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Methodologies of Culture, Gender, and Violence: Logics of Belonging and Exclusion in South Asian Immigrant Communities

  • Munshi, Soniya
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2010
eScholarship - University of California
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Here, I examine the relationship between South Asian Women's Organization (SAWO)’s work, predicated upon ideas of cultural-specificity of domestic violence in South Asian communities, and state responses to immigrant survivors of domestic violence. I will look at the deployment of categories of exception for a narrow subset of “battered immigrant women,” made possible through the Violence Against Women Act (1994), who are then exempted from many of the repressive policies that generally impact immigrant populations. This mechanism of exception allows the state to reveal and enact its investment in the production of self-reliant neoliberal citizens who are recuperated from the unruliness of the larger immigrant population. I argue that SAWOs’ methodologies of culture are compatible with the logics of belonging and exclusion that undergird strategies of biopolitical governance that create, manage, and invest/disinvest in different immigrant populations. Methodologies of culture require difference—albeit a legible difference that can be shaped to conform with eligibility criteria—in order to secure belonging into the population of “battered immigrant women” for some South Asian survivors of violence. This mechanism constructs and exempts an ideal multicultural victim-subject whose experience of violence is located primarily in the interpersonal sphere and obscures the structural violence that impacts the everyday lives of immigrant women who are not eligible for recognition as “battered immigrant women.” I also argue that the privileging of good victim-subjects who can be folded into the larger citizenry occurs at the expense of those who are deemed too unruly to be managed and, thus, excluded from SAWOs’ constituencies. The articulation of these relationships that currently underlie strategies to counter domestic violence in South Asian communities hopes to encourage social change models that envision transformation by centralizing the marginalized subsets of our communities.

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