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Faculty Seminar | Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan on his Book “Periyar: A Study in Political Atheism”


Conference Hall, Ground Floor, Training Centre


Wednesday, March 29, 2023, 4:15 pm

This faculty seminar will feature a conversation between NLS faculty members Dr. Aniket Nandan and  Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan on his book titled “Periyar: A Study in Political Atheism” (Orient Blackswan, 2022). Dr. Manoharan published an article in 2020 titled “Freedom from God: Periyar and Religion” which carries the crux of the book’s argument. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A session.


Periyar E.V. Ramasamy (1879-1973) was a rationalist anti-caste leader from South India. Known for his critical views on caste, nationalism, gender, and social justice, he earned a controversial reputation in his lifetime and after for his views on religion. Criticized by his opponents for being a ‘crude atheist’, Periyar’s critique of religion however was not a simple rejection of god, but a critique of political theology. In Periyar: A Study in Political Atheism, Manoharan discusses Periyar’s controversial, sometimes contradictory, but overall nuanced approach to religion, and explores how his criticisms of religion were fundamentally rooted in an opposition to hierarchical social power and a concern for social justice. The first academic book in English to explore this subject, Manoharan reads Periyar in the anarchist tradition, drawing comparisons with the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, to consider how Periyar was critical of both divine and secular power. With an elaborate introduction that places Periyar in historical and intellectual context, the other chapters discuss Periyar’s political atheism, his approach to Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Marxism, and concludes with a discussion of his relevance for contemporary debates on secularism and post-secularism.