Religion and its Publics in South Asia:
Perspectives on the Past and Present

February 24–25, 2022 at 12:00pm EST
A virtual conference sponsored by Canopy Forum and the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory (CSLR) featuring scholars, experts and practitioners who will examine the many religious traditions of South Asia and their diverse publics.

Religion and its Publics in South Asia: Perspectives on the Past and Present

This virtual interdisciplinary conference, organized by the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University’s School of Law examines the relationship between the many religious traditions of South Asia and their diverse publics. Covering the premodern, early modern, and modern periods, the conference defines the categories of both religion and publics in broad terms. Conference papers will address how Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Sikhism have shaped and been shaped in South Asia by communities of practice, engagements with other religious traditions, factors such as region, caste, and gender, and different political structures, whether imperial formations or the nation-state. Bringing together a diverse group of leading scholarly voices from the disciplines of history, anthropology, religion, media, and law, the conference is especially timely given the salience of questions of minority rights, religious freedom, and national belonging in present-day South Asia.

February 24, 2022

Panel 1
12:00 to 1:30 pm EST

Panel 2
2:00 to 3:30 pm EST

February 25, 2022

Panel 1
12:00 to 1:30 pm EST

Panel 2
2:00 to 3:30 pm EST

Rohit Chopra | Santa Clara University


Rohit Chopra is an Associate Professor of Communication at Santa Clara University. His work addresses the use of online spaces by global Hindu Rightwing communities. Rohit is the author, most recently, of The Gita for a Global World: Ethical Action in an Age of Flux (Westland 2021) and The Virtual Hindu Rashtra: Saffron Nationalism and New Media (HarperCollins 2019).

Scott Kugle | Emory University


Scott Kugle teaches about Islam in South Asia, Comparative Religion, Islamic ethics, and issues of gender and sexuality. He is the author of eight books and numerous articles, including Sufis and Saints’ Bodies: Mysticism, Corporeality and Sacred Power in Islamic Culture (UNC Press, 2007) and Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslims (Oneworld Publications, 2010). His research languages are Arabic, Urdu, and Persian.

Anna Bigelow | Stanford University

The Loneliness of the Model Minority: Muslim Belonging in Malerkotla

Anna Bigelow is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. Bigelow’s work explores how everyday devotional life in shared sacred spaces illuminates the shifting terrain of ambivalently secular states.

Michael Broyde | Emory University School of Law

‘Public as Space’: The Possibilities and Contestations of Sufi Shrines in Sri Lanka

Michael J. Broyde is professor of law at Emory University School of Law, the director of the SJD Program, and Berman Projects Director at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. He is also a core faculty member at the Tam Institute of Jewish Studies at Emory. His primary areas of interest are law and religion, Jewish law and ethics, family law, and comparative religious law.

Ronald J. Colombo | Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

A Legal Analysis of Religious Arbitration

Professor Colombo teaches corporate and securities law courses at Hofstra Law School. His scholarship has focused on issues ranging from securities fraud to religious liberty. Before joining the Hofstra faculty, Professor Colombo served as VP and counsel for Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. Prior to that, he practiced at the New York office of Sullivan & Cromwell. Professor Colombo graduated, magna cum laude, from NYU School of Law. He clerked for Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit.

Dr. Supriya Gandhi | Yale University

‘Not a religion’: Modern Hinduism and the emergence of Hindutva

Supriya Gandhi teaches at Yale University and works on the interface of Islam and Indic traditions in South Asia. She is the author of The Emperor Who Never Was: Dara Shukoh in Mughal India (Harvard University Press, 2020). Her current book project explores the role of the Persianate cultural and intellectual ecumene in the making of modern Hinduism.

Michael A. Helfand | Pepperdine Caruso School of Law

Who Arbitrates? Arbitrator Qualification Clauses in Religious Arbitration Agreements

Vice Dean for Faculty and Research, Professor of Law, and Co-Director, Nootbaar Institute for Law, Religion & Ethics at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law; Visiting Professor and Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Fellow at Yale Law School; Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute; Board Member, Arbitrator and Consultant at the Beth Din (Rabbinical Court) of America.

Anneeth Kaur Hundle | University of California, Irvine

The Sikh Tradition and Sikh Studies in an Era of University and World-Making

Aneeth Kaur Hundle is an assistant professor of anthropology and Dhan Kaur Sahota Presidential Chair of Sikh Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Previously, she was Visiting Professor at the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Critical Race and Ethnic studies at UC Merced, and Research Associate at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. She can be reached at

Shan Momin| Aga Khan International Conciliation and Arbitration Board

Promoting the peaceful resolution of disputes in the Shia Ismaili Muslim community – a holistic approach

Shan Momin is the Executive Officer for the Aga Khan International Conciliation and Arbitration Board where he develops and implements strategy, as well as oversees its global mediation training. He has experience in family and commercial law, and has served as legal counsel for the largest government agency in Georgia, where he provided legal guidance, direction, and input on the business practices for the agency and its various offices in accordance with legal and policy requirements.

Daniel Jacobius Morgan | Santa Clara University

The Yemeni Breeze Longs for the Perfume of Arabia: Remote Knowledge Exchanges in Eighteenth-Century South Asia.

Daniel Morgan received his BA and M.Phil. from the University of Oxford and Ph.D. from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago in 2021. His research focuses on Islamic thought and Sufism in the Mughal Empire, with a specific interest in applied cosmological sciences and reformist political theology. He is currently writing an intellectual and social history of the Naqshbandi Sufis of North India in the early-modern period.

Ramnarayan S Rawat | University of Delaware

The Sant-mat and Raidas: The Rise of Dalit Religious Public in Early-Twentieth Century North India

Dr. Rawat is completing second book, ‘The Language of Liberalism: The Dalit Public Sphere in Late Colonial India.’ He coedited the Dalit Studies volume (Duke, 2016) and currently co-editing the second volume in the series.

Ken Sande | RW360, Peacemaker Ministries

Reversing Course on Conciliation Clauses

Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and RW360. Trained as an engineer, lawyer and mediator, Ken has conciliated hundreds of family, business, church and legal conflicts. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including The Peacemaker, which has sold over 500,000 copies in twenty languages. He is a Certified Emotional Intelligence Instructor and a Certified Relational Wisdom Conciliator, Coach and Instructor.

Dr. Geetanjali Srikantan | Independent Scholar

A Forgotten Chapter in the History of Hindu Law? James Henry Nelson and 19th century Madras High Court jurisprudence

Geetanjali Srikantan is a legal historian with research and teaching expertise in legal history, comparative law and jurisprudence. She previously worked as an Assistant Professor of Global Legal History at Tilburg University and is the author of the book Identifying and Regulating Religion in India: Law, History and the Place of Worship published with Cambridge University Press in 2020.

Dheepa Sundaram | University of Denver

“The rastra is online”: How Hindu Majoritarianism Capitalizes on Digital Devotional Publics

Dheepa Sundaram (she/her) is a scholar of performance, ritual, and digital culture whose research examines the formation of Hindu virtual religious publics. Her current monograph project titled Globalizing Dharma: The Making of a Global Hindu Brand examines how commercial ritual websites fashion a new, digital repository for majoritarian Hindu religious praxis, through a systematic “Vedicizing” of virtual spaces.

SherAli Tareen | Franklin and Marshall College

The Politics of Prophetic Love in Modern South Asia

SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. He received his PhD in Religious Studies from Duke University. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize and was selected as a finalist for the 2021 American Academy of Religion Book Award.

Audrey Truschke | Rutgers University

Caste Control: Towards a Frank Reckoning of Who Represents Hinduism in History

Audrey Truschke is Associate Professor of South Asian History at Rutgers University in Newark-New Jersey. Her research interests cover from premodernity into modern times, often emphasizing Hindu-Muslim interactions, cultural history, and the politics of the past.

Steven M. Vose | Colorado College

Creating Global Jain Publics Online: The Shrimad Rajchandra Mission’s Social Media Strategy

Steven M. Vose is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Colorado College. A historian of the Jain traditions of Gujarat and Rajasthan, he holds a PhD in South Asia Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. His first book, Reimagining Jainism in Islamic India: Jain Intellectual Culture in the Delhi Sultanate (forthcoming, Routledge), won the Edward C. Dimock, Jr. Book Prize in the Indian Humanities from the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Nicholas Witkowski | Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Untouchability, the Cultures of Death, and the Configuration of Communal Identity in Medieval Indian Buddhist Monasticisms

Nicholas Witkowski is Assistant Professor of the History of Religion at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He received his PhD in Religious Studies at Stanford University. Dr. Witkowski’s current project, Lifestyles of Impurity, is a study of low-/outcaste communities in first millennium South Asia that employs the theoretical armature of historians of the everyday.

M. Shobhana Xavier | Queen’s University

‘Public as Space’: The Possibilities and Contestations of Sufi Shrines in Sri Lanka

M. Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Diaspora in the School of Religion at Queen’s University (Canada). She is the author of “Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks: Bawa Muhaiyaddeen and Contemporary Shrine Cultures” (2018) and the co-author of “Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics and Popular Culture” (2017). She thinks and writes on contemporary Sufism, including in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Suraj Yengde | Harvard University, Oxford University

Brahminism in the disguise of Hindutva

Dr. Suraj Yengde is a scholar based at Harvard and Oxford Universities. His upcoming book “Caste: A New History of the World” will be published in 2022.