Feeling religious – Feeling secular? Emotional style as a diacritical category

Stefan Binder
This article compares the different styles in which an Atheist movement in the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and a community of Twelver-Shia Muslims in Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana, engage with emotions of heroism and grief respectively. Heroism and grief are not approached as clearly defined or 'felt' mental entities but as complex compounds of diverse feelings and affective dynamics, which are inseparably entangled with the intellectual, social, material, and
more » ... historical dimensions of specific practical projects: a quest for a fundamental and holistic transformation of society in the case of Atheist activists and the cultivation of a morally upright and pious life in accordance with the way of Islam in the case of Twelver-Shias. By mobilizing the concept of emotional style as a diacritical and comparative category, the aim is not to compare grief and heroism as either mutually exclusive or commensurable in any direct or essentialist sense; instead, my aim is to juxtapose two condensed ethnographic accounts in order to rethink the role of emotions for describing the historical and contingent production of differences between the secular and the religious within concrete practical and political contexts. The article focuses in particular on how controversial debates among Atheists and Twelver-Shias around the nature and appropriate expression of emotions -as well as the varying understandings and practices of critique implied in these debates -function as a means for the two communities to both construct and contest their boundaries as minorities within a shared discursive environment of religious nationalism.
doi:10.5167/uzh-211684 fatcat:yskvmfregfgl7pub4fnzfghzre