Francis Cody | Defamation Machine: Law, Free Speech, and the Political Body

Lecture | November 7 | 5-7 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conf. Room)

 Francis Cody, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto

 Lawrence Cohen, Professor in Anthropology and South and Southeast Asian Studies, UC Berkeley

 Institute for South Asia Studies, Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies, Townsend Center Working Group on Form and Formalism, Linguistic Anthropology Working Group at UC Berkeley, Department of Anthropology

A talk by Professor Francis Cody, scholar of the language and politics of southern India and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto.

Debates on defamation and sedition in India have been conducted mostly in the realm of normative legal theory, where the argument for decriminalization is well-reasoned. This talk takes a more sociological approach using materials from Tamil Nadu, the state with the highest number of criminal defamation cases, to analyze a broad set of relationships that have developed among news media, party politics, and the legal system. Accusations of defamation made by political leaders and the criminalization of critical journalism serve to fuel the very engine of print capitalism while providing greater exposure for both the politician and the news organization involved. The field of political contestation that has opened as result of the law’s application in efforts to quell dissent thus brings together a diverse set of actors into relationships that are both agonistic and interdependent. Paying attention to these relations of mutual recognition can unlock some of deeper the dynamics animating the political public sphere, where the medium of defamation law has also acted in a substantial manner to consolidate the personality of political leaders as the grounds of a sovereignty that exceeds even that of the state.

Speaker Bio
Francis Cody is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto. He has been teaching at U of T since 2008. His research focuses on language, politics, and media in southern India. He first brought these interests to bear on a study of citizenship, literacy, and social movement politics in Tamilnadu. Based on two years of fieldwork in the rural district of Pudukkottai, this work was published as a book called The Light of Knowledge: Literacy Activism and the Politics of Writing in South India (Cornell 2013), winner of the 2014 Edward Sapir Book Prize awarded by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology. Dr. Cody’s more recent research traces the emergence of populist democracy and transformations of political publicity through Tamil and English news media. This work, funded by a five-year SSHRC-Insight Research Grant, explores questions of law, technology, and violence in claims to representing popular sovereignty. Taken as a whole, his work contributes to the transdisciplinary project of elaborating critical social theories of mass mediation and politics in the postcolonial world.

Read more about Prof. Cody at his faculty webpage HERE

Event made possible with the support of the Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies

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Please note that parking is not always easily available in Berkeley. Take public transportation if possible or arrive early to secure your spot.

The event is FREE and OPEN to the public., 510-642-3608