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Alternative economic discourses in post-colonial social and political movements

The rise of an "Islamic economy" in India

Project initiative in the context of the research field "The historicity of normative rules" of the excellence cluster "The formation of normative rules" at the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main.
Project leader: Prof Karl-Heinz Kohl; researcher: Katja Rieck M.A.

The starting point for this research is the observation that economic discourses function worldwide as one of the central, if not the central, justificatory narratives of modern societies. Also conspicuous, especially in post-colonial societies, is the development of alternative discourses, such as that of an Islamic economy, that confront the normative, self-evident nature of the western version of modernity and the practices associated with it.

In this project, the social conditions for this development are examined using the example of India, where liberation from colonial rule was achieved through the realization of a socio-political ordering of society based on the principles of Hindu or Islamic economies. Why did India's educated elite formulate its critique against the British colonial government and the west in general, as well as their own interests and basic identity projects, using economic concepts? How did post-colonial ideas of state and society arise that simultaneously confronted critically the norms of a post-Enlightenment western "modernity"? What was the role in ths of Indian (re-)visions of indigenous "tradition(s)" and existing western economic discourses? Why were these post-colonial alternative discourses increasingly anchored in religion - in Hinduism or Islam?

While the economic alternative shaped by Hinduism lost its political relevance with the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, the Islamic alternative developed by Abu 'Ala Maududi became popular throughout India in the following decades. Since the fall of communism, the notion of an Islamic economy has represented an important normative alternative capitalism, which is gradually being translated into corresponding practices not only in the Islamic world, but also in the west.

The aim of this project is first, to acquire a nuanced understanding of the origins and changes in norms in colonial contexts, as well as the processes through which particular ideas of tradition are mobilized, in order to ask how these norms are justified and how a new post-colonial order can be formulated. In addition, understanding will be acquired of how post-colonial social formations and possibilities for subjectivization are formed through changes in norms.