This essay is a critical evaluation of contemporary urban Hindutva in the light of Carl Schmitt's famous assertion that all liberal political concepts are transposed theological ones. Without agreeing with Schmitt's hard-right nationalism, one can see that from the discursive beginnings of Hindu nationalism in the latter half of the nineteenth century there has been an effort to “monothematize” a pan-Indian Hindu identity. That is, in the absence of an axiomatic church of “Hinduism,” there was a literary-modern effort to telescope myriad devotional traditions, eclectic beliefs, practices, and customs into a single edifice of Hinduness. This effort, however, failed to overcome the historical differences of caste, gender, class, and region and invent a singular, constitutive discourse of Hindu being. The essay speculates that perhaps, in recent times, this project toward a Hindu normative literary modernity has been displaced by an “informatic modernization.” A new urban Hinduness asserts itself more by its affects and spectacles than through the act of narration. This “informatic” public culture can orchestrate signs, emblems, mantras, and doctrines of disparate affiliations without completing a “story” as such. That is, it can do so without trying to resolve historical disputes that have dogged the career of Indian modernity (e.g., how exactly can caste be squared with scientific and democratic tempers?). The image of a “shining” Hindu normative metropolitanism is consolidated by groundless and nonobligatory mergers between neoliberal postulates and the pieties of a so-called tradition. The essay illustrates this phenomenon through some examples from popular Hindi cinema.
Anustup Basu; Hindutva and Informatic Modernization. boundary 2 1 August 2008; 35 (3): 239–250. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2008-018
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