Capable Women, Incapable States: Negotiating Violence and Rights in India

How do women claim rights against violence in India and with what consequences? In this talk, Poulami Roychowdhury, Assistant Professor at McGill University, will provide a unique lens on rights negotiations in the world’s largest democracy. In her book Capable Women, Incapable States, Roychowdhury observes how women navigate the Indian criminal justice system, and finds that women interact with the law not by following legal procedure or abiding by the rules but by deploying collective threats and doing the work of the state themselves. They do so because law enforcement personnel are incapacitated and unwilling to enforce the law. In this talk, Roychowdhury will discuss how the Indian criminal justice system governs violence against women not by protecting them from harm but by forcing them to become “capable”: to take the law into their own hands and complete the hard work that incapable and unwilling state officials refuse to complete. Roychowdhury’s book houses implications for how we understand gender inequality and governance not just in India but in large parts of the world where political mobilization for rights confronts negligent and incapacitated criminal justice systems. Akshay Mangla, Associate Professor of Said Business School, University of Oxford will chair the event, and Aradhana CV, OICSD scholar and DPhil candidate in Law, will be a discussant.