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In this essay MARK JUERGENSMEYER looks at the responses to old secular nationalisms, which are under siege precisely at a time when they have themselves been weakened by globalization. Their vulnerability has been the occasion for new ethno-religious politics to step into the breach and shore up national identities and purposes in their own distinctive ways. Some forms of ethno-religious politics are global, some are virulently anti-global, and yet others are content with the attempt to create ethno-religious nation-states.

MARK JUERGENSMEYER is professor of sociology and director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is author or editor of a dozen books, including Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Third edition, California 2003), The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (California 1993), and Religion and Global Civil Society (Oxford 2005).

As Angiras points out in his interesting comment, the present situation in Pondicherry reflects a much larger problem of which Juergensmeyer clarifies some important aspects. We should recall the Mother's statement that the Ashram "is a reduced image of life." (CWM 13:149) It may also be helpful to realize that the uproar in India against an American biography of Sri Aurobindo is in a certain sense an anti-globalization protest — as was, much more dramatically, an event such as the destruction of the World Trade Center. The WTC was targeted as a symbol of the global economic system. The Lives presents Sri Aurobindo in terms that are acceptable to the worldwide intellectual community, thus antagonizing those to whom cultural globalization is threatening. Strangely enough, the attack on The Lives of Sri Aurobindo really got under way when misleading, decontextualized extracts were sent to dozens of people on September 11, 2008.

The irony of seeing this as an anti-globalization movement is that Sri Aurobindo was one of the earliest and most far-seeing writers on globalization, though his work is as yet unknown to theorists in this field. His major work on globalization — focusing on its political aspect — is The Ideal of Human Unity, but globalization is also an important theme of his essays on Indian culture.

Juergensmeyer's essay follows.