The Everyday Life of Hindu Nationalism

An Ethnographic Report

First Edition

ISBN(s) 81-88789-43-7, 81-88789-53-4
Pub. Date February 2008
Pages xvi, 224
Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5 in.
Rights All Rights Available
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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

  1. Two stories
  2. Culture and violence: In the light of Gujarat
  3. The ordering of difference
  4. Writing an ethnography of fascism
  5. Hindutva as symbolic capital

II Mapping the Enemy

  1. "The significant past"
  2. Culture and difference in the nineteenth century
  3. Conquest and conversion
  4. Tolerance, Hindu and Muslim
  5. "Muslim separatism"

III Administrative and Discursive Hindus

  1. A brief history of Hindu nationalism
  2. Street-fighters and patriots
  3. "A well-disciplined counter-revolutionary elite"
  4. "National thrust to ancient customs"

IV Communities and Power

  1. The Scream of Reich
  2. Banswara
  3. Beawar
  4. Seva Bharati: "Giving culture" to the urban poor
  5. Mohalla Khatikan
  6. RSS women
  7. Postscript from Gujarat

V Violence as Ritual

  1. Stories
  2. Suspect community
  3. The judicial inquiry
  4. Invisible violence
  5. The other point of view


  1. Election results
  2. Population by religion
  3. Maps
  4. VHP-RSS materials


Cover image: Shone Chandra


It is an error to read fascism as an abnormality; one should, in fact, seek the links between fascism and ‘normality’. Shubh Mathur’s work brilliantly shows how ‘the cultural logic and institutional power of Hindutva have become deeply entrenched in everyday life itself’.

— Sadanand Menon

Shubh Mathur’s account of the resistible rise of Hindu chauvinism in the north Indian state of Rajasthan is at once a remarkable piece of contemporary scholarship and a great human document.

This is a searingly honest piece of writing, with an unashamedly partisan position, but without compromising the demands of theoretical rigor and empirical depth. Shubh Mathur’s book provides a fine-grained account of the tortured response of India’s Muslims to the emerging shifts in a social order that has begun to view them with increasing weariness, impatience and a hectoring command to ‘assimilate’.

— From the blurb

About Shubh Mathur Read full profile ›

Shubh Mathur is an anthropologist whose work focuses on minorities, violence, human rights, gender and immigration. She received her doctorate from the New School for Social Research, New York. She is at present Visiting Assistant Professor of... Read more

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