Book: Constructing Data in Religious Studies
Chapter: 4. Catagorizing Contrariety: Narrative and Taxonomy in the Construction of Sikhism
In response to the provocative essay by Annette Yoshiko Reed, this paper engages with some of her main ideas and the ways categorization operates as a practice in academic and cultural contexts. First interrogating some philosophical bases for approaching religion as a discrete category, the author proceeds to frame Reed’s approach in the nominalism of David Hume by which general ideas are formed by relations of impressions. After characterizing Reed’s efforts as the analysis of narrative constructions of contiguity, using the case of transnational Sikh groups striving for political recognition in the early to mid-twentieth century as a case study for another nominalist relation: contrariety. By analyzing the ways religion was used in a two-pronged attempt to distinguish Sikhism from its parent ‘religion’ Hinduism, this essay provides a complement to Reed’s model by considering how religious classification is employed in a specific socio-cultural context towards political ends. The author concludes with an encouragement to attend to the ‘why’ of categorization as much as the ‘how’.