Collective Trauma and the Evolution of Nehru's Worldview: Uncovering the Roots of Nehruvian Non-Alignment

Adam Lerner

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Scholarship on Nehruvian non-alignment often assumes an artificial continuity between Jawaharlal Nehru's pre-independence thinking and post-independence decision, as India's prime minister, to pursue a policy of rejecting any international blocs or military alliances. This article demonstrates that, in fact, the ideas that constituted Nehruvian non-alignment were largely absent from Nehru's pre-independence thought – during the decades before India's independence Nehru articulated a strong willingness to cede India's sovereignty to international groupings for idealistic aims. To explain Nehru's shift from idealistic internationalist to professed internationalist but de facto isolationist with regard to alliances and blocs, I advocate a first-image, constructivist approach which considers the impact of collective trauma on Nehru's worldview. Drawing upon a novel, synthesized approach to theorizing collective trauma's impact on national identity, this article argues that the collective trauma Nehru witnessed and experienced during the decades before Indian independence profoundly impacted his trust in international institutions and views on representational diplomacy. In turn, this trauma affected his interpretation of various ideational and strategic considerations, contributing to the formulation of Nehruvian non-alignment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1276-1300
Number of pages25
JournalThe International History Review
Issue number6
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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