Anustup Basu (English)

Anustup Basu

Senior Research Fellow, 2018-2020

Hindutva and Advertised Modernization
The works of Carl Schmitt, the Nazi jurist, have returned to the center-stage in recent decades due to a crisis of the secular, erosion of liberal institutions and democratic cultures world-wide, and the concomitant rise of authoritarianisms. Schmitt had famously declared that all political concepts were secularized religious ones, and the ‘political’ was the primary impelling (based on friend and foe distinctions) that decided sovereign exception in the last exacting instance. This idea of political theology presumes a monotheistic cast of religiosity. See in that light, the broader historical project of Hindu nationalism India and its extreme right-wing ethnic incarnation in Hindutva become complicated projects. It would involve the invention of ‘Hinduism’ along Abrahamic lines, with one God, one church, and one laity that could then evolve into a national citizenry. It would mean telescoping a pantheon of several million gods and a wide armature of syncretic traditions of faith – monist, atheist, pantheist, or henotheist – into a singular edifice of faith. It would mean the invention of a Hindu congregational model by superseding caste divisions and untouchability. Hindu India, in order to be a ‘nation,’ needed a Hindu-Indian monotheism. The book looks at this historical invention of ‘Hinduism’ in terms of two broad terrains. The first is a modernist literary-philosophical enterprise that began around 1816 and sought to narrate a Monotheistic Hindu subject into being by way of philosophy, theology, and the novel form. It was a project that necessarily remained incomplete. The second is a media dispensation of the contemporary that can be called an ecology of advertised modernization. In this, the Hindu nation need not be narrated as such. It can simply be advertised in a ‘post-truth’ environment, where endemic contradictions between postulates of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ need not be resolved. Rather, such postulates can simply be orchestrated together to create an ethno-nationalist monotheism-effect. This is an interdisciplinary project in critical theory, involving inputs from philosophy, literature, history, and cinema and media studies. 

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