Gautam Ghosh

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20032004 Forum on Belief

Gautam Ghosh

Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Nation, Civilization, Religion: Hindu Chauvinism and the Internet

Ghosh's research examines the complex interrelations between migration, nationalism, and religious belief within the context of liberal political theory's claims about the nature of modern cultural expression. He is currently completing a book-length study of the 1947 Partition of British India into the Republics of India and Pakistan whose methodology represents such an engagement of ethnography with liberal political theory.

As a Forum Fellow, Ghosh will develop a related inquiry: why and in what ways do Indians in the United States, including second and third generations, define themselves increasingly as Hindu? This phenomenon, Ghosh argues, is inextricably linked to idioms of Hindu chauvinism and to the Internet, a mechanism crucial to the dissemination of this religious and national discourse. The emergent Hindu Diaspora invites a rethinking of liberal ideas of "nation" and "civilization" and necessitates, in particular, the elaboration of a robust theoretical model of human agency. Ghosh hopes to arrive at a formulation of liberal political theory that can account for this practice of cultural definition as one of polity formation that is neither entirely planned and "rational," nor spontaneous and "irrational," thus evading a pervasive and limiting theoretical dichotomy, in which the actors not only inhabit their identity, but also shape their history.