Oishik Sircar, “Violent Modernities: Cultural Lives of Law in the New India” (Oxford UP, 2021)

Law and violence are thought to share an antithetical relationship in postcolonial modernity. Violence is considered the other of law, lawlessness is understood to produce violence, and law is invoked and deployed to undo the violence of lawlessness. 

Oishik Sircar’s book Violent Modernities: Cultural Lives of Law in the New India (Oxford UP, 2021) uses a critical legal perspective to show that law and violence in the New India share a deep intimacy, where one symbiotically feeds the other. Researched and written between 2008 and 2018, the chapters study the cultural sites of literature, cinema, people’s movements, popular media and the university to illustrate how law’s promises of emancipation and performances of violence live a life of entangled contradictions. The book foregrounds reparative and ethical accounts where law does not only inhabit courtrooms, legislations and judgments, but also lives in the quotidian and minor practices of disobediences, uncertainties, vulnerabilities, double binds and failures. When the cultural lives of law are reimagined as such, the book argues, the violence at the foundations of modern law in the postcolony begins to unravel.

Sebastián Rojas Cabal is a Ph.D. student in the Sociology Department at Princeton University.

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