Sandhya Fuchs

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

London School of Economics

Grant number

Gr. 9367

Approve Date

October 7, 2016

Project Title

Fuchs, Sandhya I., London School of Economics, London, UK - To aid research on 'The Language of Change: Dalit Voices and Institutional Actors and in the Indian Legal Landscape,' supervised by Dr. Alpa Shah

Preliminary abstract: My thesis explores the impact of legal social protection measures targeted at historically discriminated minorities by looking at the case of the 1989 Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA) in India and how it has affected the lives of the Dalit (former untouchable) community. Focusing on acts of severe physical and emotional violence targeted at Dalits in the Indian state of Rajasthan, I investigate how local notions of atrocities, fairness and order converse with the conceptions of equality and justice outlined in Indian state and human rights law. I will investigate three dimensions of this phenomenon. First, I ask to what extent the PoA can provide Dalit victims of violence with a useful avenue for seeking justice. Secondly, I aim to unveil processes of socio-cultural translation between vernacular conceptions of justice, human rights activism, and state law as cases travel up the institutional ladder from the ‘victim’ level to the courts. I ask how legal frameworks speak on behalf of those who seek their protection and what is emphasized or lost in this process. Finally, I am concerned with the impact of legal approaches on social struggles for equality. What does it mean to relocate the Dalit movement to the arena of law? The project will contribute to theoretical debates in the anthropology of violence and law and to the literature on human rights, inequality and translation. I will combine discussions about the effects of violence on the social imaginary of individuals and groups (Das, 2006), and ideas about law and human rights as institutionalised horizons of hope and justice (Merry, 1990). I look at Dalit human rights activists as mediators between the violence of ordinary life and the aspirationally charged socio-legal realm.