Violent Imaginings: Women, History, and Agency in the Hindu Nationalist Movement in India

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:40 AM
Sheraton Ballroom II (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Kalyani Devaki Menon, DePaul University
Veena Das has argued that violent events are “attached to the everyday” (2007:8). This is certainly true of the right-wing Hindu nationalist movement in India, which has been responsible for extreme violence against religious minorities in its attempts to make India a Hindu nation. In this paper I locate contemporary Hindu nationalist violence within the context of the everyday, showing how everyday constructions of history disseminated by women in the Hindu nationalist movement in India are critical to mobilizing support and justifying violence against Muslims. I argue that Hindu nationalist women narrate a gendered history that images women as victims of Muslim aggression, suggesting that this past must be violently avenged by Hindus today. Using key female historical figures they also argue that women must be part of this struggle to avenge the past and establish a Hindu nation in India today. These historical narratives are therefore central not only to understanding Hindu nationalist violence against Muslims in India, but also to understanding the high visibility of women in this violent right wing movement.
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