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The Trouble with Marriage

The Trouble with Marriage: Feminists Confront Law and Violence in India

Srimati Basu
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt13x1gxr
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  • Book Info
    The Trouble with Marriage
    Book Description:

    The Trouble with Marriageis part of a new global feminist jurisprudence around marriage and violence that looks to law as strategy rather than solution. In this ethnography of lawyer-free family courts and mediations of rape and domestic violence charges in India, Srimati Basu depicts everyday life in legal sites of marital trouble, reevaluating feminist theories of law, marriage, violence, property, and the state. Basu argues that alternative dispute resolution, originally designed to empower women in a less adversarial legal environment, has created new subjectivities, but, paradoxically, has also reinforced oppressive socioeconomic norms that leave women no better off, individually or collectively.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95811-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Law, Marriage, and Feminist Reform
    (pp. 1-32)

    Courts are notoriously difficult to represent. Photography is generally forbidden, as are audio and video recordings. Most commonly, the cacophony court corridors comes to us in stiff legal language, in the form of parsed judgments (less often in ethnographic jottings, as in this book). One way of capturing the space, I thought, would be to look at the walls of a family court India, keeping in mind that artifacts may be placed by design or without coordination, by different people over time. Here is a verbatim rendition what ornamented the walls of the Mumbai Family Court in 2006, in no...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Construction Zones: Marriage Law in Formation
    (pp. 33-58)

    Guru Dutt’s engaging (and deeply antifeminist) filmMr. & Mrs. 55dramatizes the disaster brought upon the new postcolonial Indian state by feminist groups and their attempts to reshape family law. The “55” of the title invokes the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) of 1955, provocatively called the “divorce bill” in the movie (though Muslim divorce laws in fact led the way in 1939). The HMA enacted a broad set of reforms for Hindus, mandating monogamy, specifying alimony, and enumerating grounds for divorce. In the film, a romantic couple triumphs against a feminist plot and successfully establishes that conjugality is about...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Beyond Equivalence: On Reading and Speaking Law
    (pp. 59-85)

    If you speak in law, who can hear you? If you don’t speak, can you be heard at all? In this chapter, we explore questions of legibility and method in law by examining speech, expression, and the translation of categories in courts. Law may only be one venue of cultural negotiation, but it is a preferred one because of its regulatory power. Those who come to law are most effective when they frame issues in terms of available remedies and sanctions and cite authorized histories of precedent; emotion or life details are met with impatience as being inefficient (Comaroff and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Justice without Lawyers? Living the Family Court Experiment
    (pp. 86-117)

    This scene from the 1963 filmSaat Pakey Bandha,redolent with regret and grief, conveys with deep visual irony that there is really nothing final or simple about taking marital dissolution to court. Marriage is knotty, it suggests, through a close shot of a needlepoint sampler customarily given at weddings. The sampler wishes, “Saat pakey bandha miloner raat; shoto pakey thak joriye jiban” (The seven circles around the sacred fire [in a Hindu wedding ceremony] help bind the night of meeting/union; may your lives be entangled in a hundred binds/circles). It puns onpaakas both twist and knot; what...

  9. CHAPTER 5 In Sanity and in Wealth: Diagnosing Conjugality and Kinship
    (pp. 118-149)

    The widespread lament that divorce is becoming more popular and arbitrary diagnoses “modern marriage” as the culprit, based on its association with the progression of individuality and the corresponding loss of the beneficent extended family. The epigraph locates this anxiety in the mainstreaming of gender equity discourses. Similarly, the Chairman of the Legal Aid Services of West Bengal is quoted as attributing rising divorce “to the two ‘E’s: education (among women) and ego”: “The ego clash between husbands and wives in middle-class families is increasing with the rise in educational rate among women.”¹

    “You should see how much they care...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Sexual Property: Rape and Marriage Conjoined
    (pp. 150-175)

    Rape, feminist movements have iterated for at least four decades, is a profound violation of bodily integrity and hence self, an archetype of “sexual violence,” and a mark of patriarchal dominance. Focusing attention on rape as violence has been one of the most significant global successes of women’s movements, achieved through protest in the streets and reform of state institutions. These movements have helped expand the definition to include college dates, conjugal beds, and weapons of war, as well as dark alleys; they have codified it as a crime of assault and not property. They have influenced national legislatures and...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Strategizing Spaces: Negotiating the Violence out of Domestic Violence Claims
    (pp. 176-209)

    Poor Photik. He is humiliated, assaulted, and pronounced dead, all on account of his disastrous marriage, able to escape being cremated alive only by sitting up on the funeral bier and telling his story. In the song, the well-meaning Photik shows up at his in-laws’ with sweets, to encounter his enraged wife (her eyes like molten lava, a huge puffed-up body like that of a military officer) and her family (gigantic in size and temperamentally unsuited to any love/prem). She demands a divorce, and when asked to consider her decision, files charges of “domestic torture” and breaks his jaw with...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Trouble Is Marriage: Conclusions and Worries
    (pp. 210-218)

    The December 2013 cover ofOutlookmagazine sports an Indian version of Rosie the Riveter: a woman wearing a red sari, blue blouse, and red bindi, with flowing hennaed locks and flexing her biceps in the signature “We can do it” gesture, proclaims, “Don’t mess with us.” The cover story announces the efflorescence of “Feminism 2.0” in India “as men tremble,” with the horrible pun, “Hear That She-Bang?”¹ It claims a widespread change in consciousness and action among Indian women, urban and rural, young and old, around issues from land rights to public harassment to marriage choice. The outrage is...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 219-238)
  14. REFERENCES
    (pp. 239-256)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 257-266)