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Same-sex scandals often had political implications both on a superficial level of political rivalries and the larger level of political ideas. Scandals gain traction when sexual misbehavior becomes a metaphor for larger political misbehavior, for instance, mixing up one’s personal interests with governmental actions. Pre-20th century scandals were different than later ones because the notion of homosexuality as a fixed identity had not emerged. As historians have long shown, in the past same-sex desire was defined in very different ways, and not as a fixed, exclusive sexual orientation. In ancient Greece and Rome, politicians accused enemies of sexually submitting to other men to undercut their claims to citizenship even though it was acceptable for men to sexually dominate male slaves, foreign men, and non-citizen youths. In the early modern period, enemies could accuse politicians, aristocrats, or monarchs of indulging in sex with both men and women. In doing so they undercut the acceptability of a political structure based on dynasties and personal patronage. In the period up to World War I, radicals used same-sex desire not just to challenge individual politicians, but to challenge the militaristic, aristocratic dominance. Same-sex scandals could also justify imperial interventions, or conversely, undercut white pretensions to superiority. By the late 19th century, same-sex scandals also emerged out of larger controversies over police regulation of prostitution. Only at the very end of this period did the sexological notion of the homosexual as a distinct personality emerge as a (minor) factor in political scandals.


Rina Verma Williams and Sayam Moktan

With over one billion adherents worldwide and 15% of the world’s population, Hinduism is the fourth largest, and among the oldest, of the major world religions, with important political aspects that reverberate well beyond South Asia. Yet it is perhaps the least studied of the major world religions. Hinduism is also one of the most geographically concentrated religions of the world. The majority of Hindus are concentrated in two South Asian countries, Nepal and India, where Hindus constitute 80% or more of the population. Small but politically influential diasporic communities of Hindus are found throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. Key characteristics of Hinduism that set it apart from Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), especially politically, include its polytheistic nature and lack of one single authoritative text; the tremendous variation in its practice across locality and caste; and its frequently informal practice beyond the confines of official institutions such as temples. Hinduism has been compatible with a range of regime types over time in India and Nepal, including empire, monarchy, and democracy. Both India and Nepal are officially secular countries, but the status of secularism in both countries is contested by the forces of Hindu nationalism, a movement that seeks to institutionalize the political, social, and cultural predominance of Hinduism. Religious conversion is expressly prohibited in Nepal; in India, it is increasingly under legislative attack. The politics of caste are an important political aspect of Hinduism in both India and Nepal. While politics in both countries remain dominated by upper castes, important lower-caste political mobilization has appeared in India, but has yet to take hold in Nepal. A better understanding of Hinduism’s political aspects has enormous potential to enhance knowledge of religion and politics more broadly.