India and its nationhood: Grassroots nationhood as conceptual frames

India and its nationhood: Grassroots nationhood as conceptual frames

Nations and Nationalism, 14 October 2021

This article examines the meanings of Indian nationhood at the grassroots level in “settled” locales where no state-seeking separatist movement exists but local identifications of caste, language and religion are politically prominent. Based on ethnographic data from four rural and urban locales, the article extends the literature on Indian nationalism and everyday nationalism. At the grassroots, Indian nationhood is fuzzy and intermittent in nature; “conceptual frames” are a useful analytical tool to examine this, with a focus on territory, community and political leadership. Indian nationhood is not conceptualised predominantly as a cultural category; it is meaningful as a journey towards an ideal horizon defined by the values of dignity, rights, freedom, equality and socio-economic development. Non-elites play an active role in nation-making and invoke these frames strategically and self-consciously for local and particular purposes.