Grant TypeHunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
Institutional AffiliationMiddlebury College
Grant numberGr. 10174
Approve DateOctober 7, 2021
Project TitleChatterjee , Moyukh (Middlebury College) "Recomposing Violence: The Limits of Exposure and Anti-Muslim Politics in India"
What kind of anthropological work is possible when violence is not repressed and not even disguised by perpetrators? My book project, Recomposing Violence, answers this question through an ethnographic study of the afterlives of India’s first televised anti-Muslim riot in 2002. In the context of recurring pogroms and riots in India, civil society actors and human rights activists routinely approach the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators accountable. However, such an exposure based approach fails to take account for the ways in which anti-minority violence in postcolonial societies consolidates and expands forms of democratic rule based on wounded majorities and permanent minorities. Rather than assuming that violence is always repressed and needs exposure, Recomposing Violence draws on 29 months of multi-sited fieldwork conducted in India from 2011-13, as well as extensive archival research and oral histories, to argue for a compositional approach to violence. An ethnographic technique of re-composing violence reveals how and why anti-Muslim politics persists in diverse multiethnic societies like India. My analysis of the constitutive force of anti-Muslim politics at a time when India is transforming into an ethnic majoritarian democracy shows, how pogroms are part of an infrastructure embedded in police reporting, legal trials, public culture and media that splits ‘the people’ into historically shifting formations of majorities and minorities.