Title Divorcing Traditions
Subtitle Islamic Marriage Law and the Making of Indian Secularism
Author Katherine Lemons
ISBN 9781501734779
List price GBP 21.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 246
Book size 152 x 228 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher Cornell University Press (Combined Academic Publishers)
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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“Katherine Lemons has written a powerful and compelling book that reshapes our understanding of secularism, Muslim law, and divorce in contemporary India.”

—Rachel Sturman, Bowdoin College, and author of The Government of Social Life in Colonial India


Divorcing Traditions is groundbreaking. It is a unique contribution to the understanding of the relation between religion and secularism in India—a splendid achievement.”

—Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University


“This ethnographically rich and analytically astute book examines how secularism, rather than separating law from religion, unsettles any hard distinction between those two domains. With brilliant insight, Katherine Lemons underscores the entanglement of political economy in kinship, religion, and law. Divorcing Traditions is an original intervention into the study of secularism, religion, and gender.”

—Mayanthi Fernando, University of California, Santa Cruz


Divorcing Traditions is an ethnography of Islamic legal expertise and practices in India, a secular state in which Muslims are a significant minority and where Islamic judgments are not legally binding. Katherine Lemons argues that an analysis of divorce in accordance with Islamic strictures is critical to the understanding of Indian secularism.

Lemons analyzes four marital dispute adjudication forums run by Muslim jurists or lay Muslims to show that religious law does not muddle the categories of religion and law but generates them. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research conducted in these four institutions—NGO-run women’s arbitration centers (mahila panchayats); sharia courts (dar ul-qazas); a Muslim jurist’s authoritative legal opinions (fatwas); and the practice of what a Muslim legal expert (mufti) calls “spiritual healing”—Divorcing Traditions shows how secularism is an ongoing project that seeks to establish and maintain an appropriate relationship between religion and politics. A secular state is always secularizing. And yet, as Lemons demonstrates, the state is not the only arbiter of the relationship between religion and law: religious legal forums help to constitute the categories of private and public, religious and secular upon which secularism relies. In the end, because Muslim legal expertise and practice are central to the Indian legal system and because Muslim divorce’s contested legal status marks a crisis of the secular distinction between religion and law, Muslim divorce, argues Lemons, is a key site for understanding Indian secularism.




Chapter 1. Regulating Kinship under Legal Pluralism

Chapter 2. Muslim Divorce, Secularism’s Crucible


Chapter 3. Shari’a Courts’ Family Values

Chapter 4. The Converging Jurisprudence of Divorce


Chapter 5. “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq ...”

Chapter 6. The Healing Jurist





About the Author:

Katherine Lemons is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at McGill University.

Target Audience:

People interested in secularism, Muslim law, religion, gender and divorce in contemporary India.

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