Ridhima Sharma

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Toronto, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10726

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Sharma, Ridhima (Toronto, U. of) "Workers of Hindutva: Activism, Work, and Service in Hindu Nationalist Networks in Contemporary North India"

In a world grappling with the spread of far-right movements and their relentless attacks on minorities, my project examines the Hindu Right’s emergent investment in “work” and its newer assemblages with service and activism in India. I ask: What makes “work” an appealing material and conceptual category for Hindu nationalists and how does a focus on “work” help us understand the traction of Hindu nationalism in contemporary India? I attend to this question through a multi-sited ethnography of three sites within the Hindu nationalist network in the North Indian state of Haryana–temples, cow-shelters, and ekal vidyalayas (one-teacher schools). Situating these sites as workplaces of the “karyakarta” (lit. “the doer of work”), I develop a historically informed ethnography of a crucial yet understudied figure of current Hindu nationalist politics—the worker-activist. This project responds to the intellectual and political urgency to examine the current discourses and categories of a historically dynamic formation like Hindu nationalism—the central electoral and ideological formation in today’s “New India” (Kaur and Mathur 2022). More broadly, it illuminates how contemporary Hindu nationalism blurs distinctions between the “religious” and the “secular” (Asad 2003); charitable service and violence (Srivatsan 2019), and the spectacular and the everyday (Das 2013).