Torture and Laughter: Naxal insurgency, custodial violence, and inmate resistance in a women's correctional facility in 1970s Calcutta – Københavns Universitet

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08. august 2018

Torture and Laughter: Naxal insurgency, custodial violence, and inmate resistance in a women's correctional facility in 1970s Calcutta

Associate Professor of Anthropology Atreyee Sen has contributed to the journal Modern Asian Studies with the article 'Torture and Laughter: Naxal insurgency, custodial violence, and inmate resistance in a women's correctional facility in 1970s Calcutta.'

The article explores the politics of surveillance, suppression, and resistance within a women's correctional facility in 1970s Calcutta, a city in eastern India. In the article, the author highlights the excessively violent treatment of women political prisoners, who were captured and tortured for their active participation in a Maoist guerrilla (Naxal) movement. It is argued that the state officials who formed the lowest rung of the government's machinery to supress the movement—the police, prison guards, and wardens—partially usurped these carceral worlds during conditions of social unrest to create small regimes of de facto sovereignty over prison publics. During that critical period in the history of political uprising in the region, the central government coercively implemented a series of ‘constitutional actions’ in the name of internal security threats and withdrew civil liberties from Indian citizens. Political opponents were captured and imprisoned, and prisons became a space for licensed excess. The article shows how women political prisoners cooperated and conspired with women convicts (the latter having nurtured their own coping skills and structures to deal with persecution and negligence while in the detention system) to develop multiple forms of resistance to the extra-legal use of authority in prison, especially in the context of a volatile socio-political environment in the city.

Atreyee Sen, Torture and Laughter: Naxal insurgency, custodial violence, and inmate resistance in a women's correctional facility in 1970s Calcutta, Modern Asian Studies, Volume 52, Issue 3, June 2018.