Title Holy Science
Subtitle The Biopolitics of Hindu Nationalism
Author Banu Subramaniam
ISBN 9780295745596
List price GBP 23.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 272
Book size 152 x 228 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher University of Washington press (Combined Academic Publishers)
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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“Analytically nuanced, intellectually rigorous, politically engaged, and imaginatively written. A hopeful blueprint for the future grounded in a passionate recollection of a more inclusive, tolerant, and plural past. An excellent and timely book.”

—Projit Bihari Mukharji, author of Doctoring Traditions: Ayurveda, Small Technologies, and Braided Sciences


“At a time when nationalism and populism are flourishing, Subramaniam draws on her unique expertise at the intersection of the life sciences and studies of identity politics to help readers understand how it is that science and religion have become bedfellows in Hindu nationalist ideology.”

—Kath Weston, author of Animate Planet: Making Visceral Sense of Living in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World


In the early 2000s, as India was emerging as a global superpower, a key development project off the southern Indian coast was thwarted by intense opposition. The construction of a new shipping canal angered Hindu nationalists who sought to protect what they saw as the land bridge built by Hanuman and his monkey army in the Indian epic Ramayana. Environmentalists also protested against the canal, claiming that it severely threatened a fragile and globally important ecosystem. As the controversy grew, the religious and environmental arguments converged, reflecting the evolving relationship between science and religion that marks the hypernationalism of the contemporary Hindu right.

Through this case study and others, Banu Subramaniam demonstrates the limitations of the “universality” of science, to reveal how science in postcolonial contexts is always locally inflected and modulated. Evoking the rich mythology of comingled worlds, where humans, animals, and gods transform each other and ancient history, Subramaniam demonstrates how Hindu nationalism sutures an ideal past to technologies of the present by making bold claims about the scientific basis of Vedic civilization and deploying this narrative to consolidate caste, patriarchal, and Hindu power. Moving beyond a critique of this emerging bionationalism, this book explores the generative possibility of myth and story, interweaving compelling new stories of fictionalized beings like the avatars of Hindu mythology into a rich analysis that animates alternative imaginaries and “other” worlds of possibilities.


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

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

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

Chapter 3. Return of the Native: Nation, Nature, and Postcolonial EnvironmentalismAvatar #4: The Story of Neram

Chapter 4. Biocitizensbip in Neoliberal Times: On the Making of the “Indian” GenomeAvatar #5: The Story of Arul

Chapter 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 215

EPILOGUE. Finding India: The Afterlives of Colonialism

A Note of Gratitude and Appreciation





About the Author:

Banu Subramaniam is professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity, winner of the 2016 Ludwik Fleck Award from the Society for the Social Studies of Science.

Target Audience:

People interested in Hindu nationalism especially those interested in understanding science and technology in Hindu mythology.

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