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Vittorini, Simona (2006) Representing the nation: Competing symbolic repertoires in India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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In order to fully understand and appreciate India's contested national identity, one must look at the emergence and evolution of India's national symbolic repertoires. Indeed, political symbols are necessary elements for the defining national identities. Besides facilitating the process of identification, national symbols also generate powerful visions of the nation. Significantly, at the heart of the battle for the definition of the nation there is often a struggle over symbols and myths, which is fought, in good part, through rituals. Indeed, the more problematic the definition of nationhood, the greater the need to create symbolic structures which may substantiate and support a particular idea of the nation. Throughout the contemporary history of India, competing nationalist ideologies have engaged in a search for appropriate symbolic repertoires that could be meaningful and acceptable to most of the Indian population. In the absence of familiar parameters of national identity such as ethnicity, language, religion and culture, unusual registers of national belonging became important markers of India's contested national identity during the colonial and post-colonial period. Given the importance of symbolic politics, it is surprising that so little attention has been devoted to a systematic study of the symbolic repertoires of India's competing nationalist ideologies. Therefore, this thesis intends to make a contribution in this field. The main aims of this study were to obtain a general picture of the evolution and establishment of symbols of nationhood in India. I have drawn on modernist and constructivist theories of nationalism and based on the identification and analysis of India's symbols of the nation and of national identity during its anti-colonial struggle, the Nehruvian era, and in the contemporary moment, and on an in-depth review of the existing literature. While bringing to the fore the complex relationship between the nation and pre-existing ethno-symbolic resources, the findings of this study help to shed light on the operational dynamics at play in the construction of nationalist symbol complexes and national identity in India.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:09

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