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Manisha Sethi

Manisha Sethi is a Sociologist by training. She has taught at JamiaMilliaIslamia, Delhi – from where she is currently on leave – since 2005, first at the Centre for Comparative Religions, and later at Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies. She was a fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library between 2013-15.Sethi also helps edit Biblio, India’s preeminent book review magazine.

Sethi’s research interests encompass a wide range: from gender, politics and religion, to law and counterterrorism. She is the author of Kafkaland: Law, Prejudice and Counterterrorism in India (Three Essays, 2014) and Escaping the World: Women Renouncers among Jains (Routledge, 2012). Sethi is finishing a monograph on law and the evolution of modern Jain identity.

At Nalsar, she is associated with the newly initiated Centre for Criminal Justice Reform and Research.

Ph.D. 2009, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
“Asceticism among Jaina Women: Power, Sexuality and Social Control in Selected Districts of North India”.

M.Phil. 1999, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
“Women’s Identity and Agency within Hindu ‘Nationalism”.

Sethi’sdoctoral work was an ethnographic study of the nuns of the Jain tradition. In trying to understand the preponderance of women in the Jain mendicant orders, it interrogated on the one hand the dominant theories of renunciation, and on the other the liberal-Kantian ideas of women’s agency.

She has written extensively on the discourse of counterterrorism and the legal regimes that accompany it. Her current work examines the relationship between religion and law. Rather than seeing it as a case of competing sovereignties, her focus is on situating this relationship in a wider concatenation of ideas – tolerance, diversity, reform, majoritarianism, Indian secularism etc.

Fellowships and projects:
Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi (2013-15)
UGC Research Award (2016-2018)
ICSSR- IMPRESS Grant for the project, “Religion and Urban Planning: A Study of National Capital Region of Delhi” (2019-2021).


1. Escaping the World: Women Renouncers among Jains(Routledge, UK and India, 2012)

Some reviews can be seen here:

2. Kafkaland: Prejudice, Law and Counter-Terrorism in India (Three Essays, 2014)

Select reviews can be seen here:

Interviews on the book here:

Translated into Malayam (Kafkanadu, Pratheekhsa Books, Kozikode, 2016)

Translated into Telugu (Malapu Publications, 2017)

3. Editor, Special Issue on “Communities and Courts: Religion and Law in Modern India”, South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 10, No. 2, May 2019.


Research Papers in Journals:

  • 1. “Caught in the Wheel: Women and Salvation in Indian Religions” Manushi, Issue 119, July-August 2000.
  • 2. “Avenging Angels and Nurturing Mothers: Women in Hindu Nationalism” Economic and Political Weekly, Volume 37, Number 16, April 20 - 26, 2002.
  • 3. “Chastity and Desire: Representing Women in Jainism”, South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 1. No. 1, 2010.
  • 4. “Between Inclusivism and Exclusivism: Jains as Minority”, Contemporary Perspectives: History and Sociology of South Asia, Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan – June 2009.
  • 5. “Minority Claims and Majoritarian Anxieties: The Jain Question”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 51, Number 49, 03 December 2016.
  • 6. “Tenuous Legality: Tensions within Anti-Terrorism Law in India”, Socio-Legal Review (Journal of the National Law School of India University), 13 (2), 2018.
  • 7. “Religious Education in India: Debates and Experiences”, in Changing Societies and Personalities, Vol. 2, No. 3 (2018), Special Issue: "The Politics and Pedagogy of Religious Education", 249-259.
    ISSN: 2587: 8964 (online)
    2587: 6104 (print)
  • 8. “Communities and Courts: Religion and Law in Modern India”, Introduction to the Special Issue, South Asian History and Culture, 10: 2, 2019, 109-123. DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2019.1609259
  • 9. “Ritual death in a secular state: the Jain practice of Sallekhana”, South Asian History and Culture, 10:2, 136 151, DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2019.1609261
  • 10. “A Model Minority: Jains and the Muslim Problem”, Seminar Magazine, No. 727, March 2020.

Chapters in Edited Volumes:

  • The Proof of Custom: Negotiating Jain Widow’s Inheritance Rights” In Peter Flugel (Ed.) Jain Law and Community, Routledge, UK (In Press).
  • Stated Ideals, Lived Realities: The Case of Jain Women”, In Anjali Gandhi (Ed.) Women’s Work, Health and Empowerment, Aakar Books, 2006.
  • Modi and the Spectre of Terrorism: Crafting the Hindutva Icon”, In Irfan Ahmad and PralayKanungo (eds.) The Algebra of Warfare-Welfare: A Long View of India's 2014 Elections, Oxford University Press, 2019, New Delhi, 91-118.
  • Gender and Women in Jainism”, in: Brill's Encyclopedia of Jainism Online, Edited by: John E. Cort, , Paul Dundas, Knut A. Jacobsen, Kristi L. Wiley. July 2019 http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2590-2768_BEJO_COM_033802
  • The Violence of Law”, in TanweerFazal (ed.) The Minority Conundrum: Living in Majoritarian Times, Penguin India, 2020.


  • 1. “Cine Patriotism”, SAMAR: South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection, 15, Summer/ Fall 2002.
  • 2. “The End of an Enchanted Universe”, Hard News magazine, November 2008.
  • 3. “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim”: An essay on the representation of the Muslim in Bombay Cinema, Mail Today Newspaper, 12 December 2009.
  • 4. “Tactile Terror, True Lies”, Hardnewsmagazine, October 2011.
  • 5. “The Muslim Minority at Risk”, Special Issue of Canada Watch (York University) on India: The Most Fragile of Democracies, Winter 2012.
  • 6. “A Deadly Canon has loaded more Fire power” (On the amendments to Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), Issue 6. Vol. 10, Tehelkamagazine, 9th February 2013.
  • 7. “Dr.Narco and Other Stories from Kafkaland”, Hardnewsmagazine, April 2013.
  • 8. “Architect of Conscience”, Economic and Political Weekly, Web Exclusive, Vol. 49, Number 22, 31 May 2014.
  • 9. “Confronting Certainties: Rethinking the New Sexual Offences Law and Feminist Strategies”, Hardnews, July 2014.
  • 10. “Not enough Your Honour” (On the Supreme Court ruling on Encounters), Deccan Herald, 5th October 2014.
  • 11. “A Song for the Scavenger”, Review of the film Court (Dir. ChetanTamhane), Hindu Business Line, 17 April 2015.
  • 12. “Blind to Justice”, Indian Express, 30 December 2015.
  • 13. “The way to Redemption is through Listening” (On the impasse in Kashmir), Deccan Herald, 28th July 2016.
  • 14. “Encounter or Stage Managed” (On the Bhopal Encounter killings), Deccan Herald, 31st January 2017.
  • 15. “Its time the courts call out the wilful fabrication in terror cases”, Scroll website, 12 January 2017.
  • 16. ‘Infantilising Hadiya’, Indian Express, 16 September 2017.
  • 17. “The Strange Pardon of David Headley”, Indian Express, 01 December 2017.
  • 18. “The Encounterables”, Indian Express, 06 March 2018.
  • 19. “Rights Activist Arrest: This Law is an Ass”, Outlook Magazine, 17 September 2018.
  • 20. “Delhi Riot Conspiracy Theory: Aim is to make every Muslim Guilty”, Outlook Magazine, 28 April 2020.
  • 21. Handmaidens of HIndutva (On the Indian Police’s relationship with minorities), Bafflermagazine, 30 July 2020.
  • 1. “The Proof of Custom: Jain Legal texts in Colonial Courts”, 9thJaina Studies Workshop, Centre for Jain Studies, SOAS, University of London, 22nd March 2007.
  • 2. “Nun on a Motorbike: The Limits of Hindutva Female Activism”, Global Congress on World’s Religions after 9/11: An Asian Perspective, Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions and Civilizations, JamiaMilliaIslamia, 19th January 2009.
  • 3. “Contesting Claims: The Jain Widow’s Right to Adopt”, National Seminar on Adoption Laws, Minorities and Current Challenges, Dr. K.R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies, JMI, 9th February 2009.
  • 4. ‘Fractured Gender Discourses of Jain Asceticism: Hegemonies and Counter hegemonies’, presented at National Conference on Divining Gender: Religion, Politics & Gender in India (16th – 17th November 2009), St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi.
  • 5. ‘Interrogating the Jain notion of Ahimsa’, presented at International Seminar on Just Peace: A Common Universal Discourse, Iran Culture House, Indo-Iran Society and Islamic Peace Forum. 11th April 2010.
  • 6. “Communalism and the Present Challenges”, Peoples’ Manifesto Workshop, Indian Social Institute and South Asian Peoples’ Initiative, ISI, Delhi, 4th March 2009.
  • 7. “Hindus by Law? The case of Jain Minority claims”, presented at National Seminar on Minorities and the Margin: Colonial Encounter and Post-colonial Discourses, Programme for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, School of Social Sciences, JNU. 17th-18 February 2011.
  • 8. “The Strange Stories of Suspicion”, National Workshop on The Perversity of National Security, The Centre for Penology, Criminal Justice and Police Studies and the Collaborative Research Programme on Law, Postcoloniality and Culture at the Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), Sonipat. 2nd April 2011.
  • 9. “Violence that Heals: Bombay Films’ Response to Terrorism”, co-authored with TanweerFazal, Inter-disciplinary and International Conference, Re-visioning Terrorism, College of Liberal Arts, Purdue University, USA, 8-10 September 2011.
  • 10. “Virulent Images and Female Subjects: Some Reflections on Jainism”, National Symposium on Religion and Sexuality, Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, 22-22 October 2011.
  • 11. “Rethinking Minority: The Case of the Jains”, National Seminar on Discourse on Social Exclusion from Interdisciplinary Perspective organized by the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad, 31st January, 2012.
  • 12. “Imagining an Alternative model?: The case of Jain women renouncers”, International Conference on Religion and Gender: Identity, Conflict and Power, Centre for Conflict Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, CA, USA. 9-10 November 2012.
  • 13. “Gender, conflict and Religion”, presentation at the Panel of Experts, International Conference on Religion and Gender: Identity, Conflict and Power, Centre for Conflict Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, CA, USA, 9-10 November 2012.
  • 14. “Jain Widows and Legal texts in Colonial Courts”, International Conference, Rethinking Religion in India IV: Secularism, Religion and Law, Sri DharamasthalaManjunatheshwara (SDM) Law College (Mangalore, India), SDM Centre for Post Graduate Studies and Research in Law (Mangalore, India), the Research Centre VergelijkendeCultuurwetenschap (Ghent University,Belgium), the Centre for the Study of Local Cultures and P.G Department of Law (Kuvempu University, India), the Department for the Study of Religions (University of Pardubice, Czech Republic) and the India Platform UGent (Ghent University,Belgium, 25th November 2012.
  • 15. “Anatomy of Terror Trials”, The Delhi Historical Materialism Conference, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. 5th April 2013.
  • 16. “Ascetic Self and Feminine Identity”, International Conference on The Making of Religious Identities: Historical and Contemporary Themes, Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions and Civilizations, JamiaMilliaIslamia, New Delhi, 14-15 March 2013.
  • 17. “Nuns, Temptresses: Asceticism and Desire”, presentation at the special panel on Life and Liberation: Alternate Approaches to Gender and Eros, International Conference on Women’s Perspectives in the Dharma Traditions, Centre for Jain Studies, Clarmemont Lincoln University, USA, 23-24 August, 2013.
  • 18. “Virtue Ethics and Women’s Power” Lessons from Jain Nuns”, International Conference on Textual and Lived Religions: Precepts and Practices, Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions, JamiaMilliaIslamia, New Delhi, 20-21 March 2014.
  • 19. “Jains as a Minority”, Panel Discussion [along with Prof. Rowena Robinson ,Prof.Surinder Singh Jodhka , Dr. John Dayal] on Religious Minorities in India: Debates,Perspectives and Challenges, Department of Sociology, JamiaMilliaIslamia, New Delhi, 8-9 September 2015.
  • 20. “Visibility and Exclusion: Terror Discourses in Media”, National Seminar on Media and Minorities: Text, Context and Discourse, CCMG, JMI, 13-14 October 2015.
  • 21. “Terror and Trial: Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in Courts”,International Conference onNon-State Legal Practices in India, Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, Manipal University, Manipal, 5-7 December 2015.
  • 22. “Terror Threats as Electoral Strategy: The Crafting of the Hindutva Icon”,National Seminar on National, State and Local Elections in India (2014-15): Analysis and Reflections, organized by EECURI [Explaining Electoral Change in Urban and Rural India] Network Conference, [Held at Sariska, Rajasthan], 18th -19th January 2016.
  • 23. “Minority Claims and Majoritarian anxieties: The Case of the Jains”, International Workshop on Religion and Law: Colonial and Post Colonial Encounters, Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions and Civilizations, Jamia Millia Islamia, 9-11 March 2016.
  • 24. “Prejudice and Impunity: A Study of Terror Investigations” at National Seminar on Policing a Diverse India, organized by Himachal Pradesh Police, Centre for Public Affairs and Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, 17-18 April 2016.
  • 25. “Religion and Security”, International Conference on “Peace, Stability and Sustainable Development: The Role of Religion at NALSAR, Hyderabad (In association with the International Center for Law and Religion Studies of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, USA), 13-15 January 2017.
  • 26. “Ritual Death in a Secular State: The Jain Practice of Sallekhana”, International Conference on State, Civil Society and India’s Religious Margins, Organised by the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 7-8 December, 2017.
  • 27. “Religious Education in India: Debates and Experiences”, International Workshop on ‘ThePolitics and Pedagogy of Religion Education: Policies, Syllabi and Future Prospects’, Network for Religion Education in South Africa, Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town, 14-16 March 2018.
  • 28. “Introduction to Shramanic Religious Traditions”, 18 December 2018, I.I.T. Gandhinagar.
  • 29. Chair, Panel 'Is Religion in crisis?, at the Conference, 'What is the question', Raza Foundation and Centre for Creative Social Research, IIC, Delhi, 1st March 2019.

Invited Lectures:

  • Understanding Discourses of the War on Terror in India”, Conflict Resolution Association, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, USA, 22nd September 2011.
  • Femininity and Female Renunciation: The Case of Jains”, Keynote lecture, International Conference on Women’s Perspectives in the Dharma Traditions, Centre for Jain Studies, Clarmemont Lincoln University, USA, 23-24 August, 2013.
  • Minority Claims and Majoritarian Anxieties: The Case of the Jains”, NMML, 6th January 2015.
  • Discourses on Terrorism: Beyond the Security Perspective”, Plenary speaker at National Seminar on Human Rights and the Humanities, University of Calicut, 6-8 December 2016.
  • The Gender Question in Jainism”, Extra Mural Lecture, Department of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University, 26th February 2018.
  • "Jains or Hindus? Reforming Caste and Defining Communities", School of Law, Governance and Citizenship(SLGC), Ambedkar University Delhi,13th February 2019.
  • Sociology of Law (Mandatory)
  • Law and Religion (partly/ Seminar course)
  • Emergency Jurisprudence (Social Science Seminar)
  • Terrorism Trials (Social Science Seminar)


Email: manisha.sethy@gmail.com