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Nicholson, Rashna Darius (2018): The picture, the parable, the performance and the sword: secularism's demographic imperatives. In: Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 41, No. 12: pp. 2197-2214
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In the making of colonial modernity, the newspaper, novel and theatre were three fundamental implements for the development of a bourgeois public sphere. Nevertheless, their introduction led to significant alterations in modes of inter-communal social contestation. This article traces three separate instances of the outbreak and prevention of Parsi-Muslim communal riots in colonial India sparked by three representations of Muslim prophets - pictorial, narrative and theatrical - within the city of Bombay in 1851, 1874 and 1891. Through this analysis, the article traces the embedded predilection within colonialism's secular juridical mechanisms towards majoritarian religious sensitivities. It argues against the equation of Indian secularism with substantive values, reintroducing questions of hegemony and demography to normative analyses of secularism. Secularism's legal machinery thereby emerges as neither dispassionate nor independent of the epistemological claims of the majority, exposing the limits of current views of Indian secularism as distinctive from its western counterparts.