ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'What Do We Know of Cricket Who Only Cricket Know?'

BOOK REVIEWEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 31, 200823‘What Do We Know of Cricket Who Only Cricket Know?’Kalpana KannabiranThis volume explores through a series of essays, “the constitutive relation-ship between the ‘normal’ and the ‘exceptional’ practices and processes of political life, and (locates that) inquiry (in) the causes and consequences of extreme, visible violence within the everyday, banal, often invisible configura-tions of politics and power in contempo-rary India” (Amrita Basu and Srirupa Roy, ‘Beyond Exceptionalism: Violence and Democracy in India’, p 4). Hindutva VisionBasu and Roy argue that Narendra Modi uses the metaphor of politics as cricket, to position his governance of Gujaratwithin the larger rule-bound universe of democratic politics – the one day match epitomising the relation-ship between the existing rules of the game and apparentdepartures from them.1 Drawing on the work of Agamben and Baxi, they call into question the “conceptualisation of mass violence as a scripted politics of exception that occurs only in recognisably deviant places where democracy is absent”, mapping instead the points of convergence between holo-caustian politics and the norm of demo-cratic politics (p 7). Even if the latter does not directly produce the Hindutva vision, it does not directly prevent such an envisioning either (p 12). I have argued elsewhere that looking at the range of violence against women and the theoretical treatment of such violence as an aberration from the norm in “egalitarian societies” skirts the impor-tant fact of violence against women being constitutive of social relations in patriar-chal societies and have examined the problem in terms of what I call “the violence of normal times”.2 Raka Ray’s examination of the normal slap (actual or metaphorical) which “reinforces or reasserts inequality” (‘A Slap from the Hindu Nation’, p 88), in the context of the everyday relationship between Hindus and Muslims, between the dominant castes and dalits, between men and wom-en, between nations on the Indian sub-continent, and in the context of holocaus-tian politics opens out for us the praxio-logical fields of the violence of normal times – the complex interconnections between the workings of democracy and its underbelly, collective violence.Press CoverageA survey of press coverage on border violence along the entire Indian border for a five-year period of officially friendly relations (1998-2002) demonstrated that the Partition border was a dangerous place even half a century after its crea-tion. Territoriality resulting from “executive cartography” while creating borders, destroys bodies – by dehumani-sing some (“infiltrators, foreigners, ultras, terrorists, smugglers, anti-social elements…borderlanders”) and killing others –“dead bodies at the border come to stand for a greater good: they symbolise security” (Willem vanSchen-del, ‘The Wagah Syndrome: Territorial RootsofContemporary Violence in South Asia’, p 66). Schendel observes in his essay on the violence that results from the territorialisation of religious and ethnic identities on the subcontinent (Burma, India, Pakistan and Bangla-desh) that “(m)uch of what is understood as communal violence today can be analysed in terms of aggressive territoriality…predicated on frail sovereignty” (p 67). Paula Chakravartty and Srinivas Lankala in their article ‘Media, Terror and Islam: The Shifting Media Landscape and Culture Talk in India’ explore the strategic role of the media in the post 9/11 phase which also saw a frenzied, often inaccu-rate reportage on terrorism in India in the electronic and print media, that comple-mented the denial of rights to fair trial to persons accused in the Parliament attack case (pp 173-97).Women and ViolenceDrawing on Tanika Sarkar’s work on the construction of gender and national iden-tity under colonialism and her more recent writing on Gujarat 2002, Martha Nussbaum in her article ‘Rape and Murder in Gujarat: Violence against Muslim Women in the Struggle for Hindu Supremacy’ examines the relationship between the violent sub-jugation of women’s bodies within families, the injury to the self in daily encounters with the racial hierarchy of the outer world, and the acutely contested control of women’s bodies through reform during colonialism that witnessed the persisting emergence of the female body as nation – control of one assumed (fallaciously even) to be control of the other. “[I]f the female body symbolises the nation, then, in the struggle of two emerging nations, the possession and impregnation of women is a potent weapon in consolidating power” (p 104). But, testimonies of the violence in Gujarat in 2002 spoke of the widespread use of torture and mutilation – as dis-tinct from abduction and impregnation that typified the violence against women during the Partition in 1947. Nussbaum looks at the role of the everyday emotion of “disgust” that shields human being “from too much daily contact with as-pects of their own humanity that are difficult to live with” – corpses, oozy de-caying smelly things, faeces – in drawing boundaries, closing boundaries to exclude the other. Jews in European so-cieties, dalits in Indian society, Mus-lims now, are ascribed disgust proper-ties that exemplify animality and provoke rage by their mere existence thus subordinating them (violently even, but certainly physically) and insulating the dominant group from fears of its own mortality (pp 108-09). It is this complex discursive field of disgust, Nussbaum ar-gues, that helps us understand political violence, “seeing more clearly how the organisers of hate played on pervasive Violence and Democracy in Indiaedited by Amrita Basu and Srirupa Roy;Seagull Books, Kolkata, 2007; pp 266, Rs 160.


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