Thought World of Hindu Nationalism

Author: Karner, Christian
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.


“It is only on rare occasions that one is asked to write a preface to a book that presents a comprehensive challenge to the ideas that one has argued and developed over many years. This book provides such a challenge in its critique of classical structuralism and its development of a neo-structuralist theoretical orientation based on cognitive psychological models rather than structural linguistics ... It is precisely in this psychologically-nuanced approach to structure and the possibility of multiple interrelated structures that Dr. Karner makes his most important contribution to neo-structuralist theory ... I believe that the book is a significant contribution to the theoretical as well as the ethnographic debates. Discussions with Dr. Karner over the past several years and reading the book itself have led me to rethink many aspects of my own approach ...” – (from the Preface) Professor Seth Kunin, University of Durham

“ ... Dr. Karner’s neo-structuralism represents an important and powerful retooling of structural anthropology that makes a significant contribution to contemporary and interdisciplinary social theorizing. This should not detract from the fact that this book is also a serious engagement with the phenomenon of Hindu nationalism; the strength of Dr. Karner’s theorizing is inextricably linked to his scholarly of the debates and research in this field ... a solid theoretical and substantive contribution ...” – Professor José López, University of Ottawa

“This wide-ranging study illuminates the socio-cultural processes at work in Hindu nationalism, showing that the discourse of Hinduvta is versatile and ideologically fluid – qualities which make it possible to unite Hindus in a sense of national identity in the context of diaspora, where caste and regional identities are losing their hold. Dr. Karner’s work pushes social theory in new and exiting directions ...” – Dr. Alan Aldridge, University of Nottingham

Table of Contents

Preface by Seth Kunin
1. Introduction
2. Definitional and Conceptual Clarifications
3. Types of ‘Self’/‘Other’ Category Relations
4. Ideological Content/Meaning
5. History, Context, Appropriation, Diffusion
6. Agency, the Subject, Identities, Resistance
7. Conclusion