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Jinee Lokaneeta, Political Science, Drew University

  • When: October 13, 2021, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at

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Policing in Liberal Democracies: Legal Violence and Scientific Interrogations in India.

On Aug 8, 2021, the Chief Justice of India stated: “The threat to human rights and bodily integrity are the highest in Police Stations. Custodial torture and other police atrocities are problems that still prevail in our society,” thereby reiterating the need to focus on Policing in Liberal Democracies. This talk will broadly be based on Lokaneeta’s recent bookThe Truth Machines: Policing, Violence, and Scientific Interrogations in India (Michigan,2020). The bookexplores the workings of law, science, and policing in the everyday context to generate a theory of state power and legal violence, challenging the monolithic frameworks about this relationship. Based on cases and interviews with lawyers, police, and forensic psychologies in five Indian cities, Lokaneeta provides insights into a police institution that is founded and refounded in its everyday interactions between state and non-state actors. The postcolonial Indian police have often been accused of using torture in both routine and exceptional criminal cases, but they, and forensic psychologists, have claimed that lie detectors, brain scans, and narcoanalysis (the use of “truth serum,” Sodium Pentothal) represent a paradigm shift away from physical torture; most state high courts in India have upheld this rationale. Attention to truth machines reveals the texture of violence experienced by certain sections of the population, even under the rule of law, especially in terror related cases. Jinee Lokaneeta argues that the attempt to replace physical torture with truth machines in India fails because it relies on a confessional paradigm that is contiguous with torture. Theorizing a concept of Contingent State, this book demonstrates the disaggregated, and decentered nature of state power and legal violence, creating possible sites of critique and intervention.

Photo and bio courtesy of Drew University

Jinee Lokaneeta is a professor in political science and international relations. Her areas of interest include law and violence, political theory including critical and feminist theory, global human rights, and interdisciplinary legal studies. She is the author of Transnational Torture: Law, Violence, and State Power in the United States and India (2011) and co-editor, with Nivedita Menon and Sadhna Arya, of Feminist Politics: Struggles and Issues (2000). Jinee’s most recent book is titled The Truth Machines: Policing, Violence and Scientific Interrogations in India (University of Michigan Press, 2020) that theorizes the relationship between state power and legal violence by focusing on the intersection of law, science and policing though a study of forensic techniques. She has published in journals such as Economic and Political Weekly, Law, Culture and the Humanities, Studies in Law, Politics & Society and Theory & Event.

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