[INDOLOGY] Gender, Power, and Rape when Conducting Research

Walter Slaje slaje at kabelmail.de
Fri Apr 27 07:32:36 UTC 2018

There is also this:


And this:


The Mahātmā moreover stated:

„I have always held that it is physically impossible to violate a woman
against her will. [ . . . ] If she cannot meet the assailant's physical
might, her purity will give her the strength to die before he succeeds in
violating her. [ . . . ] I know that women are capable of throwing away
their lives for a much lesser purpose. Only a few days ago a young girl of
twenty burnt herself to death as she felt she was being persecuted for
refusing to go in for ordinary studies. And she perished with such cool
courage and determination. She ignited her sari with an ordinary oil-light
and did not so much as raise a cry, so that the people in the neighbouring
room were unaware of the happening until all was over.” *Harijan*, 25-8-1940
and 1-9-1940.

(Quoted from M. K. GANDHI, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi
(Electronic Book). 98 volumes. New Delhi: Publications Division Government
of India 1999. [http://www.gandhiserve.org/ cwmg/ cwmg.html] 79, Nr. 130:
126 f).

Modern American and traditional Indian notions of rape, honour, consent and
“sexual interaction” (e.g., the exchange of kisses can count as such) seem
to differ widely.

It is well known that “secret intercourse with a woman who is asleep,
drunk, or mentally deranged” is categorized as a form of “marriage” in
ancient Indian law books.

Manu (3.34) uses “*upa-gam*” – *inire feminam* (pw) / to approach a woman
sexually (MW) – for the consummation of “marriage”. *upa-gam* is a common
verb for “having sex” in a general sense.

In the given context, recent English translations use however “to rape” as
an equivalent (see Olivelle 2005, p. 110). Interpretations follow suit:
“Tantamount to rape” (Jamison in Olivelle & Davis (ed.), Hindu Law 2017, p.

Unless supported by unambiguous evidence, such readings should be treated
as notionally anachronistic interpretations reflexively projected onto
ancient India. What appears to be “rape”, or to be “tantamount to rape”, in
the eyes of 21st century Western Indologists, does not necessarily
represent the viewpoint of a (pre)modern Indian society.

With regard to its connotation, Doniger (1991: 46) and Michaels (2010: 49)
offer neutral and therefore more faithful translations of *upa-gam*: “to
have sex with” and “Beischlaf”.

Actually, we are in dire need of a substantial investigation into the
history of the notions of “rape” as they prevailed in premodern India. This
will help to understand and assess their (dis)continuation also in the
thinking of today.



Prof. Dr. Walter Slaje
Hermann-Löns-Str. 1
D-99425 Weimar

2018-04-26 15:27 GMT+02:00 Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info>:

> Dear Colleagues,
> I would like to share this insightful, brave piece written by a PhD
> student at Columbia University about her experience pursuing a rape charge
> against Mahmood Farooqui in the Indian judicial system. I think it is
> relevant for Indologists, especially for sending students to conduct
> research abroad, dealing with our own instances of sexual misconduct in the
> field, and thinking about gender and power dynamics.
> https://scroll.in/article/876788/healing-myself-a-woman-reco
> unts-her-struggles-after-a-court-acquitted-the-man-she-accused-of-rape
> Audrey
> Audrey Truschke
> Assistant Professor
> Department of History
> Rutgers University-Newark
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