Speech, Law, Trauma: Indian Contexts

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Swatie/ University of Delhi

Speech, Law, Trauma: Indian contexts Call for chapters in an edited volume The ascendancy of right wing nationalism in India in contemporary times has witnessed heavy militarisation, clampdown on journalistic freedom, human rights violations, instances of communal and caste violence, etc. Cases of sexual harassment and #metoo in a world after  Jyoti Pandey's rape have also been increasing. It has been well established that the Indian polity is marked by the rise of totalitarian forms of government. The recent lockdown of communication in Kashmir and a move to invoke a presidential order to bifurcate the state, the continuing use of AFSPA in parts of India, the drive towards demonetisation, combined, point to a trend whereby the governmentalised state is closely engaged with creating a legal trail of sweeping changes. This phenomenon is marked by increased control of state on all aspects of public and private life. There is an urgent need to theorise this mechanism of totalitarianism.However, there have also been certain legal events that point to the possibility of the "subject of freedom" (Saba Mahmood) existing in and through law such as the judgment that decriminalised homosexuality and the judgment on the right to privacy. There is also a growing trend towards specialisation in law. The notion of the specific intellectual (Michel Foucault) holds valence here. Therefore, it becomes imperative to critically look at the mechanism of law as an entry point to gain insight into our contemporary world.  Further, the analysis of law needs to be closely connected to speech as well as to trauma. The murder of Gauri Lankesh and the clampdown on speech, as well as the legal guarantee of freedom of expression are two sides of the same coin. Speech is a particular form of linguistic expression, an articulation of thoughts and emotions. It could also be a formal address delivered to an audience, for instance, a polarising political speech by Narendra Modi. One could refer to his performative utterances as speech acts (JL Austin) or equally point towards their empty polemics. Speech in both extremes exists as a discursive utterance in a network of power/knowledge (Michel Foucault). Along with the rise of the Right, there is also a growing "empire of trauma" (Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman). Trauma, is embedded in the disciplines of psychiatry and psychology.  It is a state of being, a condition, but also a site of knowledge production. Trauma could be an aftereffect of violence, as in PTSD, or be "insidious" ( Laura Brown). It could refer to the suffering of a collective (Kai Erikson) or an individual. Yet these concepts around trauma are found wanting when used unproblematically in the Indian context. The unproblematised celebration of the Indian Mental Healthcare Act 2017 without a theorisation of it's relation with trauma, speech and law is but one example. This volume seeks to explore newer paradaigms that seek to make a connection among the categories of speech, law and trauma.  Speech can be the cause of trauma such as in "excitable speech" (Judith Butler). It can be also be the effect of traumatic encounters. The "talking cure" (Sigmund Freud) may even be considered healing or redemptive. Similarly, the law could be used to enable speech, as in freedom of expression laws, or be used to suppress articulation, such as in anti-terror laws, censorship, etc. Speech of a particular kind which hurts societies and individuals may be punishable by law. Inversely, the law may also be Draconian and guard the interests of its own existence as state discourse by curbing dissent. Trauma could be the result of unjust laws, and speech the medium of articulation of the split between the legal and the ethical (JF Lyotard). Traumatic experience may require a legal acknowledgement of wrong done. Original, previously unpublished, research articles of approximately 8000 words are invited on the aforementioned topic based on India as context. Thematic concerns may include but not be limited to:  - the Dalit movement and hate speech  - caste as a traumatic encounter - political rhetoric and "linguistic vulnerability" (Judith Butler) - patriarchal law, traumatic subjectivity, and feminist-queer articulations - the performative body versus performative speech - language games and traumatic subjectivity - the talking cure versus the legal remedy - cultural practices around legalese - expressions of marginality in law and trauma discourse - censorship and literature Please first send abstracts/ proposals of no more than 500 words to Dr. Swatie (speechlawtraumabook@gmail.com) by 31st October 2019. A short bio note or résumé may also be attached. Please mention 'speech, law, trauma abstract submission' as subject line.