Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kim, "The Story of the Tattooed Lady"

The Fall 2012 issue of Law & Social Inquiry includes "The Story of the Tattooed Lady: Scandal and the Colonial State in British Burma," by Diana Kim (Ph.D. candidate, University of Chicago). Here's the abstract:
This article centers on Branded Woman v. Unknown, an unusual 1889 trial that gave birth to the “ordinarily accepted significance” of Burmese tattoos. What began as a snippet of gossip from a colonial village became a scandal involving the highest echelon of Britain's metropolis. I explain why this dynamic of escalation occurred and how colonial officials in Burma utilized a courtroom to transform tenuous fictions of tattooing into a seemingly coherent fact about Burma. My argument that this process—shaped through cues from a fragmented audience of peers (rather than a single audience of subordinates)—represents the production of an elite public transcript highlights how colonial scandals worked as eventful moments for an always precarious state to reconfigure its claim to power by prompting local agents to enact expressions of certainty. It further carries implications for scholarship on symbolic state power and the construction of legal facts and public knowledge.
Subscribers to the journal may access the full article here.

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