Populism, ontological insecurity and Hindutva: Modi and the masculinization of Indian politics

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In an era increasingly defined by insecurity and populist politics, India has emerged as a forceful ontological security provider under the leadership of Marendra Modi. If ontological security is about finding a safe (imagined) haven, then ontological insecurity is about the lack of such a space in narrative terms. Drawing on Lacanian understandings of ‘the imaginary’ as something that can fill and naturalize this lack of space, the article is concerned with how memories, places and symbols of narrative identity constructions are used in populist discourse. More specifically, it attempts to understand the relationship between ontological insecurity and the imaginaries of populist politics in India. In so doing, it argues that the re-invention of ‘nationhood’, ‘religion’ and ‘Hindu masculinity’ along gendered lines has created a foundation for governing practices aimed at ‘healing’ a number of ontological insecurities manifest in Indian society. It specifically looks at how the Modi doctrine has formulated and expanded its foreign policy discourse into one that privileges populist narratives of nativism, nationalism and religion as forms of ontological security provision at home and abroad, but also how everyday practices can challenge such narratives, thus allowing different imaginaries of the Indian state.




Kinnvall, C. (2019). Populism, ontological insecurity and Hindutva: Modi and the masculinization of Indian politics. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 32(3), 283–302. https://doi.org/10.1080/09557571.2019.1588851

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