Modern South Asian Studies Seminar: Ambivalence, Ambiguity and Alienation: Making Sense of 'Tension' in North India


Conveners: Matthew McCartney, Mallica Kumbera Landrus and Rosalind O'Hanlon

Speaker: Raphael Susewind (KCL)

How can we understand 'tension', the experience of rigidity that often underpins systemic structures of domination, epistemic violence as well as physical aggression in South Asia? Following Zygmunt Bauman, I want to suggest that 'tension' is the outcome of an overzealous pursuit of moral and categorical clarity which alienates us from the ambiguity of lived experience. At some point, alienation becomes so gross and the aspiration for clarity thus so untenable that it breaks down into ambivalence, and then violence. Deviating from Bauman and others, I however propose a heuristic vocabulary that distinguishes more clearly between ambivalence and ambiguity, building on ethnography of religion, gender and aggression in North India.


Raphael Susewind is Lecturer in Social Anthropology and Development at the Department of International Development, King's College London.

Using a distinct mix of ethnographic and Big Data methods grounded in long-term fieldwork, he explores geographies of Muslim belonging, the ambivalence of the sacred and electoral politics in urban India.

Further Information

All welcome. No prior booking required. For further information please contact Maxime Dargaud-Fons on or 01865-274559. Co-funded by the Ashmolean Museum, the Asian Studies Centre of St Antony's College, the Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, the Faculty of History, the Department of International Development and the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

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