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Is there a (M)other in the Text? Post-theistic Sikh Ontology and the Question of the Phallus

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

In this paper I examine Arvind Mandair’s retrieval of the posttheistic ontologization of language in early Sikh thought, an aspect which is fundamental for his argument for Sikh postcolonial secularity. However, he frames his argument by drawing—implicitly and explicitly—on a parallel modelling of the ontological function of language found in Lacanian psychoanalysis. Whilst finding much to affirm in Mandair’s argument, I query the extent to which its subterranean reliance on psychoanalysis runs the risk of replicating the Lacanian marginalisation and ultimate exclusion of female subjectivity (paradigmatically the mother) as a figure of alterity and of lack. I argue that a model that promotes the ontology of language as a liberatory and inclusive political tool must also account for the gendered and thus potentially exclusory nature of language.

Affiliations: 1: Department of the Study of Religions, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London London England, Email:


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