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Muscular Nationalism

Muscular Nationalism: Gender, Violence, and Empire in India and Ireland, 1914-2004

Sikata Banerjee
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 217
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  • Book Info
    Muscular Nationalism
    Book Description:

    A particular dark triumph of modern nationalism has been its ability to persuade citizens to sacrifice their lives for a political vision forged by emotional ties to a common identity. Both men and women can respond to nationalistic calls to fight that portray muscular warriors defending their nation against an easily recognizable enemy. This us versus them mentality can be seen in sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalas, Serbs and Kosovars, and Protestants and Catholics. In Muscular Nationalism, Sikata Banerjee takes a comparative look at India and Ireland and the relationship among gender, violence, and nationalism. Exploring key texts and events from 1914-2004, Banerjee explores how women negotiate muscular nationalisms as they seek to be recognized as legitimate nationalists and equal stakeholders in their national struggles. Banerjee argues that the gendered manner in which dominant nationalism has been imagined in most states in the world has had important implications for women's lived experiences. Drawing on a specific intersection of gender and nationalism, she discusses the manner in which women negotiate a political and social terrain infused with a masculinized dream of nation-building. India and Ireland - two states shaped by the legacy of British imperialism and forced to deal with modern political/social conflict centering on competing nationalisms - provide two provocative case studies that illuminate the complex interaction between gender and nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8977-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Politicized Femininity and Muscular Nationalism
    (pp. 1-20)

    Although these poems are divided by a time span of almost a hundred years and a geographical distance of several thousand miles, the poetic lament they expressed illustrates the complexity and the historical scope of narratives of gendered nationalisms. The broken body of a Northern Irish woman found during the “troubles” that began in 1969 and a groveling nineteenth-century Bengali man representing collective colonized impotence reveal the location of images of manliness and womanliness within multiple intersections of empire, nation, and race. The opening lines of the Anderson poem identify the adventuress as a Belfast wife, who, worn down by...

  5. 1 UNDER THE BRITISH GAZE: The Weak Bengali and the Simianized Celt
    (pp. 21-44)

    Published in 1860, John Brookes’s bookManliness: Hints to Young Mendrew a link between national progress and manliness, asserting thatmanlynations are sure to progress, whereasunmanlynations are bound to be conquered: “Nations never remain stationary—they are always either progressing or retrograding. If they aremanlytheir march towards perfect civilization is . . . certain . . . but if they becomeunmanlytheir retrogression is rapid and awful.”¹ Brookes’s conflation of manhood and national progress was an integral part of British imperial expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Specifically, nations defined...

  6. 2 “MUSCULAR GAEL” AND “WARRIOR MONK”: Muscular Nationalism in Colonial India and Ireland
    (pp. 45-74)

    In both Ireland and India, a dominant response to the twin processes of effeminization and racialization was an emphasis on indigenous virility and martial prowess. Like the idea of Christian manliness, these responses were infused with muted religious overtones that drew on the tenets of Catholicism and Hinduism. In this chapter, I use the writings of Patrick Pearse (1879—1916) and Swami Vivekananda (1863—1902), both highly revered nationalist figures, to illustrate the social construction of this gendered nationalism in each context. Although each thinker presented his own take on the intersection of hegemonic masculinity and nation as a part...

    (pp. 75-106)

    As the previous chapter has argued, the ideas of manhood and nation articulated by Pearse and Vivekananda focused on an athletic, muscular male body poised to sacrifice and kill for the nation as woman. Taking this dynamic as a point of departure, this chapter investigates the manner in which specific groups of women, in both contexts, advocated for and participated in a masculine dream of nation centered on male martial prowess and female chastity. Women in India and Ireland followed many paths in their nationalist politics, but this chapter focuses particularly on women who expressed an affinity for muscular nationalism....

    (pp. 107-132)

    In the late twentieth century—several decades after the woman warriors in Indian and Irish nationalism fought to clear a space for themselves in the anticolonial resistance movement—the suspicion of politicized femininity within muscular nationalism was highlighted by the radical politics of Naxalism and modern Irish republicanism. Although these two militant movements have unfolded in socioeconomic backgrounds quite different from those that existed in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries, this chapter reveals that the political ideologies underlying both these struggles still centered the male body and activated feminine icons rooted in the image of chaste, pure...

  9. 5 WHO IS A PROPER WOMAN IN THE NATION? Femininity in the Roop Kanwar Immolation and the 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum
    (pp. 133-162)

    On September 4, 1987, in the town of Deorala, Roop Kanwar, an eighteen-year-old widow, burnt to death on the funeral pyre of her husband, Maal Singh. While no pictures or reliable eye witness accounts of her death are available, according to journalistic reports, village lore claims that she walked calmly to her death, dressed in wedding finery. She had been married for eight months and had spent only a few weeks of her wedded life with her husband, an ailing young man with reported mental problems. Many celebrated Kanwar’s death as sati, in which a woman demonstrates her purity, or...

  10. CONCLUSION: Women and Muscular Nationalism: Some Final Thoughts
    (pp. 163-168)

    While researching this book, I came across an electronic photo essay profiling female combatants involved in the contemporary Nepali Maoist movement, which draws on the legacy of Naxal politics. This pictorial narrative juxtaposed images of women in army fatigues with those of women clad in traditional skirts, shawls draped around their heads. Whether in camouflage or in long skirts, these combatants were armed, embodying various offensive stances. In the early 1980s, political posters created by the Sandinistas in Nicaragua showed a woman with a gun on one arm and a baby cradled in the other, while the Liberation Tigers of...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 169-184)
    (pp. 185-198)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 199-209)
    (pp. 210-210)