Saffron Salaams: Why Hindu nationalists need Muslim friends

Event details

PSC Seminar Series

Date & time

Tuesday 10 August 2021


Online Zoom event
ANU Canberra


Felix Pal


Maxine McArthur

Why does an organisation of violently Islamophobic Hindu nationalists, the RSS, have a Muslim wing?

Drawing on their fieldwork with this Muslim wing, the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, in North and West India between 2018-19, Felix explores the relationship between ethno-majoritarian organisations and performances of pluralism.

Asking why bigots act like pluralists, Felix proposes that bigoted organisations like the RSS choreograph performances of pluralism to solve a political problem of simultaneously appealing to supposedly mutually exclusive audiences: Bigots and pluralists.

Felix argues that this is only possible because, counterintuitively, pluralist performances appeal to bigots as much as they do to pluralists. This is because pluralist performances like interfaith prayer, mutual aid and diverse representation, have the capacity to strengthen ethno-religious hierarchies, thus appealing to bigoted audiences like the RSS. The focus of this dissertation is how pluralist performances reinforce bigotry, and Felix argues that they do so through weaponised pluralism, an organisational strategy that relies on the mechanisms of ritual subservience, categorisation and co-optation.

Felix Pal has been a PhD candidate at the Department of Political and Social Change since 2017. They were a Yale International Fox Fellow 2019–2020 and have published in Contemporary South Asia. Felix’s research interests revolve around the Indian Hindu nationalist movement, particularly surrounding far-right organisational patterns and politics of minority inclusion.

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