Using evidence concerning the consolidation of Hindu nationalism in India, Aseema Sinha presents new ethnographic data about the variety of popular support for the Hindutva project and proposes an interactive theory of social identity. This framework helps us understand how Hindu nationalism becomes embedded in society. She argues that Hindu nationalism in India could be fruitfully analyzed by focusing on the processes through which ideas of exclusive nationalism spread among middle classes and are expressed in micro-level psychological changes at the individual level. The consolidation of Hindu nationalism in India is being authored not only by parties and the state but also by societal actors, and more specifically ordinary middle-class Indians. Hindu nationalism has been spreading in micro-public spheres in times of apparent peace and between elections and with the participation of willing supporters, bystanders, and hardliners. Sinha suggests the need to focus on interlinked micro-level mechanisms such as diffusion and emulation of Hindu-centric beliefs and ideas, mobilization by hardliners and organizations, and impunity protected by state agencies.
Aseema Sinha is the Wagener Chair of South Asian Politics and George R. Roberts Fellow in the Government Department at Claremont McKenna College. Her research interests focus on the political economy of India, India-China comparisons, and the rise of India as an emerging power. Her publications include The Regional Roots of Developmental Politics in India: A Divided Leviathan (Indiana University Press, 2005), which was awarded the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences by the American Institute of Indian Studies.
Sponsored by the IHC’s South Asian Religions and Cultures Research Focus Group