Hokkolorob, campus politics and the pre-histories of #MeToo
in Intimacy and injury
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Current discussions on sexual harassment have been, because of its extent, impact and celebrity involvement, overdetermined by the #MeToo phenomenon. In India, ‘the List’ has defined the terms of recent feminist debates on harassment in academia. This has deflected our gaze from developments in Indian higher education campuses which anticipated issues raised by the List. This chapter traces this pre-history by exploring the shifting discourse on sexual harassment within student politics in India. Using the case study of the 2014 Hokkolorob (let there be clamour) students’ movement in Jadavpur University, Kolkata, which started in response to a harassment incident, the chapter explores the discursive and ideological changes in the framing of sexual harassment and the engagement with gender and sexuality issues within campus politics. It locates these shifts within a larger context of changing student demographics, privatisation of education which coexists with increasing state intervention in public universities, funding cuts and other factors. While focussing on Hokkolorob, other harassment cases will also be analysed to examine the discussions they have generated on the need for a feminist understanding of sexism and abuse in interpersonal, professional even political relationships and their intersections with caste and class dynamics within campuses responding to the contradictory pulls of neoliberalism and democratisation. Understanding these issues can help to better locate the #MeToo moment in Indian academia and see it not just as a List-inspired crisis but a manifestation of larger changes.

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