A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
The first book that examines India's mega-publicity campaigns to theorize the global transformation of the nation-state into an attractive investment destination.
The early twenty-first century was an optimistic moment of global futures-making. The chief narrative was the emergence of the BRICS nations—leading stars in the great spectacle of capitalist growth stories, branded afresh as resource-rich hubs of untapped talent and potential, and newly opened up for foreign investments. The old third-world nations were rapidly embracing the script of unbridled capitalism in the hope of arriving on the world stage. If the tantalizing promise of economic growth invited entrepreneurs to invest in the nation's exciting futures, it offered utopian visions of "good times," and even restoration of lost national glory, to the nation's citizens. Brand New Nation reaches into the past and, inevitably, the future of this phenomenon as well as the fundamental shifts it has wrought in our understanding of the nation-state. It reveals the on-the-ground experience of the relentless transformation of the nation-state into an "attractive investment destination" for global capital.
As Ravinder Kaur provocatively argues, the brand new nation is not a mere nineteenth century re-run. It has come alive as a unified enclosure of capitalist growth and nationalist desire in the twenty-first century. Today, to be deemed an attractive nation-brand in the global economy is to be affirmed as a proper nation. The infusion of capital not only rejuvenates the nation; it also produces investment-fueled nationalism, a populist energy that can be turned into a powerful instrument of coercion. Grounded in the history of modern India, the book reveals the close kinship among identity economy and identity politics, publicity and populism, and violence and economic growth rapidly rearranging the liberal political order the world over.
About the author
Ravinder Kaur is Associate Professor of Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen. She is the author of Since 1947: Partition Narratives among the Punjabi Migrants of Delhi (2007, 2018).
"A hugely thoughtful and innovative analysis of the phenomenon known as 'India Inc.'. Skillfully written—with a good measure of irony, humor, and bite—this book will set the standard for our understanding of this topic and period."
—Sumathi Ramaswamy, James B. Duke Professor of History and International Comparative Studies, Duke University
"Brand New Nation takes us on a tour—a tour de force, really—of the changing trajectory of the nation-state: specifically, its transformation from a liberal democratic polity into a business enterprise, underpinned by the neoliberal faith in the capacity of markets to produce utopic futures. Ravinder Kaur has a wonderfully acute eye for the telling example, the revealing case, the moment of historical rupture that opens a window onto the process of nation branding and the corporatization of the state. As a result, Brand New Nation is a riveting read—in addition to being a pathbreaking piece of work."
—John Comaroff, Harvard University
"Ravinder Kaur convincingly argues that the era of 'happy globalization' is over in India and that it is largely responsible for the dominant repertoire of national-populism under Modi. It is not only the new middle class that has asserted itself after the 1991 liberalization that is very supportive of Hindu nationalism, but the aspiring categories coming from the plebeians are also finding a sense of belonging in Hindutva politics. Kaur's book is a truly remarkable exploration of the unintended political consequences of economic developments, as in India capitalism and religious national-populism have clear affinities."
—Christophe Jaffrelot, Research Director, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
"[Brand New Nation] offers a new, enriching, and also, counter-intuitive perspective....This important book is a must-read."
—Roshan Kishore, Hindustan Times
"This book addresses...[many] questions with clarity and insight, and is an important read for all interested in contemporary India, media and cultural studies, and the making of a hegemonic imaginary."
—Aparna Gopalan, New Books Network
"This is an original and highly provocative book."
—Martin Wolf, Financial Times
"[Kaur] peels off layers and layers of contemporary Indian history to prove, on her own terms, that the 'manifestation of Hindu cultural nationalism and market liberalisation' owe their dominance to each other....Following the course of Kaur's arguments is a sheer treat."
—Ullekh NP, Open Magazine
"Ravinder Kaur has written a perceptive, compelling, and very engaging book. This is the first systematic treatment of the remaking of politics and ideology in the wake of the economic resurgence in India and offers a radical rethinking of nationalism."
—Tirthankar Roy, H-Asia