Savarkar before Hindutva: Sovereignty, Republicanism and Populism in India, c. 1900-1920

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Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was the theorizer of Hindutva (1923) - the project to radically reconfigure India as a Hindu majoritarian state. Assessments of Savarkar's earlier The Indian War of Independence (1909), a history of the 1857 Indian "Mutiny,"have generally subsumed this tract into the logic of Hindutva. This article offers a reassessment of The Indian War of Independence and situates it within the political and intellectual context of fin de siècle western India. I suggest that this history of Indian rebellion propagated a novel iteration of Indian popular sovereignty predicated on Hindu-Muslim unity. I read Savarkar as adapting the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini and Johann Kaspar Bluntschli to challenge what he regarded as the fissiparous logic of late colonial liberalism. Finally, this article argues that Savarkar's account of the mutual constitution of general will and the personalism of sovereignty must be read as a previously unacknowledged instance of Indian populism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalModern Intellectual History
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2020


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