Beyond Belief

India and the Politics of Postcolonial Nationalism

Beyond Belief

Politics, History, and Culture

More about this series

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: May 2007

Author: Srirupa Roy

Asian Studies > South Asia, Politics > Political Science, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Beyond Belief is a bold rethinking of the formation and consolidation of nation-state ideologies. Analyzing India during the first two decades following its foundation as a sovereign nation-state in 1947, Srirupa Roy explores how nationalists are turned into nationals, subjects into citizens, and the colonial state into a sovereign nation-state. Roy argues that the postcolonial nation-state is consolidated not, as many have asserted, by efforts to imagine a shared cultural community, but rather by the production of a recognizable and authoritative identity for the state. This project—of making the state the entity identified as the nation’s authoritative representative—emphasizes the natural cultural diversity of the nation and upholds the state as the sole unifier or manager of the “naturally” fragmented nation; the state is unified through diversity.

Roy considers several different ways that identification with the Indian nation-state was produced and consolidated during the 1950s and 1960s. She looks at how the Films Division of India, a state-owned documentary and newsreel production agency, allowed national audiences to “see the state”; how the “unity in diversity” formation of nationhood was reinforced in commemorations of India’s annual Republic Day; and how the government produced a policy discourse claiming that scientific development was the ultimate national need and the most pressing priority for the state to address. She also analyzes the fate of the steel towns—industrial townships built to house the workers of nationalized steel plants—which were upheld as the exemplary national spaces of the new India. By prioritizing the role of actual manifestations of and encounters with the state, Roy moves beyond theories of nationalism and state formation based on collective belief.


Beyond Belief makes for a riveting read, and it is to Roy’s credit that she is able to weave a consuming narrative out of source materials that must have often been rather dreary and bureaucratic. . . . The book will be useful to a wide audience . . . [and is] an essential read for anyone who is interested in theories of nationalism.” — Varuni Bhatia, Journal of Asian Studies

“[Roy] shows that there is more to Indian national identity than the themes of the independence movement . . . . Her analysis of the Republic Day parade will strike a chord of recognition with anyone who has ever been in New Delhi on January 26.” — Lucian W. Pye, Foreign Affairs

“Srirupa Roy . . . has written an engaging and incisive study of the nation-building project in India. . . . Roy’s book is a welcome and original investigation into the origin and means of the national imagination of India.” — Simona Vittorini, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism

“Srirupa Roy’s Beyond Belief is a superb contribution to the study of postcolonial nationalism and the complex lives of the postcolonial Indian nation-state. . . . [T]he book is an excellent and invaluable addition to the literature on Indian nationalism and the Indian nation-state as well as an important contribution to theories of nationalism, the state, and nation-state, and postcolonial studies. Lucid and concise, the book is extremely well written. Different methodological and disciplinary perspectives are employed in the text with rigor and carefulness to enrich one another.” — Rohit Chopra, H-Nationalism, H-Net Reviews

“This book is a welcome addition to the literature on the culture of politics in India, and charts new territory by foregrounding the state in the discussions surrounding the nation. By forcing us to look at the historically contingent nature of the ways in which the nation and the state have been co-produced and co-constituted in post-colonial India (and the contradictions inherent in such a process), it offers us a way out of the arid theoretical discussions surrounding the so-called post-colonial condition.” — Sailen Routray, Contemporary South Asia

“Srirupa Roy offers fresh, innovative, and highly original perspectives on how the Indian nation-state set out to manufacture a national modernity and new ways of presenting itself. This is a much needed contribution to a critical assessment of the now quasi-mythical Nehruvian decades of postcolonial state formation from one of the best political scientists writing on India today.” — Thomas Blom Hansen, University of Amsterdam

“This book marks a departure in the study of Indian nationalism. Srirupa Roy’s idea that nationalism works not as a ‘belief’ but through practices that seek to ground the state deeply in the life of the people, is demonstrated here by archival and ethnographic explorations of specific sites: rituals and pageantry of the state, official newsreels and documentaries, planned scientific institutions and industrial cities. The result is fine-grained political analysis enriched at every turn by the author’s judicious use of history and ethnography.” — Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Srirupa Roy is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a coeditor of Violence and Democracy in India.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface and Acknowledgments vii

Introduction. Imagining Institutions, Instituting Diversity: Toward a Theory of Nation-State Formation 1

1. Moving Pictures: The Films Division of India and the Visual Practices of the Nation-State 32

2. Marching in Time: Republic Day Parades and the Ritual Practices of the Nation-State 66

3. Indian Darkness: Science, Development, and the Needs Discourse of the Nation-State 105

4. Cities of Hope: Steel Townships and the Spatial Practices of the Nation-State 133

Conclusion. After Midnight 157

Notes 171

Bibliography 219

Index 237
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4001-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3984-7
Publicity material