What don’t you need to know?

I have a longer post for tomorrow about Sudipta Kaviraj’s The Imaginary Institution of India. For now I just wanted to flag here a post on Kafila by Prabha Kotiswaran (whose work on sex work and the law in India is one of my favorite books) about the Harvard policy  task force’s volunteered recommendations to the Verma Committee on policing sexual violence in India. I’ve already shared Carole Vance’s Kafila post on the complexities of transnational feminist work on Facebook, but I am particularly struck by the way in which Kotiswaran deploys Dipesh Chakrabarty’s work on provincializing “Western” epistemologies and political formations.  She points out that Chakrabarty’s assertion of the “inequality of ignorance” has significant ramifications for the actual materializations of interventions on the ground. My own research is about the production of carceralized interventions into trafficking and slavery (and the way that the very construction of “slavery” as a phenomenon seems to beg for this kind of carceralized, law enforcement-heavy set of interventions). So, Kotisawaran’s argument that an inequality of ignorance about the historical and political contexts in which sexual violence (or really, anything) happens and the rapid ascension of what she, Janet Halley, and others have termed “governance feminism” with its “overwhelming investment in the power of the criminal law in their bid to eliminate sexual abuse” is particularly  apropos to my own research questions. My own focus is on the growing evangelical investment in criminal law and structures of security as methods of intervention into problems of injustice, but they do a lot of collaborative work with the kinds of governance feminists that Kotiswaran describes, and although a lot of that makes sense as an alignment of ideologies of sexual and race panics, such an alignment is also something I need to carefully thought through as a practice of negative knowledge production as well–exactly what one doesn’t need need to know in order to develop an ethical relationship with the perceived injustices and suffering of the world, which I suppose is another strategy for “provincializing” knowledge. Such, Kotiswaran’s post and her deployment of Chakrabarty have given me a lot good things to think about.


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