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Deceptive Majority
Dalits, Hinduism, and Underground Religion

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Part of South Asia in the Social Sciences

  • Author: Joel Lee, Williams College, Massachusetts
  • Date Published: August 2021
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108826662

$ 48.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The idea that India is a Hindu majority nation rests on the assumption that the vast swath of its population stigmatized as 'untouchable' is, and always has been, in some meaningful sense, Hindu. But is that how such communities understood themselves in the past, or how they understand themselves now? When and under what conditions did this assumption take shape, and what truths does it conceal? In this book, Joel Lee challenges presuppositions at the foundation of the study of caste and religion in South Asia. Drawing on detailed archival and ethnographic research, Lee tracks the career of a Dalit religion and the effort by twentieth-century nationalists to encompass it within a newly imagined Hindu body politic. A chronicle of religious life in north India and an examination of the ethics and semiotics of secrecy, Deceptive Majority throws light on the manoeuvres by which majoritarian projects are both advanced and undermined.

    • Ethnographic history of religious majoritarianism
    • Challenges presuppositions at the very foundation of the study of caste and religion in South Asia
    Read more


    • Honorable Mention, 2022 The Geertz Prize, Society for the Anthropology of Religion

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108826662
    • length: 354 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Untouchability and Alterity, Now and Then:
    1. Introduction: Signs, the Census, and the Sanitation Labor Castes
    2. Lal Beg Nāma: Dalit Religion before the Hindu Majority
    Part II. Making 'Untouchables' Hindu, or, the Great Interpellation:
    3. Missionary Majoritarianism: The Arya Samaj and the Struggle with Disgust
    4. Trustee Majoritarianism: Gandhi and the Harijan Sevak Sangh
    5. Hinduization and its Discontents: Valmiki comes to Lucknow
    Part III. Semiotics of the Oppressed:
    6. Victory to Valmiki: Declamatory Religion and the Wages of Inclusion
    7. Lal Beg Underground: Taqiyya, Ethical Secrecy, and the Pleasure of Dissimulation

  • Author

    Joel Lee, Williams College, Massachusetts
    Joel Lee teaches and conducts research on religion, language, caste and the state in South Asia. In particular his work concerns the ways in which Dalits – those communities historically stigmatized as 'untouchable' – combat structural deprivation, navigate the politics of religious majoritarianism, and contend with the sensory and environmental entailments of sanitation labor in colonial and postcolonial India. His research and teaching interests also include linguistic anthropology, semiotics, popular Hinduism and Islam, and Urdu and Hindi literature.


    • Honorable Mention, 2022 The Geertz Prize, Society for the Anthropology of Religion

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