Divorcing Traditions: Islamic Marriage Law and the Making of Indian Secularism

Divorcing Traditions: Islamic Marriage Law and the Making of Indian Secularism

by Katherine Lemons


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Divorcing Traditions is an ethnography of Islamic legal expertise and practices in India, a secular state in which Muslims are a significant minority and where Islamic judgments are not legally binding. Katherine Lemons argues that an analysis of divorce in accordance with Islamic strictures is critical to the understanding of Indian secularism.

Lemons analyzes four marital dispute adjudication forums run by Muslim jurists or lay Muslims to show that religious law does not muddle the categories of religion and law but generates them. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research conducted in these four institutions—NGO-run women's arbitration centers (mahila panchayats); sharia courts (dar ul-qazas); a Muslim jurist's authoritative legal opinions (fatwas); and the practice of what a Muslim legal expert (mufti) calls "spiritual healing"—Divorcing Traditions shows how secularism is an ongoing project that seeks to establish and maintain an appropriate relationship between religion and politics. A secular state is always secularizing. And yet, as Lemons demonstrates, the state is not the only arbiter of the relationship between religion and law: religious legal forums help to constitute the categories of private and public, religious and secular upon which secularism relies. In the end, because Muslim legal expertise and practice are central to the Indian legal system and because Muslim divorce's contested legal status marks a crisis of the secular distinction between religion and law, Muslim divorce, argues Lemons, is a key site for understanding Indian secularism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501734779
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 03/15/2019
Pages: 246
Sales rank: 928,125
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Katherine Lemons is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at McGill University.

What People are Saying About This

Rachel Sturman

"Katherine Lemons has written a powerful and compelling book that reshapes our understanding of secularism, Muslim law, and divorce in contemporary India."

Veena Das

"Divorcing Traditions is groundbreaking. It is a unique contribution to the understanding of the relation between religion and secularism in India—a splendid achievement."

Mayanthi Fernando

"This ethnographically rich and analytically astute book examines how secularism, rather than separating law from religion, unsettles any hard distinction between those two domains. With brilliant insight, Katherine Lemons underscores the entanglement of political economy in kinship, religion, and law.Divorcing Traditionsis an original intervention into the study of secularism, religion, and gender."

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