Research seminar in Cultural Anthropology with Lucia Michelutti

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Room Eng/3-2028
  • Lecturer: Lucia Michelutti is Professor of Anthropology at University College London, author of The Vernacularisation of Democracy. Caste, Religion and Politics in North India (2008) and co-author of Mafia Raj: The Rule of Bosses in South Asia (2018) and Criminal Political Economies in South Asia (2019). In 2020 her project, titled ’Anthropologies of Extortion, has been awarded an ERC-Advance Grant (2021-2025) to study extortion practices cross-culturally.
  • Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
  • Contact person: Chakad Ojani
  • Seminarium

Extortion as Sociality: Investigating Intimidation in North India

This paper investigates acts of intimidation ethnographically. The anthropology of violence and crime has paid scant attention to the morphology of threats and the ways interpersonal intimidation intertwines with economic and political forms of threats. Drawing on ethnographic insights from North India, this paper examines the way (criminal) intimidation is normalized, consented to, and embedded in everyday life. More specifically it explores cases where the threat is crafted by misusing laws originally put in place to protect vulnerable groups, such as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 which amended the law on rape in 2013, and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO). Such laws are often manipulated to extract money, punish, assert dominance and enact revenge in family, clan, and caste relations, to break patriarchal structures and to criminalise consensual sex out of wedlock. It is argued that the anthropological perspective – with its focus on the everyday conceptions and practices of relatedness, exchange, and predation as well as verbal, body, and ritualistic forms of communication – offers an exceptionally useful point of departure to start advancing an ethnographic theory of racket sociality within and beyond ‘traditional’ organized crime networks.