Gendered violences, structures of privilege: A polemic against ‘men’s rights’ discourse (Part 2)

In the previous post (link here), I argued that MRA discourses on domestic and gender-based violence, particularly the idea that women misuse laws, and that there should be ‘gender-neutral’ laws, are divorced from the larger contexts of structural violence, and the fact that gender as we know it, is in itself, a system of inequality.

Here, I outline the second important fallacy in most MRA discourses on domestic violence and misuse of laws: that is, the over reliance of a very selective criteria of data and facts and figures. Continue reading

Gendered violences, structures of privilege: A polemic against ‘men’s rights’ discourse (Part 1)

This post has been gestating for a long time now.

When I started this blog, its primary aim was to be reflexive about my fieldwork experience, and to try and organise my thoughts for the eventual thesis. Of course, another significant aim – as such of any writing on a public platform – was to inform people, both peers and otherwise, about certain realities I’ve witnessed and engaged in with my work in Dharavi.

But I also think there is a larger issue at stake here. I’ve always maintained that anthropologists should make principled and political stances as and when we can, or are required to. Indeed the history of our discipline is replete with such examples. Continue reading

‘Taking care of our own’: From mentorship to peership in anthropology

While the title of this post does seem a bit like a Bruce Springsteen Born-In-The-USA-esque track, it actually draws from a phrase I’ve used a couple of times with some of my peers, that we “anthro [grads] need to take care of our own” – our tribe, if one’s pushing the metaphor too much.

Being in a graduate programme can be, and is, challenging. Especially for many of my peers who have been new to anthropology. More so for those who begin to work professionally, after being trained in anthropology, in related-but-different domains (e.g., qualitative research, medical anthropology, science and technology studies).

There are similar struggles, of course, in education/pedagogy and among professionals. The most common one, I have noticed, can be phrased as thus: how is anthropology relevant? Continue reading

The ethnography of chai, or an anthropology of waiting

I walked into the community centre one day in August to find the team engaged in a meeting with the accounting and finance team of the NGO.

One of the things being discussed was how there were several problems in the way the community organisers were filling out reimbursement vouchers, or finding vendors who would be willing to take payments in cheques (a relatively new policy in the NGO).

Several small vendors in Dharavi, and elsewhere, work informally – they may not have stamps, or visiting cards. And many wouldn’t take cheques, preferring cash instead.

These are the vendors the team buys tea and snacks from during sessions with the community-based volunteers – a very commonplace practice, if not strategic one, in working with communities. A very basic practice in reciprocity, perhaps; but as the meeting progressed, I realised it was a contested one as well. Continue reading

An anthropologist among front-line workers: Part 2

(This post is a continuation of an argument I had made in the last one. Read it here).

Sanjay, Jagdish, Pankaj* and I were eating lunch at the NGO’s community centre. It was a Sunday, and we had just finished a session on gender and sexuality with young boys from the community.

As we finished lunch – a combination of chicken curry and rice, and some sheera# for desert – Sanjay said, introspectively, “Hum field staff, ground level pe kaam karne wale log, kadi patte jaisa hain.” We field staff, those who work on the ground level, are like curry leaves. Continue reading

An anthropologist among researchers: Part 1

(This post is the first part of a two-part series of posts on my experiences with researchers in the NGO, and with it’s front-line staff. You can read Part 2 here).
In this post, I am taking a slight detour from the front-line space(s) that has been the subject of my previous blogs – or rather, I am expanding the term itself into a different site of research.

As the title suggests, my primary interlocutors are changing as well. Continue reading

Writing through pain, working through loss: On the emotions of anthropological research

When I arrived at my house in Badlapur this July, it felt as though I had arrived in an alternate timeline. The house was the same, but so much had changed.

Earlier this year, my grandmother passed away. Only my mother and brother were at home then – my father, like me, was away and could not make it in time.

In the weeks that passed, I chose to drown myself in work to numb the sensation of helpless that had replaced the grief, knowing that my family had to deal with a lot more than I, and that I wasn’t there to bear the emotional burden with them (and they were as concerned, perhaps more, about me). And while we did have other family to help us, there were other relatives whose actions, for all intents and purposes, hurt us more. Continue reading