"Be Men with Capital 'M'": gender roles in Hindu nationalism
Alex O'Connell (Maynooth University)
Paper short abstract:
Recent years have seen a rise in Hindu-Right activism on Indian campuses, in particular in the actions of student unions devoted to Hindu nationalism. My paper examines how activists on campus promote ‘authentic’ gender norms in response to rape-culture and perceived Islamic seduction.
Paper long abstract:
Colonial studies have frequently commented on the importance of gender performativity, both in terms of conquering westerners and emasculated colonial subjects. Indian nationalism has struggled to challenge stereotypes of 'effeminate Bengalis', sourcing Hindu virility narratives in ancient history and appropriating Victorians patriarchal norms. Post-independent India has retained some of this masculine anxiety, now firmly wedded to Hindutva nationalism which has grown in influence since the 1980s. One the many organisations associated with Hindutva is the ABVP, a nationalist student group opposed to the leftist politics, creeping westernisation and Muslim chauvinism that they argue is endemic on Indian campuses. The past few years have seen extended commentary on sexism and rape in India's cities, and Delhi campuses have been at the forefront of challenging everyday gender violence. The solution offered by the ABVP is to reconstitute virile Hindu masculinity to protect Hindu women and the Motherland in general. Drawing on interviews and fieldwork conducted in Delhi's universities in 2013, I want to explore this ideal of gender performance, and how both men and women are educated to fulfil their gender roles in accordance with true Hindu values. Indian society, and campuses in particular, are held to be plagued by decadence and western norms, while sexual violence is attributed to both men and women mis-performing their roles. While men must train physically, mentally, and spiritually, women too must be 'made', mainly through promoting traditional feminine roles, and educating them about the dangers of licentious Muslims.
Gender, far-right, and political radicalization