APSA Author Meets Critics: Vinayak Chaturvedi’s “Hindutva and Violence”
September 16, 2022 @ 2:00pm - 3:30pm
This “Author Meets Critics” roundtable critically examines Vinayak Chaturvedi’s Hindutva and Violence: V.D. Savarkar and the Politics of History (SUNY Press, 2022). The book examines the political thought of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883–1966), the most controversial Indian political thinker of the twentieth century and a key architect of Hindu nationalism, whose ideological supporters dominate contemporary Indian politics.
Examining his central claim that "Hindutva is not a word but a history," Chaturvedi argues that, for Savarkar, the purpose of this history was to recover key historical actors who participated in ethical warfare against invaders and imperialists of India, thus creating the Hindu nation through violence and permanent war. His political writings ranged widely, from studies of antiquity to contemporary social theory and world history; from analyses of Nazism, Zionism, and Communism to philosophical writings on ontology and epistemology. Savarkar imbibed modern notions of nation, race, and revolution from Europe, including the ideas of Mazzini, Lenin, and Spencer. And his intellectual vision provided the vital counterpoint to Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, and Jinnah and other key actors in the anticolonial movement on the subcontinent. Critical of many key claims made by Savarkar, yet unwilling to dismiss his thought out of hand like many theorists on the left, Hindtuva and Violence examines the oeuvre of a major right‐wing thinker of the twentieth century. In doing so, Chaturvedi illuminates the philosophical underpinnings of Hindu nationalism, crucial to understanding its trajectory from independence in 1947 to its resonance in the present.
The proposed panel brings together scholars with expertise in multiple fields–Amrita Basu (Amherst), Vinayak Chaturvedi (UC, Irvine), Sudipta Kaviraj (Columbia), Karuna Mantena (Columbia), Sanjay Ruparelia (Ryerson; chair) and Melissa Williams (Toronto)--to assess Savarkar's understanding of colonialism, religion and the politics of violence; how these relate to the ideas of Gandhi and other interlocutors/contemporaries in Europe and the politics of contemporary Hindu nationalism; and broader methodological questions of comparative political theory and intellectual history. A wide-ranging book in the history of Indian political thought, Hindutva and Violence is likely to stimulate debates among scholars in these fields, as well as students of nationalism, postcolonialism and violence
Montreal, Quebec, Canada