Toleration Conference 2021 Banner Image

Elaine M. Fisher

Intolerance Under the Guise of Tolerance: Religious Diversity in Thirteenth-century India

Panel: Sacred Space and Tolerance – Thursday, January 21 (11am – 1pm PST // 2pm – 4pm EST)
Elaine Fisher photo

Elaine M. Fisher is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University. She has focused primarily on precolonial “Hindu Pluralism,” which is also the title of her monograph from 2017. In a brief article that explains that outlines of her research and its significance for contemporary scholarship on pluralism and space, “Hindu Pluralism: a prehistory,” Fisher argues against interpretations of religious “sectarianism” as necessarily violent, combative or unstable. She argues that in the case of Hinduism, it was only in the late nineteenth century that European (most British) scholars began to condemn Hindu sectarianism as deviations from the religion’s original, unified Brahminic form. These scholars did not recognize that adherents of the “sects” dedicated to Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism has occupied overlapping public space and debated their religion for centuries. She suggests that they could share space, sometimes mediated by precolonial states in the period before, and engage in polemic without resorting to violence. Fisher thus argues that the negative associations of sectarianism in the Hindu context only reinforce both a more recent view of the necessity of a unified Hinduism and very particular conceptions of the need for privatized religion in pluralist regimes.

Example of published work:

Elaine M. Fisher, Hindu Pluralism: Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India (Univ of California Press, 2017);  Hindu pluralism: A prehistory