SOAS University of London

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

Exclusive Religious Identities and Shared Spiritual Cosmologies in the British South Asian Diaspora

Virinder Kalra (University of Manchester)

Date: 20 February 2013Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G51

Type of Event: Seminar


In the 2001 UK census a question on religion identity was asked for the inhabitants of England for the first time (it was on the census in Ireland since 1861). Unlike the analysis offered by Ibbetson in the 1881 Census of Punjab in which he was at least baffled by the dizzying array of practices that constituted the religious terrain (as defined by a Protestant, scripturalist theology), the 2001 Census categories were accepted in Britain as a relatively straightforward classification of South Asian religions. Though the need for the religious question in the 2001 Census was ostensibly for marking Muslims, the outcome was further globalatinisation of all religious traditions in the UK. This process has come under critique by a number of scholars through analysing the discourse of world religions and the way in which religion is taught in schools. From another tact there has been some research that looks into popular practices within religious traditions, the presence of Sufi khanqas and Shaivite mandirs in the UK being the most prominent areas of research. Hitherto those popular practices that cut across religious boundaries have not been given much attention, in particular those related to healing and material well being. This paper offers an analysis of figures such as ‘Professor Baba’ and ‘Ajmeri Baba’ who provide a range of services that are rooted in a spiritual cosmology in which exclusive religious identities are held in abeyance.

Organiser: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

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