SRP Webinar by Dr Dheepa Sundaram, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies; Affiliate Faculty-Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality, University of Denver, and Co-chair of North American Hinduism Unit, American Academy of Religion and Dr Deepa S. Reddy, Faculty member of Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Studies, University of Houston-Clear Lake
Understanding the Globalisation of Hindu Nationalism
One important aspect of Hindu Nationalism’s rise is its ties to Hindu diasporic communities. Many overseas and online based Hindutva aligned organisations have emerged to not only offer financial and moral support for Hindu Nationalism broadly, but outreach to unwitting individuals of the Hindu diaspora. Known to be very active in the US and UK, these organisations seem loosely connected, but often retain similar organisational links with more domestic Hindu nationalist organisations. Given such connections and resemblances, the assertive and exclusivist beliefs associated with the Hindutva can have concerning consequences for religiously diverse societies – especially when they percolate through members of the Hindu diaspora. This reality has transformed the Hindutva movement from an originally domestic movement into a global one. Last September alone, hundreds organised themselves to march through the streets of Leicester, chanting Hindu nationalist war cries before physically attacking Muslims on sight, shocking the wider UK public. If other episodes were not violent, they were nevertheless controversial and divisive. This can be seen in several public campaigns in the US harassing institutions and individuals deemed offensive to their narrow vision of Hinduism. Due to the significant presence of the Hindu diaspora in many countries, such episodes elicit valid concerns over the globalisation of the Hindutva – especially if the networks associated with it contribute to undermining the cohesiveness of plural societies.
In this light, this webinar will examine the following questions: What are the different networks of Hindutva-aligned groups based overseas/online? Where do they fit in the bigger picture of Hindu Nationalism? What are the types of activities these groups are involved in including how they support and are supported by intolerant Hindutva groups? How do Hindutva-aligned websites, social media, and organisations appeal for support from the Hindu diaspora? What are the implications of these developments for the plural societies they are located in?
About the Speakers
Dheepa Sundaram is a scholar of performance, ritual, and digital culture at the University of Denver. Her research examines the formation of Hindu virtual religious publics, online platforms, social media, apps, and emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Dr. Sundaram’s current monograph project examines how commercial ritual websites fashion a new, digital canon for Hindu religious praxis, effectively “branding” religious identities through a neoliberal “Vedicizing” of virtual spaces. Her most recent article explores how Instagram helps foster virtual, ethnonationalist, social networks within India, highlighting issues of access/accessibility to religious spaces and the viability and visibility of online counter-narratives, especially those from minoritized/marginalized caste, gender, and class communities.
Deepa S. Reddy has taught in the Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Studies programs at the University of Houston-Clear Lake since 2000. She has written on women’s activism in India, bioethics and biopolitics, the relationship between caste, race, and ethnicity, and contemporary expressions of Hindutva. Her book, Religious Identity and Political Destiny: Hindutva in the Culture of Ethnicism, was published with Rowman and Littlefield/Alta Mirra Press in 2006. She was also part of the editorial collective that organised a conference at Rice University in 2009 on “Hindu Transnationalism,” and curated a volume on the public representation of Hinduism, Public Hinduisms, published in 2012. Her recent article, “What is neo- about neo-Hindutva?” explores newer forms of Hindu Nationalism in contemporary discourse.