Professor of pathos: Upendra Baxi’s minor jurisprudence
What is Upendra Baxi’s contribution to jurisprudence in India? Baxi’s single-most important contribution to jurisprudence in India has been to infuse legal scholarship with pathos – the pathos of suffering, resistance, responsibility and care. An apocryphal reading of Baxi’s work might make us consider his passionate heft as a sentimental inflection, but it will not necessarily lead us to consider this as a jurisprudence. Baxi’s pathos endeavors to unmask law’s violence and silence about the suffering of those on the margins (even as he has offered ways of working with law); and in turn Baxi’s pathos has become marginal to the teaching and learning of jurisprudence in India. Indian legal education is marked by a simultaneous presence and absence of Baxi. His work is acclaimed for its rigorous content, but not necessarily for its innovative forms. While his politics is contingently celebrated, his aesthetics is considered removed from jurisprudential insight. It might be well accepted that Baxi writes with pathos, but does that pathos constitute a jurisprudence? In this essay, I offer some illustrations of Baxi’s minor jurisprudence by looking at three particular forms of writings which don’t get counted as part of his jurisprudential oeuvre: his lesser known works in the field of law, acknowledgements and footnotes that appear on the margins of major works, and tributes written by him on the passing of his mentors and comrades. My choice of the selected references has to do particularly with how these writings have helped me think through my own work as a law teacher and scholar.
KeywordsUpendra Baxi Minor Jurisprudence Reparative Reading Pathos Aesthetics
I especially thank Debolina Dutta, Adil Hasan Khan, Upendra Baxi and Shaun McVeigh for their engagement. Thanks are also due to Arun Sagar and Mohsin Alam Bhat for taking the time to read the piece and share their comments. I dedicate this piece to the students of my jurisprudence courses at Jindal Global Law School—without their provocations, the ideas in this piece would not have taken shape. Any claim to politics, positions and judgment remains my responsibility.