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Race too, after all, along with Gender: Arvind Elangovan

A few facts and some thoughts on the reception of Michaela Cross’s experience of India – Guest Post by ARVIND ELANGOVAN

Since Michaela Cross’s experience was part of a study abroad program conducted annually by the University of Chicago, and I was part of the program – for three years as a graduate student assistant (for the Fall quarters of 2007-2009), and one year as faculty in the program (Fall of 2010) – I think I could most usefully contribute by highlighting a few facts about the program itself. In the process I would think aloud about some of the issues that have come up in the reception of Cross’s experience in India, especially in the responses of Rajyashree Sen and Ameya Naik. I choose Sen’s and Naik’s responses partly because they have been the most recent, but also because between them they represent the spectrum of possible positions that one could usefully take about this issue. Needless to add, there have been other responses, such as the one posted by another fellow University of Chicago student on the trip, an article titled ‘In Defence of Rose Chasm (Michaela Cross) and countless other comments, criticisms, and responses that have flooded the Internet world.

However, between Sen and Naik, the basic ends of the spectrum are quite clear. Sen contends that it is not only a white woman’s problem but an issue for all women and that some self-regulation and discipline would have gone a long way to avert the unsavory experiences if not completely eliminate their possibility. Naik, at the other end of the spectrum, points out that the expectation of preparedness or caution urged by Sen belies the possibility of questioning the pervasive culture of sexual violence, in which any cautionary attempt to be safe, is to pay merely lip service to acknowledging the crime of sexual violence, instead of combating more difficult questions about such a culture. Continue reading Race too, after all, along with Gender: Arvind Elangovan