Bayen” and the Biopolitical Subjecthood: Gender and Subjectivity in Mahasweta Devi’s “Bayen

Bayen” and the Biopolitical Subjecthood: Gender and Subjectivity in Mahasweta Devi’s “Bayen


Gaana J

Assistant Professor

Department of English Studies

CHRIST (Deemed to be University)

Bangalore, India


Executive Summary

This working paper will attempt to understand a specific kind of female subjectivity—that of a witch as a construct and its implications—as represented in Mahasweta Devi’s “Bayen”. The focus of the paper would be to understand the biopolitical subjecthood of Chandidasi, the Bayen, meaning a witch. This is done by deconstructing the notion of witchcraft by considering the sociocultural and economic contexts of the protagonist. The exclusion of Chandidasi from the village by deeming her a Bayen, erasing her identity as Chandidasi and imposing the new identity of a witch would be central to the concerns of the paper. The gendered subjecthood of the witch that is attributed to Chandidasi is also closely linked to her sexuality and her procreative and lactative ability. The gaze of Chandidasi also becomes immensely significant to understand how the society constructs her witch-selfhood and how this comes to be internalized by her. Using Michel Foucault’s ideas of madness, sexuality and the panopticon, Girgio Agamben’s theorization of the homo sacer, and Julia Kristeva’s ideas of the abject, this paper attempts to argue that the subjecthood of Chandidasi as a witch is instrumental to understand both the inclusion as well as the exclusion of the subject in the society. The paper also provides scope for its development into a full-research paper by providing areas and texts that can further be researched.

Keywords: Bayen, Mahasweta Devi, Subjectivity, Biopolitics, Homosacer, Abjection

Year of Publication: June 2013

ISBN: 978-93-82305-19-4

Working paper: Vol 6 (2013-14)

Pages: vii, 15

Price: available on request
Funded by Centre for Research-Projects-CHRIST (Deemed to be University)