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

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Gendered Desire in Kerala

Affect and Assemblages as Development Indicators

An effort is made towards writing the immaterial and intangible coordinates of gendered sociality and connectivity into narratives of gender and development that conventionally operate on premises of quantitativeness and measurability within discourses of developmental economics. The question of whether gendered desire can be used as an index to interrogate development paradigms has been raised. Further, the shifts in sociocultural landscapes amidst a digital media revolution that has made possible new kinds of affordances around gendered, affective and networked publics has been addressed and a tentative theoretical investigation into possibilities of bringing an affective modality into developmental matrices is presented.

The shrinking of time and space vis-à-vis globalisation marks a state of affairs where women’s movements in Kerala manifest influences of global feminist movements, new medialities, media convergences and new kinds of agencies, made possible by networked societies. The structural changes effected by the digital open up new modalities through which it becomes possible for individuals to write their voices and feelings in digitally mediated spaces. While these mediated spaces are not devoid of structures of domination, they also render possible tentative assemblages and dissenting collectives through horizontal flows. Thus, such emergent fields modify the habitus of gender, destabilising habitual dispositions with new experiences and reflexivities, bringing about a radical shift in focus from technologies of domination to technologies of self. Thus, marginalised people are able to write their selves and protests, which make them fundamentally different from the earlier dissenting publics where alliances predominantly used to be impelled by a leader or a group.

In spite of new modes of gender surveillance, governmentalities, and new technologies of power and discipline, networks and linkages between women across boundaries have affected feminist mobilisations in a positive manner. As pointed out by Papacharissi and Easton (2013: 9), “[T]he set of embodied dispositions that form a habitus are turned into praxis through communities of practice, and take the form of networked publics.” For example, when the sexual assault ­allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017 snowballed into the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment in the United States, it reached Kerala almost immediately and thousands of women took to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, personal blogs and even memes to write their protest against violence and predatory tendencies of hegemonic masculinity into online spaces. Justice denied in real lives ­became a rallying cry for women to get together in sisterhood, and the knowledge that the patterns of atrocities faced by women in small, ultraconservative societies like their own were shared by a global community of women, strengthened hope and cemented solidarities.

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Updated On : 13th Feb, 2021
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