, 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.