It is well known that mahatma gandhi felt that sexuality and desire were intimately connected to social life and politics, and that self-control translated directly into power of various kinds, both public and private. Gandhi's enigmatic genius and his popular appeal among India's masses may be attributed, at least in part, to the degree he was able to embody a powerful ideal of sexual self-control that linked his sociopolitical projects to pervasive Hindu notions of renunciation (S. Rudolph 1967). Affecting the persona of a world-renouncer, Gandhi was able to mix political, religious, and moral power, thus translating personal self-control into radical social criticism and nationalist goals. Gandhi's mass appeal was partly effected on a visceral level at which many Hindu men were able to fully appreciate the logic of celibacy as a means to psychological security, self-improvement, and national reform. Although my concern in this paper is not directly with Gandhi's notion of self-control, it is against the larger backdrop of his political legacy that I situate this discussion of sexuality, gender, and nationalism in contemporary India.

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