May 23, 2023

‘Willing’ ethnic-nationalists, diffusion, and resentment in India | Aseema Sinha, Manisha Priyam


Modern Asian Studies , Volume 57 , Issue 3 , May 2023 , pp. 1027 - 1058

‘Willing’ ethnic-nationalists, diffusion, and resentment in India: A micro-foundational account

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 December 2022


Using evidence regarding the consolidation of Hindu nationalism in India we put forward new ethnographic data about the variety of popular support for a Hindutva project and a new framework that proposes an interactive theory of social identity. This framework helps us understand how Hindu nationalism becomes embedded in society. We assert that Hindu nationalism in India could be fruitfully analysed by focusing on the processes through which ideas of exclusive nationalism spread among ordinary middle-class people 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 or the state, but also by societal actors, specifically, ordinary middle-class Indians. Hindu nationalism has been spreading in micro-public spheres in a time of apparent peace and between elections, and with the participation of willing supporters. Building on our fieldwork and research in psychology and history, our conversations have also helped us to identify profiles of different types of nationalists, which we categorize as willing ethnic-nationalists, hardliners, bystanders, and moderates. Further, we suggest the need to focus on inter-linked micro-level mechanisms such as diffusion and emulation of Hindu-centric beliefs and ideas, mobilization by hardliners and organizations, and impunity resulting from protection by state agencies, which helps to create willing ethnic-nationalists and sustains Hindu nationalism. Evidence regarding social interactions from a variety of survey organizations concurs with our findings and our ethnographic material allows us to delve deeper into varieties of Hindu nationalist support across diverse ordinary people.