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Rumour Has It

Kalyani Ramnath

Princeton University

January 10, 2009

The objective of this paper is to investigate rumour as a medium for the violence of the state and its role in fashioning the ‘event’, the ‘everyday’ and the legends that are enmeshed in the two. This paper draws upon existing work treating the language of rumour as ‘a perlocutionary force’ that ties seemingly disparate events together. Nevertheless it cannot be tethered to one author, which may make it a site for contestations (Veena Das, 2007). In this region of doubt and anonymity, does the state lurk?

Perhaps the state resides in these ''unfinished stories'' of violence and the law, told by people who are ''translators''. These translations give and take away from the form that the event assumes at any point, given that people speak from different and multiple positions. The attempt is perhaps to piece together fragments, convey their pain suffering. The state is both implicated and vindicated in this process of translation, in these words without an author and in this language whose meaning is uncertain.

The paper uses people’s tellings of such events as a starting point, using the example of a spate of attack on places of worship in Karnataka, India in 2008-2009. How does the subject, living in the ''site of devastation'', engage with the uncertainty of the rumour? What does this imply for democratic practice, if a culture of incompleteness is to be the ‘norm’?

Number of Pages in PDF File: 15

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Date posted: March 23, 2010 ; Last revised: March 30, 2012

Suggested Citation

Ramnath, Kalyani, Rumour Has It (January 10, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1573030 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1573030

Contact Information

Kalyani Ramnath (Contact Author)
Princeton University ( email )
129 Dickinson Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

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