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Nari Shakti and the Nation: The Emerging Figure of the Woman Air Force Pilot

Published onAug 29, 2022
Nari Shakti and the Nation: The Emerging Figure of the Woman Air Force Pilot

Muscular nationalism as a concept has been adapted to India’s changing political landscape of the 1990s and 2000s (Sikata Banerjee 2003, 2005, 2010). It is equally relevant for a contemporary context in which the BJP government has conceptualized a new role for young unmarried (Hindu) women as ‘new daughters’ of the Indian state. Especially their physically trained bodies are now imagined and visually represented as enabling young women to ‘defend’ themselves - but also the ‘body’ of the national territory - against the violent attacks of an imagined ‘Other’, within as well as outside India. The ‘new daughters of the nation’ are paradigmatically embodied by symbolic figures such as the female athlete, police officer - and particularly by the emerging figure of the Indian Air Force pilot. However, as will be argued in this presentation, the focus should not only be laid on the Indian Armed Forces, which are still perceived as a secular institution in India, but also on the discursive linkages and connections between this new brand of ‘heroic patriots’ and the involvement of women in paramilitary Hindu nationalist organizations as well as their participation in the political project of muscular (Hindu) nationalism.

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