Gandhi's Body: Sex, Diet, and the Politics of Nationalism

Gandhi's Body: Sex, Diet, and the Politics of Nationalism

by Joseph S. Alter
     
 

ISBN-10: 0812235568

ISBN-13: 9780812235562

Pub. Date: 06/28/2000

Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.

No single person is more directly associated with India and India's struggle for independence than Mahatma Gandhi. His name has equally become synonymous with the highest principles of global equality, human dignity, and freedom.

Joseph Alter argues, however, that Gandhi has not been completely understood by biographers and political scholars, and in Gandhi's

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Overview

No single person is more directly associated with India and India's struggle for independence than Mahatma Gandhi. His name has equally become synonymous with the highest principles of global equality, human dignity, and freedom.

Joseph Alter argues, however, that Gandhi has not been completely understood by biographers and political scholars, and in Gandhi's Body he undertakes a reevaluation of the Mahatma's life and thought. In his revisionist and iconoclastic approach, Alter moves away from the usual focus on nonviolence, peace, and social reform and takes seriously what most scholars who have studied Gandhi tend to ignore: Gandhi's preoccupation with sex, his obsession with diet reform, and his vehement advocacy for naturopathy. Alter concludes that a distinction cannot be made between Gandhi's concern with health, faith in nonviolence, and his sociopolitical agenda.

In this original and provocative study, Joseph Alter demonstrates that these seemingly idiosyncratic aspects of Gandhi's personal life are of central importance to understanding his politics—and not only Gandhi's politics but Indian nationalism in general. Using the Mahatma's own writings, Alter places Gandhi's bodily practices in the context of his philosophy; for example, he explores the relationship between Gandhi's fasting and his ideas about the metaphysics of emptiness and that between his celibacy and his beliefs about nonviolence.

Alter also places Gandhi's ideas and practices in their national and transnational contexts. He discusses how and why nature cure became extremely popular in India during the early part of the twentieth century, tracing the influence of two German naturopaths on Gandhi's thinking and on the practice of yoga in India. More important, he argues that the reconstruction of yoga in terms of European naturopathy was brought about deliberately by a number of activists in India—of whom Gandhi was only the most visible—interested in creating a "scientific" health regimen, distinct from Western precedents, that would make the Indian people fit for self-rule. Gandhi's Body counters established arguments that Indian nationalism was either a completely indigenous Hindu-based movement or simply a derivative of Western ideals.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812235562
Publisher:
University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
Publication date:
06/28/2000
Series:
Critical Histories Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.14(d)

Table of Contents

Preface: History, Body, Cultureix
Part I.Rethinking the Mahatma
Chapter 1.Gandhi's Body, Gandhi's Truth3
Chapter 2.The Ethereal Politics of the Mahatma's Fasts28
Part II.Nationalism, Transnationalism, and the Embodied Self
Chapter 3.Nature Cure and Yoga: Transnational Experiments with Ether and Hydrotherapy55
Chapter 4.Surya Namaskar--Salute to Village Democracy83
Chapter 5.Somatic Nationalism: Gama the Great, Another Heroic Indian113
Conclusion: Post-Gandhian Somatics: Auto-Urine Therapy146
Glossary155
Notes159
References173
Index189
Acknowledgments205

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