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

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Constructing Contemporary Masculinities in Urban India

Becoming Young Men in a New India: Masculinities, Gender Relations and Violence in the Postcolony by Shannon Philip, Cambridge, New York, Port Melbourne, New Delhi and Singapore: Cambridge University Press, 2022; pp xii + 197, price not indicated.

As the capital city of India, one ­aspect that has been highlighted time and again about New Delhi is that it is a city unsafe for women, often referred to as the “rape capital” of India. Post the 2012 Nirbhaya case, the Justice J S Verma Committee report gave recommendations on criminal law and educational reforms that could prove useful for ensuring women’s safety, and make reporting of offences easier and justice accessible (PRS 2022). While policy initiatives are to be welcomed, what is perhaps lacking is a public discourse about what enables such a culture of violence to thrive, and how the middle and upper classes—who are quick to distance themselves from acts of assault and violence against women—are implicated in perpetuating the existing culture of violence.

Shannon Philip’s book Becoming Young Men in a New India: Masculinities, Gender Relations and Violence in the Postcolony is a step in that direction as it examines how the construction and performance of urban masculinities contribute to building urban youth cultures, which, while not encouraging overt violence towards women, perpetuate a masculine sense of entitlement that enables existing patriarchal structures to thrive. Using an ethnographic approach to document the experiences of young men, Philip shows the ways in which neo-liberal compulsions push these young men to uncritically adopt certain masculinities, and how these masculinities repackage patriarchies. Philip also focuses on the implications of these new masculinities for urban spaces and how those are occupied and traversed by men and women. The book works through several conceptual categories while retaining its focus on gender, masculinities and a neo-liberal self in urban spaces. It references several studies on Indian masculinities that have been conducted in various cities, but the choice of New Delhi as its primary location sets it apart from other works, as it helps to interrogate the idea of “rape capital” and also ­unearth connections between violence, urbanisms and gender.

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Updated On : 10th Jul, 2023
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