The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India

By Thomas Blom Hansen | Go to book overview

2
Imagining the Hindu Nation

NINETEENTH-CENTURY NATIONALISM in India was organized around an “orientalist mode of production of the people.” Based upon thecolonial objectification and codification of cultural differences, the imagination of an “Indian people” took the form of a series of discrete and wellbounded communities divided primarily by religion, but also by caste and custom. Three processes unfolding in the latter part of the nineteenth century molded this imagination.

The first of these was the governmental objectification and aggregation of existing cultural categories of caste or religion into larger and more abstracted categories, already touched upon in Chapter One. The second was the “inversion of orientalist epistemology” among nineteenth-century Indian reformers, intellectuals, and politicians. These strata interiorized the orientalist construction of the East and the West as essentially different, but reversed the valuation so that the differentiation became a source of recognition of cultural and moral superiority. The third process was that of “semitization” of Hinduism, thatis, attempts among reform movements within Hinduism to emulate the features of organization and uniformity that were believed to endow monotheist faiths originating in the Middle East, such as Islam and Christianity, with strength and capacity for concerted action—features lacking in what nationalists saw as a decaying and fragmented Hindu culture. At the same time, the encounter with colonialism also produced Islamic reform movements that in a similar vein sought to “semitize” and “classicize” Islam by purging popular andsyncretic practices.


Ideology and the Impossibility of Identities

Before plunging into the complexities of how social imaginaries and identities were produced in colonial and postcolonial India, it may be worth considering in more theoretical terms the intimate links between such imaginaries and processes of identity formation. My contention here is that in order to understand the subtleties involved in the inhabitations of the “identity slots” carved out by authorizeddiscourses

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The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • The Saffron Wave *
  • Introduction - Hindu Nationalism and Democracy in India 3
  • 1 - Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in India 16
  • 2 - Imagining the Hindu Nation 60
  • 3 - Organizing the Hindu Nation 90
  • 4 - Democracy, Populism, and Governance in India in the 1980s 134
  • 5 - The Saffron Wave 154
  • 6 - Communal Identities at the Heart of the Nation 200
  • 7 - Hindu Nationalism, Democracy, and Globalization 218
  • Notes 239
  • Glossary 269
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 289
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