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Narratives of Religious Alterity: Religion and Violence in contemporary South Asian Anglophone Novels

Author Nora Anna ESCHERLE
Director of thesis Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl
Co-director of thesis Prof. Dr. Thomas Claviez
Summary of thesis

Nora A. Escherle’s dissertation project analyses the different ways in which contemporary Anglophone novels of South Asian background engage in the discourse of religious alterity and violence and comment on its core issues of dispute by employing specific combinations of modes of narrativisation and focalization strategies. The discourse of religious alterity and violence is assumed to essentially comprise two propositions: Firstly, that religion is the ‘evil Other’ of peaceful secularism and that religion inherently causes violence, and secondly, that there exist inherently violent religions and inherently less violent or even utterly peaceful religions. The concepts of (religious) alterity of (religiously connoted) violence, which are at the core of both propositions are considered central factors guiding the textual analysis. It is assumed that the analysis of the different manners in which the two concepts and their interrelation are constructed, perceived and represented in the narratives will yield valuable insights concerning the question of how the narratives discuss the two propositions and position themselves with regard to them.

Due to its central issues, Ms Escherle’s dissertation project is inherently interdisciplinary. Obviously, it has to take into account the actual historical and contemporary events and contexts which the selected novels refer to or hint at. Furthermore, working with the concept of religion requires a thorough insight into theories developed in the discipline Science of Religion. Last but not least, the analysis of how fictional texts represent interreligious conflict and/as ‘Othering’ necessitates the discussion of cultural, sociological and philosophical theories on alterity, violence and the phenomenon of what is called ‘hostile Othering’ in frame of this project. ‘Hostile Othering’ here refers to processes of stigmatization and social marginalization which are violent themselves or else ultimately result in violence.

In order to evaluate how contemporary Anglophone novels of South Asian background discuss the core propositions of the discourse on religious alterity and violence, Ms Escherle will provide an in depth textual analysis of the following narratives: Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), Raj Kamal Jha’s Fireproof (2006), Kiran Nagarkar’s God’s Little Soldier (2006), Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown (2005), Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India (1989), Shashi Tharoor’s Riot (2001) and Altaf Tyrewala’s No God in Sight (2006).

Regarding her approach to the actual textual analysis, Ms Escherle makes use of what she considers a crucial link between focalization and perspectival structures on the one hand and modes of narrativisation and genres on the other hand. She assumes that certain genres and modes of narrativisation provide a specific repertoire of focalization strategies and components for building perspectival structures. Her central claim is that the novels of the project’s text corpus refer to, use and subvert these focalization strategies and perspectival building components in different, productive manners to represent the concepts of religious alterity and violence and thereby to discuss the two core propositions of the discourse of religious alterity and violence in their own, specific ways.

Administrative delay for the defence