The Everyday Life of Hindu Nationalism (HB)

The Everyday Life of Hindu Nationalism (HB)

An Ethnographic Report

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Author: Shubh Mathur
Publisher: Three Essays Collective
No. of pages: 224
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Other Specifications

Language: English
ISBN: 8188789437
Published on: 2008
Book Format: Paperback
Category: Essay
Subject: Hindutva / Brahminism


This is an ethnographic account of the rise of Hindu nationalism in the north Indian state of Rajasthan during the period 1990-94. It looks at the transformation of cultural meanings in everyday life that make possible the political success and the anti-minority violence of the Hindu right. Media and academic accounts of the Hindu right that present images of religious frenzy and fanaticism are misleading because they draw attention away from the world of the everyday and the ordinary, from the homes, workplaces, schools and communities where the realities of Hindu nationalism are created and maintained. This book takes seriously the claims of RSS activists that theirs is a cultural organization, and that its main task is ‘character- building’, in order to answer the central question: How does one comprehend the selves that are capable of the extraordinary violence witnessed in India at the turn of the millennium?

The patterns of anti-minority violence that accompanies the rise of Hindu nationalism show that it follows not a political or economic logic, but a cultural one. The geographic and demographic distribution of violence maps and confirms cultural beliefs about the nation and its enemies. Finally, this book argues that media and academic discourses on Hindu nationalism function to produce what has been called ‘cultural anesthesia’, diffusing and deflecting questions about agency and accountability while silencing the experience of the victims and excluding the cultural idioms which provide them means of comprehension and healing.


Preface and Acknowledgements

I Introduction: The Everyday Life of Hindu Nationalism

Two stories
Culture and violence: In the light of Gujarat
The ordering of difference
Writing an ethnography of fascism
Hindutva as symbolic capital

II Mapping the Enemy

“The significant past”
Culture and difference in the nineteenth century
Conquest and conversion
Tolerance, Hindu and Muslim
“Muslim separatism”

III Administrative and Discursive Hindus

A brief history of Hindu nationalism
Street-fighters and patriots
“A well-disciplined counter-revolutionary elite”
“National thrust to ancient customs”

IV Communities and Power

The Scream of Reich
Seva Bharati: “Giving culture” to the urban poor
Mohalla Khatikan
RSS women
Postscript from Gujarat

V Violence as Ritual

Suspect community
The judicial inquiry
Invisible violence
The other point of view

Election results

Population by religion


VHP-RSS materials


Cover image: Shone Chandra

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