Violence, Gender, and Subjectivity

Posted: 6 Jun 2008

See all articles by Veena Das

Veena Das

Johns Hopkins University


This review paper examines the interlocking of violence, gender and subjectivity within the overarching framework of the sexualization of the social contract. Tracking the question of gendered belonging to the nation state, the paper reads the anthropological literature along with feminist and critical theory to bring out the relation between reproduction and death as ways of giving life to the Nation-state. Sexual and reproductive violence is shown to be closely linked to the social and cultural imaginaries of order and disorder; and violence, far from being an interruption of the ordinary, is seen to be folded into the ordinary. The ethnographic record shows the concept of violence to be extremely unstable. Instead of policing the definition of violence, the paper takes the instability as crucial for understanding how the reality of violence includes its virtuality and its potential to make and unmake social worlds. The paper argues that the category of gender is crucial for understanding what connects the national to the domestic, and empire to colonies. The third term subjectivity runs through the entire text as we see how the subject comes to be attached to larger collectivities as well as the astonishing range of emotions through which subjects come into being in relation to violence. It is hoped that the centrality of gender in the understanding of violence will show the deep connections between the spectacular and the everyday.

Suggested Citation

Das, Veena, Violence, Gender, and Subjectivity. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 37, October 2008. Available at SSRN:

Veena Das (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

Baltimore, MD 20036-1984
United States

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