Woman in traditional Indian dress

Beauty Queens and Hindu Militants: Indian Women’s Negotiation with Neoliberalism and Hindu Nationalism

Nazia Hussein, Saba Hussain

Abstract


Through a review of the 2012 documentary film The World before Her directed by Nisha Pahuja, this article provides a critical reflection on how neoliberal governmentality appropriates women’s bodies and subjectivities in two women’s boot camps in India: the Miss India contest and the Hindu militant Durga Vahini camp. Studies on appropriation of women’s bodies in the neoliberal ideology of the market and in varied religious ideologies have generated rich feminist insights into the structures of women’s oppression across the world. Feminist academic research has traditionally looked at market- and religion-based oppressions separately. In this critical reflection we articulate how women’s bodies get incorporated into the service of varied ideologies, namely neoliberal capitalism and religious fundamentalism, through processes of ritualisation, responsibilisation and subjectivation. Drawing on the shared elements of neoliberal (capitalism) and Hindutwa (Hindu fundamentalism) ideological projects, this article proposes a renewed analysis of the location of women in various ideological projects and the nature of women’s negotiation of these power structures or women’s agency within these structures.


Keywords


India, women’s agency, nationalism, neoliberalism, Hindutva, Miss India

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