Ryan C. Gaglio


Nietzsche observed that the commonest stupidity consists of forgetting what one is trying to do. As Ratna Kapur argues in Erotic Justice: Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism, political activism's continued reliance on liberal and Western feminist agendas evinces an absence of deep thinking, in turn unwittingly reinforcing the hegemony and subordination it means to challenge. In this collection of essays, Kapur draws from postcolonial feminist legal theory to critique the misguided causal logic of liberalism, which mistakenly assumes that "more rights lead to more freedom and greater equality." Examining law and political activism, Kapur concludes that, unless modem postcolonial society is understood as the site of an historical, discursive struggle informed by the colonial past, steadfast allegiance to the rights project of liberalism risks perpetuating the subordination of oppressed subaltern groups under the illusive panacea of universal rights. Kapur uses her analysis of the condition of Indian women, transnational migrants, and sexual subalternsgroups marginally situated in and subordinate to hegemonic Indian culture-to interrogate the broader agenda of liberalism and Western feminism. This agenda ostensibly endeavors to protect third-world "victims," but, instead, Kapur argues, it tends to offer legal protection on terms that paradoxically reinforce normative and essentialist assumptions of gender, culture, and agency-thus perpetuating the very subordination and victimization it seeks to remedy.

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