Earlier this year the film ‘India’s Daughter’ was banned in India: it is illegal to show it there. It is widely agreed that at least part of the Indian government’s reasoning was that it is a form of imperialism. In responding to the ban, the Israeli born, UK-based director of the film, Leslee Udwin, claimed that, as a global citizen, she had the right to make it, and to criticise Indian society. Justifying imperialism using the rhetoric of human rights has a long and continuing history. At the same time, however, the question of how we should respond to representations of people suffering in other countries cannot be avoided. If neo-imperialism is the state of mind that ‘They need us to achieve rights; while we didn’t need them’, what can we learn from the film and its reception about women’s rights, distant suffering, and neo-imperialism?
Kate Nash is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University. In 2010 she was Visiting Professor at the New School for Social Research, New York and Vincent Wright Professor at Sciences Po, Paris.
She has written and published widely, including Contemporary Political Sociology and The Cultural Politics of Human Rights: Comparing the US and UK. The Political Sociology of Human Rights is published in 2015.