, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 53-77
Date: 18 May 2006

THE SEXUAL SUBALTERN IN CONVERSATIONS “SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN”: LAW AND THE OLD POLITICS OF COLONIALISM

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Abstract

Ratna Kapur’s recent book entitled Erotic Justice proposes a new politics of postcolonialism whereby the sexual subaltern disrupts the normative principles of the universal, liberal, legal domain. Kapur traces legal strategies regarding censorship, sex-work, homosexuality, sexual harassment, trafficking and migration which travel a treacherous path, countering allegations of ‘unIndian’ and Western practice with cultural histories of ‘authentic’ sexual legitimacies, towards a new politics of desire. Kapur frames her analysis through postcolonial feminist theory as providing a tool for feminist struggle, yet distinct from and disruptive of a liberal project of global sisterhood. This review deeply values the role of the sexual subaltern which disrupts the tenets of a linear, progressive liberalism. Drawing upon Indian feminist and Western feminist perspectives, the review considers how the distinct position of the postcolonial sexual subaltern subject informs the generic role of law as a tool constructing relations of domination regarding gender, sexuality, caste, property and religion. Kapur observes that both the West and the Hindu Right have engaged with liberal legal principles. This engagement, I argue, exposes and informs law as a historical and contemporary tool of gendered legal colonialism, for sisters to disrupt across the Western and Eastern terrains.

Review of Ratna Kapur’s Erotic Justice, Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism, London: Glasshouse Press, 2005, 219 pp., £26, ISBN 1-90438-524-9