State Power, Violence, and Everyday Life in South Asia Series
A talk by Jinee Lokaneeta (Drew)
"State Violence in Democracies: Torture, Policing, and Scientific Interrogations in India"
Abstract: In August 2021, the Chief Justice of India Ramana stated: “The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in Police Stations. Custodial torture and other police atrocities are problems that still prevail in our society,” thereby reiterating the need to focus on how police violence and torture as urgent problems in democracies. This talk will broadly be based on Lokaneeta’s recent book The Truth Machines: Policing, Violence, and Scientific Interrogations in India (Univ of Michigan, 2020). The book explores the workings of law, science, and policing in the everyday context to generate a theory of state power and legal violence, challenging the monolithic frameworks about this relationship. Based on cases and interviews with lawyers, police, and forensic psychologies in five Indian cities, Lokaneeta provides insights into a police institution that is founded and refounded in its everyday interactions between state and non-state actors. The postcolonial Indian police have often been accused of using torture in both routine and exceptional criminal cases, but they, and forensic psychologists, have claimed that lie detectors, brain scans, and narcoanalysis (the use of “truth serum,” Sodium Pentothal) represent a paradigm shift away from physical torture; most state high courts in India have upheld this rationale. Attention to truth machines reveals the texture of violence experienced by certain sections of the population, even under the rule of law, especially in terror related cases. Jinee Lokaneeta argues that the attempt to replace physical torture with truth machines in India fails because it relies on a confessional paradigm that is contiguous with torture. Theorizing a concept of Contingent State, this book demonstrates the disaggregated, and decentered nature of state power and legal violence, creating possible sites of critique and intervention.
Jinee Lokaneeta is Chair and Professor in Political Science and International Relations at Drew University. She did her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She completed her bachelors, masters & M.Phil at Delhi University, and taught at Kirori Mal College. Her areas of interest include Law and Violence, Critical Political and Legal Theory, Human Rights & Interdisciplinary Legal Studies. Her most recent book, The Truth Machines: Policing, Violence, and Scientific Interrogations in India (2020), was the co-winner of the C. Herman Pritchett Award from the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association. She is the author of Transnational Torture: Law, Violence, and State Power in the United States and India (2011, 2012) and the co-editor with Nivedita Menon and Sadhna Arya of Feminist Politics: Struggles and Issues (2001).