Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Research Initiative
Contact: Angana P. Chatterji, Paola Bacchetta
Email: achatterji@berkeley.edu, pbacchetta@berkeley.edu

The Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Research Initiative is housed at the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley. This Research Initiative focuses on political conflict and gendered and attendant sexualized violences at the intersections of minoritization, majoritarianism, the racialization of difference, and decolonial responses and movements. Interdisciplinary in practice and rooted in local knowledge, the project contends with the condition of quotidian and protracted violence and the contested terrain of social justice and people’s rights. It seek to understand how those affected/those “Othered” live with social suffering and death-bound conditions and ameliorate their effects, define mechanisms justice and accountability, seeks psychosocial healing and political solutions, and undertakes the work of archiving and memorialization. This Research Initiative expands on methods in justice and accountability, drawing on diverse imaginaries, and situated and comparative contexts to address routinized states of emergency and exception. The Initiative works with a collaborative network of victimized-survivor-subjects, scholars, and academic and civil society leaders and institutions. The Research Initiative focuses on the centrality of political and foundational violence in contested regions and nation-states of the (post)colony, initially with particular emphasis on South Asia.


Enabling Critical Thought and Inquiry

The Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project, instituted in April 2012 at the Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, was precursor to the Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Research Initiative. After completion of its first and successful phase, the project moved to the Center for Race and Gender (CRG) in January 2016, to further enabl interdisciplinary commitments in the next phase of its work. A pioneering, interdisciplinary research center, CRG houses research initiatives and working groups concerned with race and gender (as well as coloniality and other relations of power), allowing them to develop freely and flourish.

Temporal and spatial, landscapes of political and foundational violence contour capillaries and relations of power that are prohibitive and productive, constituting and circumscribing forms of knowledge, subjectivity and governance. In the (post)colony in South Asia, apparatuses of majoritarian, (trans)nationalist, and religionized violence and militarization assist in the securitization of nation (toward assimilation, elimination, and annihilation). Across conflict zones and spaces of mass violence, violent death and the threat of death, torture, maiming, disappearances, and dispossession function to routinize states of emergency, siege and exception. Conflict-based and upheaval-ridden political economies witness the dramatic amplification of social inequities under neoliberal, majoritarian states. Violence in conflict and upheaval is disbursed through “extrajudicial” means and those authorized by law and politics. Targeted communities and decolonial movements, too, use violence as response. Death and social death, prevalent across the culturescape and in the social sub-strata, are memorialized via language and iconography.

How are archaeologies of violence illustrative of the gendered, racialized and religionized dynamics of minoritization? How are the conditions and events of violence gendered and sexualized? How do assemblages of racialization and gendering constitute death-bound subjects? How is violence used to sustain and re-work the minoritization of an Other? What critical practices of mourning, memorialization and the sacred emerge in response to a politics of violence that agentizes multiple relations to justice, struggle, difference and accountability?

Students: The Research Initiative provides internship opportunities for exceptional graduate students and select undergraduate students from UC Berkeley and other institutions, and from local communities. The Research Initiative engages age-appropriate youth from affected communities in the work of documenting remembrance, and creating an archive and curated presentations.

Dr. Angana Chatterji’s Testimony on Kashmir, 10/22/19, Dr. Angana Chatterji’s testimony before the U.S. Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, at the hearing titled “Human Rights in South Asia: Views from the State Department and the Region.” Find the testimonyappendices, and full proceedings here.




Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence: The Right to Heal, a research monograph released at the University of California, Berkeley, is a pioneering publication authored by an interdisciplinary and global collective of experts, and draws on work with women victim-survivors of conflict and mass violence in defining redress. Gendered and sexualized violence in internal conflict and social upheaval repeatedly mark the reality of several countries that otherwise function as political democracies. Applying the novel conception of the “right to heal,” this publication focuses on the world’s most populous democracy: India.

The publication carries a statement from Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2008-2014, and a foreword by Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University. The 432-page monograph is edited by Angana P. Chatterji, Shashi Buluswar, and Mallika Kaur of the Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project at UC Berkeley. The contributors to the monograph are Angana P. Chatterji, Mallika Kaur, Roxanna Altholz, Paola Bacchetta, Rajvinder Singh Bains, Mihir Desai, Laurel E. Fletcher, Parvez Imroz, Jeremy J. Sarkin, and Pei Wu.

PURCHASE publication as hard copy at University of Chicago Press.


Access to Justice for Women: India’s Response to Sexual Violence in Conflict and Mass Social Unrest
is co-authored by the International Human Rights Law Clinic at Berkeley Law School and the Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project. Access to Justice for Women: India’s Response to Sexual Violence in Conflict and Social Upheaval examines emblematic case examples from conflict zones and incidents of mass violence to understand how the Indian State responds to sexual violence against women and girls in these contexts. The goal of this Report is to analyze the efforts of women victims of sexual violence and their allies to access justice in these contexts and to identify emblematic ways the Indian legal system succeeded or failed to provide effective redress.

Download publication as PDF.



Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism is Changing India, edited by Angana P. Chatterji, Thomas Boom Hansen, and Christophe Jaffrelot.

Majoritarian State traces the ascendance of Hindu nationalism in contemporary India. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP administration has established an ethno-religious and populist style of rule since 2014. Its agenda is also pursued beyond the formal branches of government, as the new dispensation portrays conventional social hierarchies as intrinsic to Indian culture while condoning communal and caste- and gender-based violence.

The contributors explore how Hindutva ideology has permeated the state apparatus and formal institutions, and how Hindutva activists exert control over civil society via vigilante groups, cultural policing and violence. Groups and regions portrayed as ‘enemies’ of the Indian state are the losers in a new order promoting the interests of the urban middle class and business elites. As this majoritarian ideology pervades the media and public discourse, it also affects the judiciary, universities and cultural institutions, increasingly captured by Hindu nationalists. Dissent and difference silenced and debate increasingly sidelined as the press is muzzled or intimidated in the courts. Internationally, the BJP government has emphasised hard power and a fast- expanding security state.

This collection of essays offers rich empirical analysis and documentation to investigate the causes and consequences of the illiberal turn taken by the world’s largest democracy.

Contributors include Paola Bacchetta, Co-Chair, Political Conflict, Gender, and People’s Rights Initiative.

Collaborative Network: People and Partners

Research Initiative Co-chairs:
Paola Bacchetta and Angana P. Chatterji

  • Academic Institutions:
    • Standford University Libraries
    • WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice
    • Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research, Columbia University (Between 2013 – 2017)
    • Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University (Between 2013 – 2017)
    • International Human Rights Law Clinic, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley (Between 2013 – 2015)
    • International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, Stanford University Law School (Between 2012-2014)

  • Regional and Diaspora Civil Society Organizations:
    • Apne Aap Women Worldwide (holding special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, United Nations)
    • Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, Philippines
    • Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong
    • Asian Legal Resource Center, Hong Kong (holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, United Nations)
    • Indian American Muslim Council (Between 2012 – 2015)

  • South Asia Civil Society Organizations:
    • Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Jammu & Kashmir
    • Citizen’s for Justice and Peace, Mumbai
    • Khalra Mission Organization, Punjab (Between 2013-2015)
    • Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network (Between 2012-2013)
    • Prashant: Center for Human Rights, Justice, and Peace, Gujarat (Between 2013-2015)
Affiliated Scholars:
  • Distinguished Scholars:
    • Christophe Jaffrelot, Senior Research Fellow at Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales at Sciences Po, Paris; Research Director at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the India Institute, King’s College, London
  • Research Scholar:
    • Nimmi Gowrinathan, Director, Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative and Visiting Associate Professor, Colin Powell Center for Civic and Global Leadership, City College of New York
 Advisory Group:
  • Roxanna Altholz, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law & Associate Director, International Human Rights Law Clinic, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Betsy Apple, Advocacy Director, Open Society Justice Initiative, New York
  • Rajvinder Singh Bains, Counsel, Punjab High Court and Haryana High Court
  • Patrick Ball, Executive Director, Human Rights Data Analysis Group, San Francisco
  • Elazar Barkan, Professor of International and Public Affairs, Director of SIPA’s Human Rights Concentration & Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University
  • Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English & Director of the Humanities Center, Harvard University
  • Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, School of Public Health & Director of Research, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University
  • Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and Professor, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University
  • Wendy Brown, Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
  • Shashi Buluswar, Development and Human Rights Specialist and Founding Co-chair, Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project, Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, from 2012-2015
  • Urvashi Butalia, Author,Co-founder of Kali for Women, and Director of Zubaan, Delhi
  • Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature & Co-director of the Program of Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley
  • Richard M. Buxbaum, Jackson H. Ralston Professor Emeritus of International Law, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Andrik Cardenas, Former Associate Director, Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
  • Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University
  • Charlie Clements, Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiativeand Former Executive Director (2009-2015), Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School, Harvard University
  • David Cohen, Director, WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford Global Studies, Stanford University, & Visiting Professor in the Graduate School, University of California, Berkeley; and Professor, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai`i
  • Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor, Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
  • Malathi de Alwis, Visiting Professor, Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo
  • Mihir Desai, Senior Counsel, Mumbai High Court and Supreme Court of India
  • Laurel Fletcher, Clinical Professor of Law & Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Bijo Francis, Executive Director, Asia Legal Resource Center, Hong Kong
  • Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Pamela M. Graham, Director, Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research and Director of Global Studies, Lehman Social Sciences Library, Columbia University
  • Sam Gregory, Program Director, WITNESS, New York
  • Inderpal Grewal, Professor, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Yale University
  • Thomas Bolm Hansen, Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor in South Asian Studies, Professor in Anthropology, and Director of Center for South Asia, Stanford University
  • Parvez Imroz, Counsel, Jammu & Kashmir High Court and President, Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Srinagar
  • Abdul R. JanMohamed, Professor, Department of English, University of California, Berkeley
  • Isfundiar Kasuri, Program Director, Justice Project Pakistan
  • Mallika Kaur, Human Rights and Gender Specialist and Director of Programs, Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project, Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, from 2012-2015
  • Amitava Kumar, Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English, Vassar College
  • Vinay Lal, Associate Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Harsh Mander, Director, Center for Equity Studies, Delhi
  • Jaykumar Menon, Legal Expert and Professor of Practice, McGill University
  • Ritu Menon, Writer, Co-founder of Kali for Women​, and Publisher of Women Unlimited, Delhi​
  • Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Sociology, and the Cultural Foundations of Education & Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, Syracuse University
  • Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, Delhi and Manipur
  • Khurram Parvez, Program Coordinator, Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Srinagar
  • Sudhir Pattnaik, Civil Society Leader and Editor of Samadrusti, a human rights news magazine, Bhubaneswar
  • C. Ryan Perkins, South Asian Studies Librarian, Stanford University
  • Jyoti Puri, Professor of Sociology, Simmons College
  • Paul Rabinow, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Laura Ring, Cataloger and Southern Asia Librarian, University of Chicago
  • Kathy Roberts, Legal Director, Center for Justice and Accountability
  • Naomi Roht-Arriaza, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law
  • Richard Rudd, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation, Berkeley
  • Jeremy Sarkin, Professor of Law, University of South Africa and Distinguished Visiting Professor, Nova University Law School, Lisbon, Portugal & Former Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
  • Stefan Schmitt, Director, International Forensic Program, Physicians for Human Rights
  • Kim Thuy Seelinger, Director, Sexual Violence Program, Human Rights Center, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Artist, Curator, Raqs Media Collective, New Delhi
  • Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai
  • Dina Siddiqi, Professor, Anthropology Collective and Economics and Social Sciences Department, BRAC University, Dhaka
  • Nora Silver, Faculty Director, Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
  • Khatharya Um, Associate Professor and Coordinator, Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, Chair, Peace and Conflict Studies & Faculty Academic Director, Berkeley Study Abroad, University of California, Berkeley

Generously assisted by:

  • Research Associates:
    • Alejandro Urruzmendi, Doctoral Student, 2013-present: Department of Education, University of San Francisco | Expected 2018
    • Pei Wu, Independent Scholar

Research Initiative Co-chairs: Paola Bacchetta and Angana P. Chatterji

ANGANA P. CHATTERJI is Co-chair, Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Research Initiative and Visiting Research Anthropologist at the Center for Race and Gender at University of California, Berkeley (and Founding Co-chair of the precursor, Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project at the Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, 2012-2015). A cultural anthropologist, she focuses her scholarly work on issues of political conflict; gender, power and violence; majoritarian nationalism, minoritization and racialization; religion in the public sphere, religious freedom; and reparatory justice and cultural survival. Chatterji’s scholarship bears witness to postcolonial, decolonial conditions of grief, dispossession, and agency.

In Kashmir, Chatterji co-founded (2008), and was co-convener of (2008-2012), the People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice. She was a Member of the Drafting Committee on Minimum Standards, Second World Congress on Psychosocial Restitution in 2010. In 2005, Chatterji founded the People’s Tribunal on Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Odisha. In 2004, Chatterji served on a two-person independent commission on displacement and rehabilitation in the Narmada Valley. In 1984, Chatterji worked in the post-violence camps for Sikh victims-survivors in Delhi. In 2017, she was appointed a Research Fellow at the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University. In 2015-2016, Chatterji was a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR) at Columbia University. Chatterji taught doctoral seminars in anthropology and philosophical foundations of education in 2013-2014 at the University of San Francisco’s School of Education as Adjunct Professor. Previously, Chatterji served on the faculty in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she co-created a graduate curriculum in postcolonial anthropology as Professor (2009-2011), Associate Professor (2000-2009), and Adjunct Professor (1997-2000). Between 1989-2002, Chatterji worked with the Indian Social Institute and Planning Commission of India, and as Director of Research at the Asia Forest Network, initially housed at the University of California, Berkeley.

Chatterji’s publications include: sole authored books: Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India’s Present: Narratives from Orissa (Three Essays Collective, 2009); Land and Justice: The Struggle for Cultural Survival (forthcoming); co-contributed monograph for which she is lead editor: Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence: The Right to Heal; Internal Conflict and Social Upheaval in India (ACRes-CSSL, University of California, Berkeley, 2015; Zubaan, U. Chicago distribution, 2016); co-edited volume: Contesting Nation: Gendered Violence in South Asia; Notes on the Postcolonial Present (Zubaan, 2012, U. Chicago distribution, 2013); co-contributed anthology: Kashmir (Verso, 2011); reports for which she is lead author: BURIED EVIDENCE: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Kashmir (2009), Communalism in Orissa (2006), and Without Land or Livelihood (2004); sole authored monograph: Community Forest Management in Arabari: Understanding Socioeconomic and Subsistence Issues (Ford Foundation, 1996); and co-edited journal double issue: Cultural Dynamics: Theory Cross-Cultures (2004), “Gendered Violence in South Asia: Nation and Community in the Postcolonial Present”; and over thirty-five academic articles, book chapters, and research briefs and reports.

Chatterji has served on human rights commissions and offered expert testimony, including at the United Nations, European Parliament, United Kingdom Parliament, and United States Congress. Chatterji holds a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in Political Science, and a Ph.D. in the Humanities. Chatterji has served on the board of directors of International Rivers Network and Earth Island Institute, and the Advisory Board of the Kashmir Initiative at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Chatterji is a founding member of the South Asia Feminist Preconference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Email achatterji@berkeley.edu

PAOLA BACCHETTA is a Professor and the Vice Chair of the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of California, Berkeley. Her books include: Co-Motion: Situated Planetarities, Co-Formations and Co-Productions in Feminist and Queer Alliances, forthcoming, Duke University Press; Femminismi Queer Postcoloniali: critiche transnazionali all’omofobia, all’islamofobia e all’omonazionalismo (Queer Postcolonial Feminisms: Transnational Critiques of Homophobia, Islamophobia and Homonationalism), contributing co-editor with Laura Fantone, Verona, Italy: Ombre Corte, 2015; Gender in the Hindu Nation: RSS Women as Ideologues, India: Women Ink, 2004; Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists around the World, contributing co-editor with Margaret Power, New York: Routledge, 2002; Textes du Mouvement Lesbien en France, 1970-2000 (Texts from the French Lesbian Movement, 1970-2000), co-editor with Claudie Lesselier, on DVD, self-published, 2011; and Global Racialities: Empire, Decoloniality and Post-Coloniality, co-edited with Sunaina Maira, forthcoming with Routledge. Professor Bacchetta has published about fifty academic journal articles and book chapters in many languages, on questions of gender, race, queer subjects, (de)colonialities, capitalism, political conflict, Islamophobia and social movements.

See: http://berkeley.academia.edu/PaolaBacchetta