Manufacturing a Feminized Siege Mentality: Hindu Nationalist Paramilitary Camps for Women in India


Sehgal, Meera. 2007. “Manufacturing a Feminized Siege Mentality: Hindu Nationalist Paramilitary Camps for Women in India.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 36 (2): 165-83. doi:10.1177/0891241606298823.

Author: Meera Sehgal


This article examines the discursive and embodied processes employed at Hindu nationalist paramilitary camps for women that transform traditional, middle-class Hindu women into committed, active participants in the powerful, right-wing Hindu Nationalist Movement in India. Based on ethnographic research on the Rashtra Sevika Samiti (the Samiti), a core women's organization in the movement, I argue that the Samiti effectively manufactures a feminized siege mentality. This mentality is a learned disposition in which female members of a community perceive themselves as potential prey to male members of a community of “outsiders.” The discursive practices include entwined discourses of Hindu women's victimization by Muslim men and empowerment by the Samiti. The embodied practices include a paramilitary physical training program that masquerades as self-defense training but in fact manufactures a fear of sexual attacks by Muslim men in the public sphere, while deflecting from sources of violence within the private sphere.

Topics: Gender, Women, Femininity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Paramilitaries, Nationalism, Religion, Violence Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2007

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