EIHS Lecture: "Forensic Proofs of Age and the Enactment of Childhood in Colonial India"
Abstract: This talk scrutinizes a slew of rape cases from colonial India in which the victim’s tender age was taken as proof of a crime, or the perpetrator’s youth was seen as evidence of innocence. In cases where forensics failed to confirm chronological age, judges referenced moral understandings of childhood and sexual codes of conduct to sort children from adults. Tracing the gap that opened up between clear enactments on childhood and fuzzy proofs of age, this talk asks why age remained a fundamental element of legal identity and social order despite its frailty as a medico-legal fact, and whether age can function as a useful category of analysis in every historical context.
Ishita Pande is Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies at Queen's University, focusing on post/colonial South Asia and the British Empire. She is the author of Medicine, Race and Liberalism in British Bengal: Symptoms of Empire (2010). She is currently working on the emergence of childhood and sexuality as disciplinary and governmental problems in the early twentieth century, and the place of scientific and legal discourses on childhood to the idea of national development in India. This book-length project is provisionally titled, "A Developing State: Children, Sexuality and India’s Coming of Age."
Free and open to the public.
This lecture is part of the Thursday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.