Sunday, 29 May 2011

Witchcraft, Pain Resistance and the Ceremony of Punishment

Witchcraft, Pain Resistance and the Ceremony of Punishment” published in Sage Journal of Gender Studies Vol. 17. 2- May-August, 2010, New Delhi

Witchcraft accusation is an issue beyond historical recollection and yet it does not figure in the public sphere. Branding a woman Daayan or Chodail has been the most common practice in rural India.  This paper’s engagement with Mahashweta Devi’s play, Bayen intends to provide a searching analysis of the mechanism of witchcraft accusations in India. How the accused is seen in possession of uncanny gaze by which she bewitches her unfortunate victim, how the mob violence condemning her is seen in terms of popular justice, how literate or illiterate people seek a scapegoat in the accused; someone they could blame for their misfortune.  The fact that it also gets the sanction of women  along with men belonging to the same community does not rule out  that it is gendered since  most accused are women. Invoking several narratives of violence and torture upon the body of women accused of practicing witchcraft and in closely analyzing Bayen, the study probes the way spectacle of torture and exclusion is performed as the ceremony of punishment recalling Arendt’s and Foucault’s understanding of the psychology of crowd power and the relationship between power and surveillance.  In this context it also  goes on to debate the identity categories in which subaltern and gendered subjectivity are assumed to speak and discovers in the Post colonial feminist frame of reference the psychic identity of the gendered subaltern as varied, contingent, and capable of showing modes of resistance. In spite of deranged illusions, and dehumanisation, Devi’s Chandidasi survives emotional and physical devastation rendering claims of power and control, discipline and punishment doubtful.

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