Muscular Nationalism

Gender, Violence, and Empire in India and Ireland, 1914-2004

217 pages

April, 2012

ISBN: 9780814789766



Also available in



Part of the Gender and Political Violence series


Sikata Banerjee is Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Victoria, Canada and author of Warriors in Politics: Hinduism, Nationalism, Violence, and the Shiv Sena in India and Make Me a Man! Masculinity, Hinduism, and Nationalism in India.

All books by Sikata Banerjee

A particular dark triumph of modern nationalism has been its ability to persuade citizens to sacrifice their lives for a political vision forged by emotional ties to a common identity. Both men and women can respond to nationalistic calls to fight that portray muscular warriors defending their nation against an easily recognizable enemy. This “us versus them” mentality can be seen in sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalas, Serbs and Kosovars, and Protestants and Catholics. In Muscular Nationalism, Sikata Banerjee takes a comparative look at India and Ireland and the relationship among gender, violence, and nationalism. Exploring key texts and events from 1914-2004, Banerjee explores how women negotiate “muscular nationalisms” as they seek to be recognized as legitimate nationalists and equal stakeholders in their national struggles. 
Banerjee argues that the gendered manner in which dominant nationalism has been imagined in most states in the world has had important implications for women’s lived experiences. Drawing on a specific intersection of gender and nationalism, she discusses the manner in which women negotiate a political and social terrain infused with a masculinized dream of nation-building. India and Ireland—two states shaped by the legacy of British imperialism and forced to deal with modern political/social conflict centering on competing nationalisms—provide two provocative case studies that illuminate the complex interaction between gender and nation.


  • “Banerjee draws on field research, historical accounts, and document analysis to paint a nuanced portrait of past and contemporary sensibilities about proper national men and women. Her approach serves as a model for future nationalist studies.” 

    —Joane Nagel, author of Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality: Intimate Intersections, Forbidden Frontiers

  • "Muscular Nationalism is so gritty and smart. Sikata Banerjee reveals how in both Ireland and India a nationalized masculinism has relied on controlling ideas and practices of femininity. This is feminist analysis at its sharpest.”

    —Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War

  • “Banerjee does a stupendous job of introducing readers to a wide array of historical evidence from different cultures and eras while making them aware of the gendered underpinnings of nationalism. The work is an excellent principal text not simply as an introduction to Indian and Irish nationalisms but primarily because of  the refreshing emphasis on the role of women who have to constantly negotiate with the dominant male discourse of nationalism. This book challenges readymade notions of differences between nationalism in South Asian colonies and in the core regions of British Empire such as Ireland. Her particular analysis of the relationship between violence, masculinity and nationalisms across cultures is the greatest strength of the work. Her analysis of wider timer period extending from an incipient state of nationalism in the colonial world to recent developments in post imperial era is also refreshingly new for historians.  There is no doubt that the book will be regarded as a seminal contribution in the field of gender studies and feminist theoretical approach to nationalisms.”

    —Subho Basu, co-author of Paradise Lost?: State Failure in Nepal