Light and Darkness: The Delhi Gang Rape Case in Thought and Action

Thursday, 28 November 2013 (All day) - Friday, 29 November 2013 (All day)
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tara Atluri presents her paper at the NICA/ASCA Conference Exploring Tensions Between Academic Theory and Praxis.

In December 2012, the brutal gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandhey in New Delhi led to massive demonstrations throughout the Indian subcontinent, a transnational debate regarding gender justice, and a global media spectacle. I ask if and how critical theory and philosophy might be useful in thinking about this case and the unprecedented political action that followed. The paper will discuss the relationship between thought and action in relation to the Delhi gang rape case in two ways. 
Firstly, as Slavoj Žižek suggests, one must trouble humanitarian panics regarding violence that prevent the work of thinking and obscure the systemic causes of obscene scenes of excessive violence.[1] In this regard, I suggest that academic thought offers one the ability to step back from the emotive and spectacular sights of violence to ask how and why narratives such as the Deli gang rape are emerging at this particular global political moment? 
Secondly, I discuss the growing Youth Movement within Delhi that was attributed to politicising the Delhi gang rape case in ways that articulated broader political and feminist demands. Discussing this growing student based movement, I question whether the dissemination of feminist and gender theory within educational institutions might have a political impact. 
At one level, the anxious will to turn theory into practice can obscure wider political questions, producing reactionary political gestures.
 At another level, when Butler asks, “What effect are any of us having, and what effect can we have?”, I suggest that the space of the feminist classroom in relation to growing youth and student based activist movements might answer this question, in the streets.
For further information see website

[1] Slavoj Žižek, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. London: Picador, 2008.
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