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Australian Journal of Asian Law

Abstract from Volume 8 No 3 (2006)

Thinking Beyond Religion: Legal Pluralism in Britain's South Asian Diaspora

Prakash Shah LLB (LSE), LLM (LSE), PhD (SOAS) is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Law, Queen Mary, University of London. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Religion and Social Change Conference, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 25-27 May 2006.

'Religion' is a Western construct which, when transplanted to Asian countries, has led to a transformation of indigenous traditions and given rise to ethno-religious forms of indentification. This article discusses the continuing influence of 'religious' identities among members of Britain's South Asian communities, in both the work of writers and in official discourses, and argues that this distorts our understanding of the complexity of legal reconstruction among diaspora communities. It proposes alternative categories of 'ritual', 'politics' and 'soteriology' as components of legal pluralism in the South Asian diaspora. The article further explores how combinations among these are leading to distinct tendencies in plural legal reconstruction and official recognition in diaspora.

(2006) 8(3) Asian Law 237-60

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