What is a Public? Notes from South Asia

J. Barton Scott, Brannon D. Ingram

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In South Asia, as elsewhere, the category of the public has come under increased scholarly and popular scrutiny in recent years. To better understand this current conjuncture, we need a fuller understanding of the specifically South Asian history of the term. Toward this end, our discussion begins by considering more than two decades of scholarship that have worked to excavate this history. We propose that two principal methods or approaches-the genealogical and the typological-have characterised this scholarship. We then suggest, more in the mode of genealogy, that the category of the public has been closely linked to the subcontinental history of political liberalism. Finally, we discuss how the essays collected in this special issue challenge some of liberalism's key presuppositions about the public and its relationship to law and religion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-370
Number of pages14
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015


  • Publics
  • colonial India
  • law and religion
  • liberalism
  • post-colonial India
  • public sphere
  • secularism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

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