ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Law as a Conduit of Violence

Violent Modernities: Cultural Lives of Law in the New India by Oishik Sircar, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2021; pp xiii + 370 , `1,399.99 (hardcover).

Oishik Sircar’s Violent Modernities: Cultural Lives of Law in the New India brings together his work on the relationship between the law and violence over the period of 2008 to 2018. The collection of essays presents an engaging account of law as the “conduit of violence” against the liberal acc­ounts of law that often negate these realities. While refusing to claim that his work is, in any way, “atemporal or portable,” he writes about the jurisprudence of rights, queer politics, and activism, the Gujarat pogrom, Bollywood, and refl­ects on legal research and pedagogy through the vantage point of a “feminist legal scholar.” This approach to writing brings us close to understanding the iss­ues and theoretical frameworks in the context of the time of his writing. In nature, the essays are deeply introspe­ctive, often personal, and give us an insi­ght into Sircar’s work as a human rights educator (HRE), a law teacher, and scholar. It is an important contribution to not only critical legal scholarship on violence and modernity (where writings from within the discipline of law are rarer than they should be), but also an interesting insight into the growth of his ideas through time and shifting locations.

In Beyond Compassion: Children of Sex Workers and the Politics of Suffering (written with Debolina Dutta), Sircar’s project is perhaps the most successful. The essay explores the role of images in invoking compassion from “outsiders” to sex work, particularly, in documentary films Selling of Innocents, Born into Brothels, and Apne Aap’s book: The Place Where We Live Is Called a Red-Light Area. Sircar challenges the assumptions about the life of sex workers and their children by showing us what these narratives obfu­scate: the perspective of children of sex workers themselves, sex workers’ neg­otiations, and their collectives in rea­lity. Sircar looks at the ideas about childhood itself and presents an insight into the lived reality of sex workers, their families and their children, which then brings out the inadequacy of a “universalist notion of custo­mised childhoods” (p 92), while applied to this context. He places his interviews with Amra Padatik, a collective of children of sex wor­kers, front and centre, in this narrative.

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Updated On : 29th Aug, 2022
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