Theft of an Idol: Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence

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Princeton University Press, 1997 - Psychology - 298 pages
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As collective violence erupts in many regions throughout the world, we often hear media reports that link the outbreaks to age-old ethnic or religious hostilities, thereby freeing the state, its agents, and its political elites from responsibility. Paul Brass encourages us to look more closely at the issues of violence, ethnicity, and the state by focusing on specific instances of violence in their local contexts and questioning the prevailing interpretations of them. Through five case studies of both rural and urban public violence, including police-public confrontations and Hindu-Muslim riots, Brass shows how, out of many possible interpretations applicable to these incidents, government and the media select those that support existing relations of power in state and society.


Adopting different modes--narrator, detective, and social scientist--Brass treats incidents of collective violence arising initially out of common occurrences such as a drunken brawl, the rape of a girl, and the theft of an idol, and demonstrates how some incidents remain localized while others are fit into broader frameworks of meaning, thereby becoming useful for upholders of dominant ideologies. Incessant talk about violence and its implications in these circumstances contributes to its persistence rather than its reduction. Such treatment serves in fact to mask the causes of violence, displace the victims from the center of attention, and divert society's gaze from those responsible for its endemic character. Brass explains how this process ultimately implicates everyone in the perpetuation of systems of violence.


 

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Contents

Text and Context
3
Background
32
Theft of an Idol
58
Rape at Daphnala
97
Horror Stories
129
Horror Stories Untold
177
Kala Bachcha Portrait of a BJP Hero
204
Conclusion
260
Index
289
Copyright

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About the author (1997)

Paul R Brass is Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. He has published numerous books and articles on comparative and South Asian politics, ethnic politics, and collective violence. His work has been based on extensive field research in India during numerous visits since 1961. He has been a University of Washington faculty member and Professor, Department of Political Science, and The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies since 1965. He received his BA in 1958, Government, Harvard College; his MA in 1959, Political Science, University of Chicago; and his PhD in 1964, Political Science, University of Chicago. His teaching specializations include: comparative politics (South Asia), ethnicity and nationalism, as well as collective violence. Prof. Brass has received Fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC, 1994 95; Faculty Research Fellowships, American Institute of Indian Studies: 1993, 1982 83, 1973, 1966 76; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1972 73; Grants for Research on South Asia, American Council of Learned Societies and Social Science Research Council, 1966 67, 1973 74, 1977 78, 1982 83, amongst others. In 2008, Brass received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation s Emeritus Fellowship. In 2012, Professor Brass was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship grant for the academic year 2012 13, which allowed him to carry out further research in India during his stay of nine months. During that period he was affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Developing societies, Delhi.

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