ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

“Unruly”Women,Transgressive Spaces and Social Disorder:Crime and Punishment in Fiction from Northeast India


Moral Dr Rakhee Kalita - Cotton University, English and Women's Studies, GUWAHATI, India


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


 In contemporary fictions from India’s Northeast, both in regional language practices and in Anglophone literatures, the tropes of gendered violence and social disruption have been entangled with the contentious spaces that the region has come to assume as a deviant ‘other’ in relation to the national body politic. This paper examines literary representations of layered transgressions which imbricate women often considered promiscuous and ‘unruly’ who perform a politics of corporeal autonomy in their resistance to the normative order.  I shall draw both from Assamese short story writer Moushumi Kandali’s The Black Magic Woman (2022, English translation) and Naga poet and novelist, Easterine Kire’s A Terrible Matriarchy (2007) to interrogate how deviance is first understood in these proximal societies with shared political histories and in what ways it is internalized and reenacted that attach notions of offensive behavior to women who participate in acts of transgression or desire freedoms unavailable to them. The social and the individual, I contend, are also aligned over time as actors and agents in a cultural and legal network, a continuum, that fixes new meanings and positions to marginal women whose embodied subjectivities aspire to reclaim freedoms wrested away from them. I argue that such women, real and imagined, collectively reconstitute  the ideas of crime and punishment in their communities, and gender justice thereof, upon which both these authors deliberate.