Security and Purity: Female Surveillance, Child Vigilantism, and the Moral Policing of Deviant Women in Two Radicalized Indian Slums

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This article explores the quotidian politics of community vigilantism over women involved in interreligious love affairs in two radicalized Indian slums. Using a Hindu nationalist slum in Mumbai and a communally sensitive Muslim-dominated slum in Hyderabad as ethnographic landscapes, I show how women and children (and peripheral state actors) used secret surveillance, exclusionary party politics, public shaming rituals, and physical punishment to rein in poor women’s sexual permissiveness. Some women in deviant relationships displayed excessive loyalty to their community to compensate for their transgressions. Some others legitimized their radical position by branding honor policing as primitive and unfit for an urban citizenry. By advancing an analytical discussion on this bargaining space between vigilantes and their victims, I argue that women and children in slums, ghettos, and shantytowns play a central role in producing, managing, and violently enforcing uncertainties related to poverty and urban security, even if they are recast through religiopolitical discourses of female honor and religious purity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)549-571
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018


ID: 188453771