ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Harmful Speech and the Politics of Hurt Sentiments

Censorship as a Biopolitical Project in India

The forms of censorship in India, which are based on the assumption that the text or film in question hurts the sentiments of some members of society, are analysed. Drawing on Michel Foucault's discussion on the shift from sovereignty to governmentality and the rise of biopolitics, it is argued that the academic critique of censorship has to take its productive aspects more into account. A close examination of two cases of censorship--regarding the short story "Dudh ka Dam" by Premchand and the film Haider by Vishal Bhardwaj-- illustrates the importance of questions of territoriality as well as the significance of dispersed forms of power for the biopolitical project. The politics of hurt sentiments, thus, become discernible as a powerful tool for the production and organisation of discursive, and at times even physical, forms of violence that are aimed at eradicating the roots for potential threats to the alleged unity of the nation and its population. For this, equating criticism, or deviant behaviour, with intentional assaults thus legitimises the restriction of speech by representing it as a necessary act of self-defence.

I would like to thank Francesca Orsini for her helpful supervision and guidance during the time of writing this paper. I also want to thank James Caron and Navtej Purewal. Without their extremely insightful comments and encouragements, I could not have written this paper.

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