Urban Hopes, Sexual Horrors

Communal Riots and the Narratives of Violent and Victimized Women in India

  • Atreyee Sen University of Copenhagen
  • Rubina Jasani University of Manchester
Keywords: urban riots, gender, survival, narratives, sectarian violence


Academic discussions of women and the eruption of urban riots in India focus on a range of women’s testimonies. From this perspective, Hindu women who belong to prominent and powerful right-wing organisations demonstrate religious and physical prowess, while minority and unprotected Muslim women are victims during outbreaks of communal violence. This article aims, if not to undermine, but to unsettle these gendered binaries in women’s experiences as victims or perpetrators of urban violence. We suggest that poor women on both sides of exclusionary propaganda and nationalistic discourses experience the actual violent eruption of hostilities as personal suffering and collective loss. Our analysis highlights how these experiences are intimately related to women’s domestic and family relations, bereavement, mobility, their peripheral socio-economic position, anxieties about the integrity of female bodies, etc., over and above women’s disillusionment with the state, secular and faith-based organisations.

Author Biographies

Atreyee Sen, University of Copenhagen

ATREYEE SEN is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. Her research interests include urban conflict, gender and childhoods, cash flows and global poverty. Her regional focus is on India. Email: Atreyee.Sen@anthro.ku.dk

Rubina Jasani, University of Manchester

RUBINA JASANI is Lecturer at Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), University of Manchester. She is interested in issues of violence and reconstruction, gender and sexuality and social suffering in South Asia and its diaspora. Email: Rubina.Jasani@manchester.ac.uk


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