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Institute of Criminology


Speaker: Mahuya Bandyopadhyay

Mahuya Bandyopadhyay (Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi) is a social anthropologist, studying varied manifestations and experiences of the carceral mesh in contemporary urban society. Her work is situated at the intersections of the sociology of organisations, sociology of law, crime and punishment and gender and masculinities. She is the author of 'Everyday Life in Prison: Confinement, Surveillance, Resistance', co-editor of 'Towards a New Sociology in India', and co-editor of a forthcoming book on women prisoners: 'Women, Incarcerated: Narratives from India'.


A young man shot at a group of peaceful protestors in the capital city of Delhi on 30th January 2020, invoking the ‘Azadi’ (freedom) slogan that has been the rallying cry among many Indians since a controversial amendment to the citizenship act, earlier this year. ‘Yeh lo Azadi’, (Here, take your freedom) he is reported to have said as he fired a pistol injuring a young student, who was approaching him and trying to reason with and calm the shooter. The police looked on. A competing slogan juxtaposed with the call for azadi - Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro salon ko, loosely translated as shoot the traitors of the country, has also been popularised in several counter rallies, and local election meetings.

This  is not an incident of random violence.  Several such instances of violence mark the contemporary experience of urban spaces in India. In my presentation I will use this backdrop and draw from the public discourse around such violent acts and the contemporary carceral culture in India. Further, I will connect these events to discuss carceral cultures and discuss how the criminological discourse navigates these issues.

Within such a context what will the contours of a decolonial criminology look like? What are the ways of negotiating and maneouvering the demands and well-entrenched infrastructure of a state science? Does the answer lie in going beyond the narrow confines of crime prevention and deploying multiple, culturally sensitive perspectives to develop an understanding of social harm expressed in different public and private spaces? Or is it also about a methodological orientation to find ways of resisting the hegemonic categories of our disciplines? In continuation, and drawing from my earlier work, I ask what the ideas of chaotic sites and everyday lives and the decentering of research questions from the sites of their obvious presence and occurrence can do in the study of crime and violence in contemporary India.

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Friday, 21 January, 2022 - 12:00