Religious Identity and Political Destiny: Hindutva in the Culture of Ethnicism

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Religious Identity and Political Destiny: 'Hindutva' in the Culture of Ethnicism is an ethnography of a contentious, ongoing debate about the place of religion in Indian civic life. Exploring Hindu nationalism from the varied perspectives of its critics in women's activist and Left intellectual circles, as well as its ideologues, supporters, and sympathizers, Deepa Reddy locates 'Hindutva' in a broader culture of critique where identity movements of all kinds compete for recognition, representation, and rights. Her narrative poses two central questions: 'How does religion order the modern social world?' and 'How does secular practice order the modern religious world?' Both are directed at reading Hindu ethnicism not as a pathology of modernity or a form of extremism itself, but as a part-religious, part-secular rationality that challenges the exclusion of religion from public life and secular politics in India. Reddy combines theoretical analysis, autobiographical narrative and ethnographic reportage to reveal 'Hindutva' as a multifaceted phenomenon that is interpreted and employed, opposed and supported, in as many ways as it is ideologically produced. Hindu ethnicism, she argues, is best read as a critique illuminating the contradictions of a decaying politics and the struggle to move beyond it; and as a rationality for modernity that we can ignore only at our own peril. This book will be of interest to anthropologists, historians, and sociologists, as well as readers of ethno-nationalist movements, religion, activism, global feminisms, and all matters Indian/South Asian.

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Editorial Reviews

Doug Holmes
Starting from an initial ethnographic insight that highly contentious religious struggles had filtered into and transformed the politics of women's activism, Deepa Reddy's important new text moves into a broader appraisal of contemporary Indian political agendas and the critical intellectual discourses informing them. From a number of strategic sites in and around Hyderabad and New Delhi, she explores why and how Hindu nationalism, as espoused notably by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has emerged as a compelling response to the post-Independence secularist movements of Gandhi-Nehru dynasty of the Congress Party and of the Indian Left. She set an ambitious task for the text: creating an analytical position from which the fraught sensibilities-the inner truths-that animate Hindu nationalism can be viewed as persuasive and legitimate from the perspectives of diverse groups of activists and adherents. In so doing she must confront the secularists' positions, articulated within activist-academic circles that dismiss the aspirations of the BJP as "pathological," she must also acknowledge the potential of Hindu nationalism to ignite communal violence. The astute reflexive moves that impel Reddy's analysis offer the reader multiple vantage points from which to enter and to assess these debates. Her reflexive commitments premised on "passionate contraries," continually demand that the reader tackle the inherent complexity of these entangled political issues and their abiding contradictions. Reddy's vigorous experimentation with ethnographic method makes this book a major new addition to the Alterations series in anthropological writing.
Bruce Grant
The best of a new generation of multi-sited ethnography that combines beautiful writing with finely tuned observation on the entwined fates of devotions, diasporas, and fragile democracies. Fearless and moving.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759106857
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Series: Alterations Series, #3
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Deepa S. Reddy is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Acknowledgements Chapter 2 Prologue Chapter 3 The Container Contained Chapter 4 Rethinking the Discourses of Religious Nationalism in India Chapter 5 Cultures Chapter 6 Ethnicist Genealogies Chapter 7 Ethnicism as Critique Chapter 8 Bibliography Chapter 9 Index Chapter 10 About the Author

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