Ravinder Kaur – Bodies of Partition: Gendered Subjects, ‘Social’ Work and the Limits of Moral Citizenship

12 August 2009

speaker_RavinderKauer2Ravinder Kaur, University of Copenhagen
Bodies of Partition: Gendered Subjects, ‘Social’ Work and the Limits of Moral Citizenship

This paper is about dislocation – of female bodies dislocated from the realm of the ‘domestic’ to the realm of the public. In India’s contemporary history, the moment of Partition is also the moment when ‘women’ appear in a ruptured social space, outside the protective framework of the family, as objects of sexual violations that could be mutilated, abducted, bought, sold, exchanged, sacrificed and ultimately ‘recovered’ by the state. The dislocated female body, then, in some ways appears as a double sign of moral danger – to her ‘self’ as well as the family, community and the nation – that could only be averted and pre-empted through proper state interventions of recovery. The contentious space of ‘recovery’ is where moral hierarchies of citizenship were created among women who were ‘being recovered’ and who were ‘recovering’ them on behalf of the state. The ‘social worker’, as the women involved in recovery process were officially called, often inhabited an ambivalent position shaped by her identity as a ‘woman’ and a nationalist ‘state agent’. This paper enters this ambivalent space to consider the ways in which the notions of sacrifice, virtue, sexual purity and moral danger shaped belonging and hierarchies, as well as limitations, of moral citizenship in everyday life.

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