Sexuality, Vulnerability, and the Oddness of the Human
Lessons from the Mahabharata
This paper is in the nature of a thought experiment that seeks to understand how sovereignty might be the scene of both power and vulnerability. It takes its education from the great epic poem, the Mahabharata, to argue that the epic enacts what it is for humans to imagine their way out from cycles of violence. Introducing the voice of the woman as one of interrogation, the epic dramatizes the moral as the point when we are put in the grips of an uncertainty—in the text this uncertainty hangs over the everyday as an unresolved question as if the text itself was an ongoing argument with God over the meaning of sovereignty, sexuality and vulnerability. It braids together the concepts of violence and non-violence with those of cruelty and non-cruelty. In this sense the paper might be seen as offering an alternative political theology to that of the contract theorists who either make sexuality disappear or make it reappear only as the means through which the reproductive powers of women are securely attached to the life of the nation-state.
Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
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© borderlands ejournal 2010