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This subject seeks to provide an overview of how different Asian jurisdictions both respond to their religious plurality and also seek to regulate it through legal means. Sitting at the intersection of many historical legal regimes, both indigenous and colonial, Asia’s many and diverse jurisdictions have had to respond to a wide variety of claims seeking legal recognition of minority and majority religious communities, and also restrictions vis-à-vis those same communities. This subject will provide students with the conceptual tools to both understand these claims on their own terms, but also how to situate them within larger debates about governance, the rule of law, and human and constitutional values.
The subject readings and discussions will be wide-ranging and interdisciplinary in nature, allowing students to understand the relations between law and religion from comparative, historical, and anthropological perspectives. The subject readings and discussions will also cover both big-picture issues underlying the study of law and religion (e.g. What is religion? What is secularism? Can we compare the operation of law across cultural and legal jurisdictions?) and also a number of specific substantive topics sitting at the intersection of law and religion. These specific topics will be diverse, and will encourage students to think not only about constitutional law (e.g. the constitutional creation of either secular or religious republics across Asia), but also family law (e.g. the pluralistic personal law systems found across postcolonial Asia), and criminal law (e.g. the criminalisation of certain forms of religious speech or conduct in some Asian jurisdictions).
The Asian legal systems which will be discussed include South Asian ones (e.g. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asian ones (e.g. Myanmar, Malaysia), and potentially East Asian ones (e.g. China, South Korea). Students will also be encouraged to draw upon experiences from their own home jurisdictions.
Principal topics will include:
- Methodology (What do we mean by ‘religion’? What do we mean by ‘secularism’? How do we compare?)
- Key contemporary issues concerning Law and Religion in Asia (e.g. legal pluralism and equality, religious exceptions to generally applicable laws, religious speech in politics, constitutionalising religion)
- Jurisdictional case studies (likely to include India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Singapore)
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the field of law and religion within the context of Asia, including recent developments and debates in this field of law and practice
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess these recent developments and debates
- Be an engaged participant in debates regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors and histories driving the law’s relationship to religion in Asia
- Have a developed understanding of the interaction of international and human rights norms and the legal regulation of religion in Asia
- Have the cognitive skills to generate critical and creative ideas regarding the legal regulation of religion in Asia, and to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy
- Have the cognitive skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to law and religion in Asia
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding law and religion in Asia to relevant specialist and nonspecialist audiences
- Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of law and religion in Asia.
Last updated: 29 January 2022