Torture, the State and Sexual Violence against Men in Colonial India

Heath, D ORCID: 0000-0003-2304-6266
(2017) Torture, the State and Sexual Violence against Men in Colonial India. Radical History Review, 2016 (126). pp. 122-133.

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Colonial regimes are generally loathe to reveal the coercive practices, such as torture, that they employ to maintain their sovereignty. The National Archives in New Delhi, however, contains reams of documents on torture, primarily on the torture of Indian peasants by subaltern elements of the colonial state, often in collusion with local power structures. While such documents detail the seemingly endless endeavour of the colonial state to eradicate the use of torture by its Indian subordinates, what such material actually documents is the systematization of a regime of torture through which the colonial regime strove to assert its sovereignty. Such material is, moreover, astonishingly detailed in recording information about the torturers, the tortured, the methods of torture employed, and the impact of such methods on Indian bodies. The methods of torture included, unsurprisingly, various forms of sexual violence – but, contrary to expectations, primarily upon male, rather than female bodies. While feminist scholarship has rendered sexual violence solely a crime against women, this inhibits understanding of the gendered nature of sexual violence. The aim of this paper is therefore to foreground such violence as sexual violence, and to consider how to interpret such a form of violence as a technology of colonial rule. It will also explore the complex challenges that the colonial archive offers to axiomatic gendered notions of power, vulnerability, victimization, subjection, and retaliation to state authority.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: sexual violence, men, torture, India, colonial, colonialism, the state, archives, power, rape
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2016 15:36
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 07:37
DOI: 10.1215/01636545-3594469
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