ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

To-be-Wife, Wife and ‘Wife’: Anticipating domestic violence and fraying social worlds


Jaju Garima - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom


21- Panel Title: Violence against women in South Asian countries


 Drawing on 12 months of fieldwork in the city of Gurgaon, India, this paper proceeds through an ethnographic exploration of the love, affliction, and violence experienced by three women – an upwardly mobile young professional, a rural housewife and a bottom-end service worker – in their heterosexual relationships with their boyfriend, husband, and estranged husband, respectively. All three relationships are marked by domestic violence and defined at a distance from the ‘ideal marriage’ and its promise of good domesticity. Marriage features as anticipation in the first case, a daily negotiated reality in the second and as the site of ruin and collapse in the third. Intimate partner violence – its actual occurrence, its looming possibility or its structural presence – acts upon already existing gendered social worlds and women’s gendered positioning within marriages and adjacent-kin relations. Far from dramatically disrupting these social worlds, the incidence of domestic violence (or its feared possibility) operates within the existing entanglements of conjugal relations. The issue of violence becomes difficult to isolate and is interpreted less as violence and more often as failed social relations and frayed social worlds. The article traces the women’s emotional, material, and social labour to secure kinship, and reveals the experience of anticipating and managing violence as the experience of managing the loss of kinship and the collapse of gendered worlds of intimacies.