ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

36 – Interrogating Deviance and ‘Crime’ in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia

While deviance violates social norms, crime violates the formal legal order. Yet both are social constructs based on ethical norms. The proposed panel analyses the construction of deviance by the civil society and the state in South Asia, both in the colonial and post-colonial contexts.

Convenors

Sanjukta Das Gupta - Department of Oriental Studies, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Peter B. Anderson - Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Amit Prakash - Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Long Abstract

While deviance violates social norms, crime violates the formal legal order. Yet both are social constructs based on ethical norms. The proposed panel analyses the construction of deviance by the civil society and the state in South Asia, both in the colonial and post-colonial contexts. It seeks to trace the processes whereby ‘deviance’ is translated to ‘crime’ and to explore the changing conceptions of crime in different spaces and times. Under the new legal order of the colonial state certain existent socio-economic practices had come to be seen as ‘crime’. Following Independence and decolonization, many such issues acquired new classifications and reinterpretations while others became ‘normalized’. The mechanisms through which such constructs occur offer a window into complex processes of legalization as well as political and social change, implicating a series of actors and institutions. Numerous fault lines may exist (and thus, come to collide) between state-induced ethical order and societal, community or individual ethical ideal.

The proposed panel will examine the institutions, practices and discourses of colonial and post-colonial conceptions of deviance and crime in the context of prevailing notions of justice, order and morality. The panel invites paper proposals across disciplinary boundaries engaging with any aspect of this process across the South Asian subcontinent in colonial and postcolonial times.