Dr. Christian Karner is Lecturer in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham, where he specializes in the sociology of ethnicity, nationalism and religion. His other recent publications include work on Austrian national identities, religion and globalization, social theory, and traveler identities. Dr. Karner is also co-editor (with James Crossley) of Writing History, Constructing Religion (2005, Ashgate), and he is currently working on a book on Ethnicity and Everyday Life (forthcoming, Routledge).2006 0-7734-5626-0
This book makes two major contributions. First, it analyses textual material and qualitative data on Hindu nationalism: in doing so, it reveals the co-existence of several ‘self-other category relations’ and of more elaborate schemas of interpretation in a transnationally circulating discourse often reduced to a cognitive pattern of binary ‘us versus them’ distinctions (frequently dominant though this ‘logic’ is). Second, the analysis is theoretically informed by a newly constructed framework; critically revisiting Claude Lévi-Strauss’s legacy, the author argues that a neo-structuralist paradigm capable of illuminating the structures and workings of (ethno-nationalist) discourses of identity can be constructed if the classically Lévi-Straussian indebtedness to structural linguistics is replaced by conceptual borrowings from social and cognitive psychology. The result is a theoretical approach capable of addressing the blind spots in traditional structuralism — structural diversity, meaning, history and agency. Further complemented by recent work on identity and the cognitively informed study of ethnicity, the analysis reveals the ‘structural possibilities’ and schemas underpinning the discourse of Hindutva
, conceptualizes the latter as a way of interpreting, and acting in, the world, and stresses the role of human agency in relation to a particular specimen of the kind of identity politics that has shaped recent history.