Kenneth Bo Nielsen: Law and Larai: The (De)Judicialisation of Subaltern Resistance in West Bengal

In Journal of Contemporary Asia, Volume 45, Issue 4, 2015


This article examines the dynamics of judicialisation and dejudicialisation of subaltern resistance in the context of a prolonged anti-land acquisition struggle in Singur in the Indian state of West Bengal. Taking its point of departure in a detailed, chronological ethnographic account of the Singur movement and its shifting engagement with the language and institutions of law, the article demonstrates how the local resistance to a land acquisition for the purpose of setting up a new automobile factory oscillated strategically back and forth between a multitude of sites of contestation. This strategic oscillation was, in turn, highly sensitive to the broader context in which the movement was carried out, and to the shifting terrain of the local and regional political landscape in particular. The attractiveness of invoking the language and institutions of law as part of their struggle therefore significantly depended on the attractiveness of other modalities of resistance at a given moment. In conclusion, the article uses the Singur case to critically interrogate and rethink the seminal work of Partha Chatterjee on political society and the politics of the governed in post-colonial India.

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Published Aug. 6, 2015 11:26 AM