Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism
Banu Subramaniam
158 x 240 mm
Year of Publishing
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Orient BlackSwan

Behind the euphoric narrative of India as an emerging world power lies a fascinating but untold story of an evolving relationship between science and religion. Evoking the rich mythology of comingled worlds, where humans, animals, and gods transform each other and ancient history, Banu Subramaniam demonstrates how Hindu nationalism weaves an ideal past into technologies of the present to imagine a future nation that is modern and “Hindu.”

As in many parts of the world, India is witnessing a hypernationalism on multiple fronts. Through five illustrative cases involving biological claims, Subramaniam explores an emerging bionationalism. The cases are varied, spanning the revival of Vaastushastra, the codification of “unnatural” sex in IPC Section 377 (which the Indian Supreme Court recently struck down), the unfolding debates around the veracity of Hanuman and Rama Setu, debates on the  geographic origins of Indians through genomic evidence, the revival of traditional systems of Indian medicine through genomics and pharmaceuticals, the growth of and subsequent ban on gestational surrogacy, and the rise of old Vedic gestational sciences.

Moving beyond a critique of India’s emerging bionationalism, Holy Science explores generative possibilities that the rich traditions of South Asian story telling practices offer us.

This book will be of interest to scholars of science and technology studies, history of science, gender studies, sexuality studies and cultural studies. 

Banu Subramaniam is Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Prologue. In Search of India: The Inner Lives of Postcolonialism
Avatars for Lost Dreams: The Land of Lost Dreams

INTRODUCTION. Avatars for Bionationalism: Tales from (An)Other Enlightenment
Avatar #1: The Story of Uruvam

1. Home and the World: The Modern Lives of the Vedic Sciences
Avatar #2: The Story of Amudha

2. Colonial Legacies, Postcolonial Biologies: The Queer Politics of (Un)Natural Sex
Avatars #3: The Story of Nadu and Piravi

3. Return of the Native: Nation, Nature, and Postcolonial Environmentalism
Avatar #4: The Story of Néram

4. Biocitizenship in Neoliberal Times: On the Making of the “Indian” Genome
Avatar #5: The Story of Arul

5. Conceiving a Hindu Nation: (Re)Making the Indian Womb
Avatar #6: The Story of Kalakalappu

CONCLUSION. Avatars for Dreamers: Narrative’s Seductive Embrace

Notes on the Mythopoeia
Epilogue. Finding India: The Afterlives of Colonialism

A Note of Gratitude and Appreciation


1. The past as future | Magazine Cover Story, New Delhi January 3, 2020.
2. Holy Science: The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism | Journal of the American Academy of Religion. XX 2020, Vol XX.
3. Archaic Modernity | India Today (Weekly), New Delhi, 26 August 2019.
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