The Newsletter 67 Spring 2014

Cultures of violence and silence

Amrita Nandy

An account of the evolution of ‘privacy’ in India is presented here by tracing the conceptual trajectory of privacy through the filter of family regulation. In doing so, it scans a wide discursive canvass for constructions of privacy as well as crucial shifts, continuities and peculiarities of the context. What makes the inquiry of Indian notions on the subject interesting is that among all the social institutions in India, the family enjoys an iconic place in the social imaginary as an ideal unit. Often singled out as a cultural trope with an ahistoric, ‘natural’ and private existence, it stalls scrutiny into its intimate and sacrosanct space. Hence, the long-standing struggle against the family’s firm defence of privacy is replete with tussles among religious jurisprudence, cultural norms, modern legislation, notions of community identity and individual autonomy, justice and human rights’ discourse. The discussion here highlights, inter alia, such conundrums vis-à-vis the state’s response to the family’s class, sexuality, religious orientation, and so on; furthermore, it argues how the family, at the epicentre of these conflicts, has been exposed and rendered permeable, to some degree.