3 November 2023

Understanding Narendra Modi: The Poetry of a Populist Leader

Why do politicians write poems? And what does a politician’s poetry tell us about their leadership? In this episode, a collective of researchers from the University of Oslo discuss these questions by focusing on India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Modi has a highly visible and extremely complex public image. He often appears as a firm and decisive defender of the nation, intent on taking India to new global heights. At other times he may emerge as the humble son of a teaseller, who has made it to the top despite all odds. And, at yet other times he may appear almost as a sagacious Hindu holy man and kingly ruler. What is less well known is that Modi is also a poet, with several published collections of poetry to his credit, in both Indian languages and in English translation. What does Modi’s poetry reveal about India’s Prime Minister? What are we to make of a man who is both a staunch Hindu nationalist, a populist, and a self-professed poetic soul? Indeed, what is the relationship between Modi the poet and Modi the politician?

  • Niladri Chatterjee is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo.
  • Deva Nandan Harikrishnan is a Doctoral Student at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo.
  • Arild Engelsen Ruud is Professor of South Asia Studies at the University of Oslo.
  • Guro Samuelsen is an independent researcher with a PhD in South Asia Studies from the University of Oslo.
  • Our host, Kenneth Bo Nielsen, is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo, and one of the leaders of the Norwegian Network for Asian Studies.

The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.

We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.