thought, whereby conversion's core is an exterior somatic process of changing appearances to be seen differently in the world. These concepts of conversion raise alternative engagements with issues of text, force, foreignness, time, and Marxism. The argument is prefaced by a discussion of freedom's typology (Berlin), subaltern representation (Spivak), and religious mass (Geertz/Asad), which I argue favors EVR's concept of conversion over Ambedkar's. Such issues are not unimportant in an age of rising right-wing populisms globally.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02894822
Contributor : Saravanan Govindaraj <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 11:38:28 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 12, 2021 - 3:30:46 AM

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Matthew Baxter. Two Concepts of Conversion at Meenakshipuram: Seeing through Ambedkar's Buddhism and Being Seen in EVR's Islam. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Duke University Press, 2019, 39 (2), pp.264-281. ⟨10.1215/1089201X-7586786⟩. ⟨hal-02894822⟩

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