What is the relationship between religion, secularization, and education? Parna Sengupta
, Associate Director of Introductory Studies at Stanford University, explores their connections as she reexamines the categories religion, empire, and modernity. In her new book, Pedagogy for Religion: Missionary Education and the Fashioning of Hindus and Muslims in Bengal
(University of California Press, 2011), she challenges the myth that Western rule secularized non-Western societies. Pedagogy for Religion
focuses on missionary schools and their influence in Bengal from roughly 1850 to the 1930s. Sengupta's conclusions are drawn from reading what she calls the "mundane aspects of schooling," rather than high religious discourse. The replication of religious, gender, and social identities, as they were established through textbooks, objects, language, and teachers, redefined modern definitions of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. Altogether, Sengupta demonstrates that modern education effectively deepened the place of religion in colonial South Asia. However, this contemporary return to religion was not a "backward" or "irrational" resurgence of religious beliefs and practices. Religion was transformed into the carrier of modernity and education became the means for recreating religious identity.