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Abstract

The paper studies the immense opposition to a nonviolent campaign against the practice of moral policing in Kerala to understand the dominant spaces, collective identities, and discourses that give shape to the outrage of public morality in India. The campaign through its politics specifically targeted rightwing and political groups as well as socially embedded familial and institutional structures that exercise control over individuals through patriarchal regimes. The adverse reaction to the campaign revealed that collective aggression or violence can be used to impose majoritarian values and exert social control through the authority of public morality and everyday acts of moral policing in masculinized, politico-religious spaces that characterize the traditional public sphere in India. The contested ‘morals’ were gendered and communal notions particular to the middle classes and central to the maintenance of dominant structures of family, marriage, religious community, and the nation. The same informs notions of popular morality that give moral policing its ‘rational’ authority. The research employs online opinion pieces, reports and discussions, and two structured interviews to examine why the campaign became prominent in the public sphere. It gives coherence to the campaign’s agenda to counter the underlying violence of moral policing and suggests measures for peaceful resolution of public contestations.

Author Bio(s)

Sonia Krishna Kurup is a feminist researcher in migration studies and social movements in India. She obtained her PhD in women’s studies from K S P Women’s Studies Centre, S P Pune University in 2020, and her Master’s degree from Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, New Delhi, in 2012. She also has nearly five years of work experience as a writer and editor, including as an international consultant for UN Women.

Keywords

public morality, gender, India, moral policing, online movement, social media

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