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Understanding Violence in Place: Travelling Knowledge Paradigms and Measuring Domestic Violence in India
Authors: Piedalue, A.
Source: Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 22(1): 63-91; DOI: 10.1177/0971521514556947
Topic(s): Domestic violence
Country: Asia
Published: FEB 2015
Abstract: This article investigates how ‘gender-based violence’ is taken up as a subject of research, and more specifically, how gender violence is understood and researched in the ‘developing world’. Based on analysis of the domestic violence module included in India’s National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3, 2005–2006), I argue that current international trends in survey research on gender violence pay insufficient attention to place-based contexts and the working of structural forces. The domestic violence module used in the NFHS-3 and other demographic health surveys (DHS) derives from a measurement scale developed in the US in the 1970s, and deploys particular assumptions about what constitutes domestic violence. This quantitative survey measure universalises a conception of domestic violence as a personal problem, rather than a systemic social issue. As a travelling knowledge paradigm, the survey elides histories of development intervention in India that have exacerbated and produced women’s vulnerability to violence, and ultimately offers more development as the solution to the problem of gender violence. The mobility of this travelling knowledge paradigm derives from a particular form of biopolitics. By prioritising scope and speed, these surveys erase the complexities of gender violence, thereby significantly hindering not only efforts to understand this violence, but also those aimed at preventing it. Keywords: biopolitics; demographic health surveys; development; Gender violence; policy travel