Critiques of Home and Aesthetics of Complaint at a Women’s Shelter in Kolkata

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Amrapali Maitra and Ashveer Pal Singh
Date and Time: 
Monday, November 18, 2013 - 12:00pm

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)

Critiques of Home and Aesthetics of Complaint at a Women’sShelter in Kolkata - Amrapali Maitra

This paper raises questions about genres of women’s suffering and complaint, building on the work of scholars like Gloria Goodwin Raheja who see contestations of gender and kinshipplayed out in South Asian women’s uses of language.

In a context where womanhood tied to an ideal of bearing pain in silence, what do we make of narrative moments where women express discontent? Particularly, how do these narratives, spoken in medical settings,critiqueclinical notions of healing through a return to the domestic?

I draw from two months of preliminary fieldwork at a shelter for mentally ill, homeless women in Kolkata, India. Through an analysis of ethnographic moments in the shelter, I grapple with the subversive potential of narrative of complaints and how women deploy aesthetic strategies to render their complaints culturally permissible.

Amrapali is a medical student and PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford, currently in the fourth year of her dual degree program.She is interested in bodies, violence, and kinship in South Asia.


Imagining India(s): Technology, futurity, and state of the state through the lens of the Unique Identification Authority of India - Ashveer Pal Singh

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), headed by one of India's most powerful CEOs, attempts to distribute biometric identification cards to every Indian resident to overhaul social services and improve financial inclusion, among other objectives. In this presentation I reflect on fieldwork conducted this summer in the Punjab state government's UIDAI office and on the streets of the capital city to think through the contesting imaginaries of Punjab's past, present, and future, arguing that various regimes of violence, structural adjustment, and economic promise might point to a novel state of the state that does not draw on familiar tropes like the rule of experts, disciplinary power, or the bifurcation of civil society and political society. Instead, the government and its polity draw on local social repertoires of kinship, power, belonging, and difference to articulate the Punjab as they imagine it.

Ashveer is a second-year Ph.D student in the anthropology department. Ashveer's research focuses on the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which has recently launched a national program, Aadhaar, to distribute biometric identification cards to every Indian citizen in order to better managed the distribution of welfare throughout the country.

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