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Tuesday, April 9

"Be a Little Careful": Performance and the Politics of Representing Slow Sexual Violence
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
4130 Posvar
Sponsored by:
Global Studies Center
Veronica Dristas
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On December 16, 2012 in New Delhi, India, a young woman and her male companion boarded a bus after seeing a film at a South Delhi theater. Instead of taking them home, the six men already on the bus brutally gang raped the woman and then dumped her and her male companion on the side of the road. Thirteen days later in a Singapore hospital, she died of the injuries she had received that night. By the time she died, the story of her rape was internationally infamous. It had sparked massive public protests and outrage throughout India. It had also shone a spotlight on the particular problem of public violence against women in urban India. Indian feminist performance artists were troubled by the way the discourse around this incident highlighted acts of extraordinary violence and effectively erased the ordinary violence all women experience on a daily basis. They argued that a focus on extraordinary violence made women afraid, made men (or at least a certain kind of man) seem inhuman, and made change appear impossible. Instead, artists such as Mallika Taneja, Jana Natya Manch, and Niranjani Iyer created performances that drew attention to what I call “slow sexual violence,” a violence so small and so stealthily normal that few think to label it violence in the first place. Through their embodied performances, these artists highlight the effects such violence has on the body and psyche of women in public space and, crucially, suggest modes for retraining the body to empower people to put an end to sexual violence no matter its scale. This talk will explore the concept of “slow sexual violence” and argue that live, embodied performance is a necessary medium for making such slow violence visible and comprehensible.