Sikata Banerjee: Make Me a Man: Masculinity,
Hinduism, and Nationalism in India. Albany, NY, State
University of New York Press; 2005. 181 pp. $71.50 hardcover.
Carla D. Hunter
Published online: 5 November 2006
Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006
Gender identity development has multiple influences and
occurs at multiple systems levels (e.g., biological, family,
community, society). Too few discussions, however, have
illuminated the unique intersection of gender identity
development in the context of colonialism and racism.
Such macro-level discussions of masculinity and femininity
highlight the role that systemic oppression plays in shaping
one’s identity and the ways in which individuals who are
oppressed take back their voice and re-create their gendered
selves. Thus, Sikata Banerjee’s text provides a welcome
addition to the discourse on gender identity, masculinity,
and femininity among Hindu men and women.
The text demonstrates the importance of incorporating
nationalism in our understanding of conceptualizations of
masculinity and femininity. Banerjee states, “If an Indian
woman chooses a white man over an Indian man, is she
denigrating an Indian man’s virility and strength, that is,
markers of his manliness? In the Indian context, does this
anxiety draw on memories of colonialism and British
critiques of Indian manhood? And what does this manhood
have to do with nation?” (p. 2). It is the last question on
which the text is focused, and, as a result of reading the
text, one may gain insights into the personal questions
posed by Banerjee.
The text contains seven chapters. Each chapter provides
a thorough historical literature review, which provides
context that enables readers to understand Hindu masculin-
ity and femininity and its relationship to Hindu nationalism.
The early chapters focus on colonialism and the use of
stereotyping as a tool to denigrate Hindu masculinity in
comparison to British masculinity. Subsequent chapters
focus on the role of femininity and its connection to Hindu
masculinity and Hindu nationalism. Thus, the chapters must
be read in succession, and this reflects both the strengths
and limitations of the text.
The first four chapters of the text are mainly concerned
with answering the question, “what does manhood have to
do with nation?” The ideas in each chapter build on each
other, and, as such, the reader must sustain a great deal of
information and concepts as the text progresses. With
regard to the role of femininity in the discourse, Banerjee
highlights the tension of femininity and feminine roles in
post colonial Hindu society and the multiple ways these
roles must be negotiated. She also provides an analysis of
femininity as a means for women to enter the discourse on
nationalism and nation building. In addition, she provides a
thorough description of the major Hindu nationalist
organizations and the implications of cultural nationalism.
However, the presentation of these concepts, which are
central to text, is somewhat abstract. Banerjee does include
personal statements, where appropriate, but the majority of
the text is a historical and contemporary thesis that would
benefit from Banerjee’s or others’ personal interpretations.
During the reading, I yearned for an opportunity to connect
with the voices of Hindu men and women.
The text is a great comment on the interconnections
among gender and political climate that is not often
discussed. Therefore, Banerjee’s text will be a useful
addition to syllabi in advanced women’s studies, political
science, and international studies courses for advanced
undergraduate and graduate students.
Sex Roles (2006) 55:147
C. D. Hunter (*)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Champaign, IL, USA