Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2024

Document Type




First Advisor

Vyjayanthi V Rao

Second Advisor

Keller Easterling


Authorizing Violence: Spatial Techniques of Citizenship Politics in Northeast India studies the spatial and legal instruments through which Hindu Nationalism and its political front, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), operates in Northeast India. I document the means through which authoritarian power has been introduced into a democratic structure of governance. Emphasizing the role of architecture and spatial knowledge, I attend to how the violence of disenfranchisement and dispossession is legitimized under the force of law.

For this, Chapter 1, entitled 'Legislating Containment,' turns to the legal instrument of citizenship and studies the Goalpara detention center and multi-purpose criminal jails in the northeastern state of Assam. The chapter illustrates how the conception of Indian nationhood and citizenship is fundamentally reformed by constructing a legislative loophole. As a result, a mechanism of detaining and disenfranchising has been set up for Bengali Muslims in the region. This chapter attends to how clearly defined laws have authorized the violence of indefinite detention. Chapter 2, 'Discontinuous Border,' traces the intermittent fences along the India-Bangladesh border. It explains how a discontinuous border fence allows the positioning of the military with shoot-at-sight orders and proliferates the infrastructures for the limestone extraction industry. It emphasizes how the logic of infrastructural development is co-opted to make borders inseparable from circulations of global economic power and capital and finance ethnonationalist motives. Chapter 3, entitled 'Conservation Nationalism' looks at the Kaziranga National Park, where the global efforts of conserving the One-horned Rhinoceros and emergent environmentalism are repackaged with ideas of national heritage and religious patriotism to evict Bengali Muslim migrants that dwell in the forest margins. This chapter looks at how forest land rights are predicated on spatial knowledge of image resolutions of satellite images to expand national park boundaries and carry out eviction drives.

In all three cases, I show how spatial and legal instruments are used to introduce illiberal forms of rule within the existing liberal democratic structure of governance. I document how violence is legally authorized and spatially delivered in Northeast India.