SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Fascism with Indian Characteristics

Dr Benjamin Zachariah (University of Trier, Germany)

Date: 10 March 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 10 March 2020Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

Type of Event: Seminar

I propose here to tell the story of Indian fascism, its background in ideas, its common heritage with European fascisms, its own specific heritage, and its development in India in the course of the twentieth century. Fascism, as it emerged after the First World War, drew upon a heritage of ideas about racial hierarchies, organic nations and nationalisms, and crises of purity of race and nation. A working definition of fascism is required here, and we shall work with the idea of a ‘fascist repertoire’, which is a repertoire in which India(ns) contributed independently rather than imitatively. A ‘fascist minimum’ argument relies on an agreed-upon set of attributes without which a political movement is not yet, or not quite, fascism, whereas a ‘fascist repertoire’ argument is less concerned with a check-list of elements, all of which have to be present in order for the movement to meet the minimum qualification as properly fascist (and if we use this approach, we cannot properly distinguish between a fascist movement in search of state power and one that has already captured state power). We are concerned here with a wider repertoire from which ideologues have the agency to choose. The repertoire tends to include an organic and primordial nationalism; a(n aspiration towards a) controlling statism that disciplines the members of the organic nation to act as, for, and in that organic (or völkisch) nation. That nation must therefore be duly purified and preserved, in the service of which a tendency towards national discipline is invoked, very often taking the form of paramilitary mobilisation; and the coherence of the repertoire is maintained by invoking a sense of continuous crisis and the potential for decay of the organic nation if that discipline and purity is not preserved.

Benjamin Zachariah read history at Presidency College, Calcutta, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained a PhD at the end of the previous century. He has taught in the UK, India and Germany, and is currently a senior research fellow at the University of Trier, Germany. His most recent book is After the Last Post: The Lives of Indian Historiography (De Gruyter/Oldenbourg, 2019). He has worked on the developmental imagination, the Nehruvian state, decolonisation, and the movement across the world of the major ideas of the first half of the twentieth century. He is currently working on global völkisch and fascist ideas and their connections with India, and on the potential value of a non-Eurocentric understanding of fascism.

Organiser: Feyzi Ismail (