This issue of JVS grew out of a discussion with Kenneth Valpey of the Oxford Centre for Vaishnava and Hindu Studies. We were trying to come up with novel themes for the journal, themes the journal had
not yet explored. “Why not do an issue on ‘Vaishnavism and Modernity’?” he offered. Having just read David Smith’s Hinduism and Modernity, the subject happened to be at the forefront of my mind. Not one to believe in mere happenstance or coincidence, I quickly gravitated toward the idea. “Yes,” I said, “now just who should we get to contribute to this volume?”
We sent out a call for papers and I was delighted by the reaction. Of course, I let prospective contributors know that I was not going to be rigid in how I define “modernity.” This was a significant concern. Some scholars asked if I was going to deal with modernity as a political or social issue, in its most reified version, in relation to pre-modernity and post-modernity. Do papers for this issue, they wondered, need to deal with modernity in terms of its Eurocentric agenda of “enlightenment”—the need to “share” that which one considers rational, along with science, reason and progress? My answer, it should be known, was that JVS writers can define modernity in any way they like—in all of the above ways and more. My main concern was that they relate it to Vaishnavism. At the very least, they should write about how Vaishnavism is practiced in the modern world. They did, and so this issue of JVS is now in your hands.