Dr Arpita Chakraborty

Dr Arpita Chakraborty is currently doing post-doctoral research at Dublin City University.

Research Interests

Postcolonial feminism; Caste; Feminist IR: masculinity; political violence

Background & Qualification

MA Media & Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (2012); BA English Literature University of Calcutta (2010);

Arpita has worked briefly in academic publications before starting her PhD. She co-directed ‘Bharatmata Ki Jai’, a national award winning documentary film in 2012. She writes occasionally for a online and print sources in India.

Doctoral Research

Violence, Religion, and Masculinism in Contemporary India: An Analysis of the Writings of Vivekananda, Golwalkar, and Gandhi

Research Overview

This thesis enquires into the process of normalisation of violent masculinity and masculinism in India through the use of religion. Masculinism is defined as the presence of excessive masculine values, male-centred view of social relationships and symbolisation of masculine hegemony (Kriesky 2014). This thesis shows the pervasive existence of masculinism across the Indian political spectrum through analysis of the major works of three leaders from different ideological positions – Swami Vivekananda, M. S. Golwalkar, and M. K. Gandhi. These three leaders had very different visions of the future of India; however, this thesis found recurrent connections between masculinity and violence in the works of all three.

This link is shown to have been bolstered in the works of all three – even in the ‘non-violent’ teachings of Gandhi – through the use of religion. Religious texts like the Bhagavad Gita and ideas like karma, dharma, and karma yoga are used to link ideas of masculinity with structural, symbolic violence in the form of caste, class, and racial discrimination. This research found three different forms of religion-influenced masculinity in the works of Vivekananda, Golwalkar, and Gandhi – ascetic masculinity, culinary masculinity and violent masculinity. A feminist rhetorical analysis of the written works of these leaders shows how these religion-sanctioned masculinities result in Bourdieusian symbolic violence against women, Dalits, and other minority communities in India. All these leaders subscribed to a hegemonic idea of masculinity – virile, upper caste, and heteronormative – with its forms of violence practiced to this day.

Vivekananda espoused a spiritual, ascetic form of masculinity, distinctly religious in its aspiration of Hindu conquest. Golwalkar’s political violent masculinity also aimed to re-establish Hindu supremacy in India. The ‘Othering’ of Muslims in Golwalkar’s writings was also a response to Gandhi’s alleged effeminate influence on Hindu masculinity. Ironically, this work shows how despite these allegations, masculinism in Gandhi’s writings resulted in his supporting honour killings and structural forms of violence, like the caste system. The continued relevance of the ideas of these three leaders and the allied prevalence of masculinism is underlined through an analysis of contemporary Indian politics, which shows that all these three forms of masculinities remain relevant. The beef lynchings by Gau Raksha committees, the growing political capital ascribed to celibacy, increasing violence against women and the rising nationalist othering of minority communities are evidence of religiously motivated violent masculinities gaining ground in contemporary India.


Maura Conway