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

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​​​​​​​Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway

An Epistemological Challenge to Childcare Norms

Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway reflects the global South’s challenge to White, Western norms of childhood and childcare.

[The author would like to thank Éva Rozália Hölzle for her elective paper, “Living and Dying: Anthropological Perspectives,” which inspired this article.]


Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway (2023) is an intriguing Hindi language legal drama film written and directed by Ashima Chibber. It is based on the real-life case of an Indian couple whose children were taken away by the Norwegian child welfare services (Barnevernet) in 2011 on the grounds that the couple were not following Norwegian parenting standards. The film can be seen as an epistemic project of the global South, which contributes to debates on the decolonisation of childhood studies.

The film follows Debika Chatterjee, who lives in Stavanger with her husband, Aniruddha Chatterjee, and their two young children, Shubha and Shuchi. After regular visits, the Chatterjees are traumatised when their children are taken away by Norwegian officials. Debika’s fight against the government and dominant cultural norms highlights the important role of the state and society as an institutional embodiment of social practices, both in shaping and regulating childhood. It also underlines the differences in childcare norms between Nordic and Asian countries. Nordic countries view children as autonomous individuals and prioritise institutional childcare when the state feels the parents/guardians are unable to care properly for a child, which can lead to separation from families. In contrast, Asian countries view children as belonging to the larger community, less agentic, involving both families and society in everyday care.

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Updated On : 26th Oct, 2023
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