Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Modern but not Western

Makeshift Migrants and Law Gender, Belonging, and Postcolonial Anxieties By Ratna Kapur Price: £65.00 ISBN: 978-0-415-59629-9 Imprint: Routledge India Pages: 256 pages
This book unmasks the cultural and gender stereotypes that inform the legal regulation of the migrant. It critiques the postcolonial perspective on how belonging and non-belonging are determined by the sexual, cultural, and familial norms on which law is based as well as the historical backdrop of the colonial encounter, which differentiated overtly between the legitimate and illegitimate subject.
The complexities and layering of the migrant’s existence are seen, in the book, to be obscured by the apparatus of the law. The author elaborates on how law can both advance and impede the rights of the migrant subject and how legal interventions are constructed around frameworks rooted in the boundaries of difference, protection of the sovereignty of the nation-state, and the myth of the all-embracing liberal subject. This produces the ‘Other’ and reinforces essentialised assumptions about gender and cultural difference.
The author foregrounds the perspective of the subaltern migrant subject, exposing the deeper issues implicated in the debates over migration and the rights claims of migrants, primarily in the context of women and religious minorities in India.

Erotic Justice Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism By Ratna Kapur
The essays in Erotic Justice address the ways in which law has been implicated in contemporary debates dealing with sexuality, culture and `different' subjects - including women, sexual minorities, Muslims and the transnational migrant. Law is analyzed as a discursive terrain, where these different... 
The Hindu Right has begun to place an emphasis on Indian society being 'modern but not Western', responding to the material and historical shifts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in India. Hindutva is today being redefined to ...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Dowry still determines a daughter-in-law’s place

Schools of thought IE: Saturday 07 August, 2010 Shruti Ravindran
Most urban people would like to think of themselves as mercifully distanced from the sort of petty sagas that spur on the subplots of K-serials and their many regional variants — such as vengeful sisters-in-law who foist household chores on new dowry-less brides, or the barely concealed show of hierarchy within the gift-wrapped present from a newly affluent relative. Should you want a field guide to navigate the thorny thickets that lie before the upwardly mobile middle-class, you ought to read Middle-Class Moralities: Everyday Struggle over Belonging and Prestige in India, by Minna Saavala (Orient Blackswan, Rs 495).
Saavala, a Finnish social anthropologist, gathered most of the material for the book from the personal experiences, opinions and habits of a circle of acquaintances — “informants”— that she met during a stint in Hyderabad for a previous dissertation on fertility. The book begins with the fraught, fiercely contested realm of courtship and marriage, pointing out that despite the illusion of choice and flattening of hierarchy that urban life might promise, factors like dowry still determine a daughter-in-law’s place in the household pyramid, and “free choice” or “love” marriage continues to get “camouflaged” within the curious label of an “arranged-cum-love-marriage”.
If you’ve marvelled at the real-estate advertisements that promise some gilded “lifestyle” and the geographical nowhere-ness we aspire to amid the landscaped gardening we like to surround ourselves with, you’ll especially enjoy the chapter on “Imagined Worlds”. This takes us on an excursion to the “heterotropia” of Ramoji Film City, “a mirage out of nowhere”, of mud villages, the Wild West, and Mughal palaces favoured for film shoots in the outskirts of Hyderabad.
In an arid, rocky land, rolling lawns and luxurious fountains are the most potent form of conspicuous consumption, points out Saavala. When one of her friends, who seemed indifferent to the spectacle, later professed great enthusiasm for it to her friends, Saavala observes that more than the excursion, she’d valued the consumption of indicators of the “West” — hygiene, efficiency, predictability, in a vendor-less, beggar-free environment. In other words, Ramoji Film City and your sparkly, new neighbourhood mall are “a huge stage… to be gazed at, and to prove [one’s] middle-classness.”
None of this upward mobility and aspiration-fulfilment would be possible without modern capitalism or the free-market economy, as its tireless evangelist, French columnist Guy Sorman will remind you in Economics Does Not Lie (Global Full Circle, Rs 495). “During the current crisis, it’s especially important to remember the unprecedented benefits that free markets have brought mankind,” says the blurb. Accordingly, the book marches along to this jaunty neo-liberal tune, telling us how the best measure of a good economy is its growth, how competition is desirable and the welfare state ineffective, and how complex financial markets have ushered in progress.