Law, Violence and the State

This course will provide students a critical-ethnographic perspective on theories of governance and public policy relating to violence and disorder.

Controlling and managing violence is an integral aspect of modern governance. While the state is an important actor involved in managing violence and order within modern democracies, it is clearly not the only actor interested in violence. Non-state actors like extremist groups, political parties and activists, and global institutions and discourses like human rights and the rule of law are equally involved in regulating and interpreting violence. In order to better understand how governance and violence are linked in postcolonial societies like India, this course investigates how state and non-state actors influence and shape state responses to disorder, the role of affect and passion in the management of hate, and the everyday forms of legality and illegality that bypass, challenge and reinforce law and order in modern democracies. By focusing on legal, affective, and cultural dynamics of violence and disorder, this course will compliment electives in the MPG program that equip students to rethink the relationship between law, violence and the state.

Many believe that violence impedes and interrupts governance in India. Public policy is often designed to counter disorder, keep it out of sight, and the rule of law is imagined as an ideal response to violence. Such assumptions are embedded in policy documents, legal judgments, the mainstream media, and civil society responses. This course uses anthropological perspectives to examine law, violence and the everyday state in South Asia. It examines the problem of law and order from the perspective of state and non-state actors, perpetrators and survivors of violence, and lawmakers and lawbreakers. Using an ethnographic perspective on the law and order in India, this course challenges legalistic, normative and technical responses to questions of violence and disorder.