ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Complexes of Hate:Hostile Speech, Embodied Affects and Political Aggression in North India


Fuchs Sandhya - University of Edinburgh, Social Anthropology, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


04- Pathways from Injury: Legal Narratives of Prejudice and the Politics of Hate in South Asia


 The spring of 2022 witnessed a wave of violent hate speech against Muslims and Dalits(ex-untouchable) communities in India. In response, calls to introduce new, comprehensive hate speech legislation have grown louder across the country. However, scholars and activists heatedly disagree on the parameters of such legislation and have struggled to answer a few basic questions: what constitutes hate speech? What is hate speech legislation meant to achieve socially and politically? And what legal definition(s) of hate speech would best protect India’s most vulnerable communities?

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with Muslim and Dalit hate speech complainants, NGOs, cand courts in North India, I propose that to answer these questions, hostile forms of speech must be analysed through the lens of embodied affects. Recounting two case studies from Delhi and Rajasthan, I examine how the term hate speech covers a variety of affective complexes -such as condescension, fear, envy, or revenge, – through which India’s Hindu majority engages historically marginalized groups. These affective complexes are expressed through different forms of coded language, and particular embodied practices of aggression, which give rise to distinct patterns of social and political violence.

Therefore, I argue that to design hate speech laws, which genuinely protect vulnerable groups, scholars and legislators must consider two things. First, how the embodied practices that accompany hostile verbal inciden