Toleration Conference 2021 Banner Image

Sudipta Kaviraj


Panel: Politics, Political Theory and Toleration – Friday, January 22 (9am -11am PST // 12pm -2pm EST)
Sudipta Kaviraj photo

Sudipta Kaviraj is Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. Kaviraj has written at length on the intellectual history of Indian political thought, particularly in the twentieth century. He has focused on the distinct ways in which Indian thinkers and political actors have thought about the State in the wake of British colonialism. Kaviraj finds a usable past in pre-colonial Indian religious history to identify alternative forms of toleration and practices “going beyond toleration” that did not fit the normative standard in modern social science. In his essay “Modernity, State, and Toleration in Indian History: Exploring Accommodations and Partitions” (2014), Kaviraj shows how rulers across the subcontinent dealt with the continual challenge of religious diversity, first posed by the Buddhist challenge to Vedic religion and then by wide-scale Muslim conversion, in ways that differed from their colonial and then nationalist successors. It was common, rather than exceptional, for rulers from many dynastic periods to distinguish state religion from the personal religion of the ruler, to patronize philosophy and literature of distinct religious traditions, and to encourage an openness to the multiple avenues toward true religion. In this way, he shows that these ancient and medieval precedents addressed the same question of how to govern a religiously plural society, but did so with distinct and sometimes more ambitious approaches to toleration.  

Example of published work:

Sudipta Kaviraj, “On the Enchantment of the State: Indian Thought on the Role of the State in the Narrative of Modernity,” European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie 46, no. 2 (August 2005): 263–96,;