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The grey zone: the 'ordinary' violence of extraordinary times

By Srila Roy

Abstract

The article analyses the 'ordinary' violence of revolutionary politics, particularly acts of gendered and sexual violence that tend to be neglected in the face of the 'extraordinariness' of political terror. Focusing on the extreme left Naxalbari movement of West Bengal, it points to those morally ambiguous 'grey zones' that confound the rigid distinctions between victim and victimizer in insurrectionary politics. Public and private recollections of sexual and gender-based injuries by women activists point to the complex intermeshing of different forms of violence (everyday, political, structural, symbolic) across 'safe' and 'unsafe' spaces, 'public' and 'private' worlds, and communities of trust and those of betrayal. In making sense of these memories and their largely secret or 'untellable' nature, the article places sexual violence on a continuum of multiple and interrelated forces that are both overt and symbolic, and include a society's ways of mourning some forms of violence and silencing others. The idea of a continuum explores the 'greyness' of violence as the very object of anthropological inquiry

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.nottingham.ac.uk:1224
Provided by: Nottingham ePrints

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Citations

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  2. (2001). Bourgois’ usage of a violence continuum demonstrates the rearticulated relevance of a concept that has been axiomatic in feminist activism and theorisations of violence against women in the ‘second wave’ (see, for instance, Kelly 1988). See also Moser
  3. (2002). De-Eroticising Assault: Essays
  4. (2005). discussion in this section has been greatly aided by Pratiksha Baxi’s
  5. (2006). On Armed Resistance’, Economic and Political Weekly,
  6. (2006). Revolutionary marriage: on the politics of sexual stories in Naxalbari’, Feminist Review,
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  9. (2003). x The idea of ‘declassing’ the self in order to revoke the ideological distance between the ‘intellectual’ and the masses has a long-standing tradition in middle-class Bengali Marxist politics. See Dasgupta
  10. (1996). xiii The Party’s response to sexual violence parallels the judicial discourse on rape in India within which only certain kinds of (moral/modest/undesirable) women can be plausible victims of rape as opposed to others (see Das

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