Religious syncretism can function as an instrument of inter-group control and domination. Rather than consistently promoting cross-religious forbearance and knowledge, syncretism enables a proximity that allows forms of violence otherwise inaccessible to religious majoritarian groups. By choreographing performances of syncretism between themselves and a subordinate religious community, organizations like the Indian Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) produce an intentionally incomplete proximity. This proximity draws close minority groups like the RSSâ€™ Muslim wing, the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, but without allowing final inclusion or incorporation. Muslim proximity to the RSS becomes a spectacle of humiliation and domination rather than a measure of inclusion into the Hindu right. Muslims must perform Hindu nationalist religious rituals, while denigrating mainstream Islamic tradition. Drawing on extensive interview-based fieldwork with the RSS and the Manch, I argue that syncretism can function as domination because it reinforces ethnic hierarchies, but that this domination is not a form of hierarchical encompassment. Rather, subordinate religious groups are kept in a perpetual humiliating limbo as a way to reify the superiority of a dominant religious group.
|Publication status||Published - 2022|