Whose nation is it anyway? Nationalism and the metaphorics of secular subjectivity
My dissertation analyzes the processes of subject formation through the civilizing missions of nationalism and secularism in India, and toward that end, provides a secular critique of the resurgence of Hindu nationalism, which seeks to unify the nation in the name of “one nation, one culture, one people.” After providing an introduction to the some of the dominant theories of nationalism, I compare the works of Partha Chatterjee and Jacques Derrida in terms of the different ways in which they consider their subjectivities as derived, the former through European history and the latter through the French language. Afterwards, I argue that it is necessary to draw a parallel relation between political and cultural modes of belonging to the nation with the psychological experience of nationhood. After raising the problematic relationship that psychoanalysis shares with history and postcolonial theory, I employ Slavoj Zizek's psychoanalytic theory to theorize the subject of Hindu nationalism.
Then, I introduce the gendered and sexualized subject of the nation and highlight its problematic relationship with the essentially male discourse of nationalism. Specifically, I analyze ‘lesbian subjectivity’ and its exclusion by patriarchal and heterosexual discourse of Hindu nationalism, which posits the citizen-body as a male, homo-social entity through Deepa Mehta's film Fire. Following that, I raise the problematic of translation of secularism in the Indian context and the inherent challenges present in articulating a ‘secular subjectivity’ in a space that is fraught with the discourses of modernity, nativism, nationalism and religion. I argue that in spite of the problems of political translation that secularism faces, it behooves us to retrieve a secular subjectivity that stands in strong opposition to the discourses of religious fundamentalism in India. Finally, I argue that the act of religious conversion on part of low caste Hindus to Islam and Christianity is actually a performance of cultural criticism, which puts on the anvil the Hindu majoritarian agenda to ‘Indianize, Hinduize, and Spiritualize’ the nation of India.
0615: Political science