Dhar, Debotri

Job Placement: Visiting Professor in Women’s Studies at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2015-16) Visiting Assistant Professor in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the College of Wooster, Ohio (2014-2015) Postdoctoral Visiting Scholar in the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Program at Boston University (2013-2014)
Committee: C. Bunch, J.Diamond, D. Hodgson, J. Quinn
Dissertation: Between Samskaras and Adhikaras: Rape, Suicide and the State in Contemporary India

Bio

Debotri received a B.A. with Honors from the University of Delhi, India and an M.A. with distinction in Women’s Studies from University of Oxford, UK. Debotri's numerous publications include an edited volume, Education and Gender (London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2014); book chapters such as 'Mad Adulteress, Moral Wife: Sex, Sin and Psychiatry in Aparna Sen's Parama,' in Nawale, Vashist and Roy eds. Portrayal of Women in Media and Literature (New Delhi: Authorspress, 2013); and journal articles such as 'Radha's Revenge; Feminist Agency, Postcoloniality and the Politics of Desire in Anita Nair's Mistress,' Postcolonial Text, Vol 7, No 4 (2012). She has presented conference papers at venues such as Yale University, Princeton University, Bonn University, and Rutgers University, and has also delivered several public talks. Her awards and honors include an Excellence Fellowship; a South Asian Studies research award; an Institute for Research on Women Fellowship; and a Distinction in Women's Studies.

Abstract

This dissertation examines the relationship between suicide, the state and women’s right against rape in contemporary India. By situating raped women’s suicide within the complex conversation between the Hindu nation’s gendered notion of samskaras on one hand and the modern Indian state’s narrative of equal rights or adhikaras on the other, the dissertation examines why raped female citizen-subjects threaten or commit suicide, and the state’s response(s) to such suicides in light of women’s legal right against rape. In this respect, the dissertation is particularly attentive to the unfortunate agency of raped women who use public suicide in order to claim their right against rape from the postcolonial Indian state. Contemporary scholarship on women’s suicide in India has primarily been framed within a clinical-psychological framework, while women’s right against rape in/and the Indian state has been theorized predominantly within feminist legal paradigms. While some work does engage the political-cultural aspect of women’s suicide, raped women’s suicide and its relationship to rights and the state remains an un-theorized area of inquiry. This study of rape victims’ suicide thus brings within a single analytical frame two questions - women’s right against rape in/and the state; and women’s suicide – that, till now, have been studied separately. Arguing that suicide as a complex, embodied form of agency exercised by raped female citizen-subjects colludes with, as well as contests, the collective identities of gender, class, caste, religion, the ‘local’ and the ‘national,’ and evokes equally complex responses from the postcolonial state, the dissertation offers new and challenging insights on women’s rights, culture and the state. The dissertation is interdisciplinary, and draws from a range of theoretical perspectives including feminist political theory, postcolonial theory, cultural theory, psychology and Indian Studies in order to offer a complex, layered understanding of raped women’s suicide and the state. Methodologically, the dissertation combines the empirical and the interpretive, juxtaposing National Crime Records Bureau data on rape and suicide along with textual analyses of a range of relevant texts including religious treatises, historical accounts, political materials, judicial judgments, mental health professionals’ narratives, and news reports.