Book reviewReligion and the Specter of the West. Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality, and the Politics of Translation New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. xx + 516 pp. ISBN 978-0-231-14724-8 50 USD, £ 38 (Insurrections. Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture). .
Reviewed by Paul St-Pierre
This is an extremely ambitious and often abstract work, which, as its title and subtitle indicate, draws on a wide variety of fields: the history and theory of religions, cultural studies, South Asian studies, postcolonial and postmodernist studies, and, minimally, translation studies. Its main thesis can be stated as follows: The general concept of religion, and with it, of the secular, came to India through colonialism, which imposed a general translatability, i.e. universal applicability, of such concepts to South Asia for the purpose of ensuring the power, domination and superiority of the colonizers. What seems new in this work is its focus on the constitution of Sikhism as a “religion” and its attempt to demonstrate that globalization essentially repeats the hierarchies and exclusions that characterized colonial relations. In a passage quite representative of the form the argument takes, the author notes: