Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Legg, S. (2023). Carceral and colonial domesticities: Subaltern case geographies of a Delhi rescue home. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Open access

This article explores a relatively rare archival account of female subjectivity, experience, mobility, and voice within a carceral institution in late-colonial Delhi. The capital’s “Rescue Home” was created to house women and girls removed from the city’s brothels under new legislation. While no brothels were closed in the first year of the laws functioning, the home accepted 18 women and girls and detailed their circumstances and experiences in its 1940 report. It was able to forcibly detain girls and was run upon disciplinary and racial lines, like other colonial institutions. But its inhabitants were not subject to detailed surveillance. Rather, their lives were ones usually beyond recording or whose stories were actively silenced. The 1940 Rescue Home report provides us with rich details of the commonplace, quotidian struggles which women and girls faced in colonial Delhi. The 18 case geographies of the Home’s inhabitants help us understand how sexuality and motherhood, education and character, and race all shaped routes into the home and destinations when people left. The accounts tell us of a carceral governmentality with influence beyond the disciplinary institution’s walls, but also of female subjects who resisted, spoke back, and absconded. This relationship between forced immobility and willed mobility suggests that brothels and rescue homes were not just connected, through the intended transfer of inhabitants, but can be directly compared as carceral domesticities.

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