HANSEN, THOMAS BLOM. The saffron wave: democracy and Hindu nationalism in modern India. vi, 293 pp., bibliogr. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1999
The rise of Hindu nationalism -- the 'saffron wave' (from the nationalists' colour) -- is indisputably one of the most important developments in contemporary India. Among anthropologists and other researchers, no other Indian topic now commands more scholarly attention and Thomas Blom Hansen's book is an important addition to the literature. The book's most original contribution is probably the attempt to show that Hindu nationalism has arisen within a 'broader realm of... public culture' (p. 4) rather than in either the political system or the religious field more narrowly defined, so that the nationalists' objective is to transform this culture into one decisively shaped by their ideology of Hindutva ('Hindu-ness'). Hence and crucially, the rise of Hindu nationalism is not just about the political success of the Bharatiya Janata Parry (BJP), but rather about how Hindutva ideas have penetrated everyday life and acquired a normality and acceptability which they previously lacked. Also crucial is that this ris e began in reaction to the 'plebeianization' (p. 8) or disorderly 'democratization of Indian democracy' (p. 58) during the 1980s, when the numerically preponderant urban lower classes and mainly rural lower-caste groups increasingly asserted themselves to the alarm of the middle classes and upper...
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