Audrey Truschke writes for The Revealer about the dangers women academics face when they share their expertise online.
I have a folder on my laptop titled “Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail hate mail.” That virtual folder bears no measurable weight, but it has exerted demonstrable force in shaping my life as an academic over the last five years. Since the fall of 2015, I have received hate mail in response to my scholarship, which is primarily on sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century India, and my tendency to comment on modern Indian politics based on my knowledge of South Asian history. My insights about India’s diverse, multicultural past have aroused the ire of Hindu nationalists who claim that past to be monolithically Hindu in a brazen attempt to erase India’s rich Muslim heritage. The BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, has controlled India’s central government since May 2014, and they have pursued an aggressive agenda of transforming India from a secular democracy welcoming of all faiths into a fascist state meant for martial-minded Hindus alone. During the last six years, anti-Muslim violence has risen sharply, freedom of the press has declined ruinously, and universities have been subjected to relentless assaults. History is a primary battleground for Hindu nationalists who want to rewrite India’s diverse past to justify their present-day oppression and violence, and historians like me get in their way.
The vitriol directed at me has been amplified by my pursuit of public-facing intellectual work and my robust social media presence, two things many historians have pursued—and, often, have been encouraged by our mentors to pursue—with vigor over the last decade.