This article is about the controversial educational practice of corporal punishment – known as taibatsu in Japan – which challenged me to reflect upon my anthropological heart and find my anthropological identity. Corporal punishment is a practice around which many ideas and discourses about education, social order, human rights and even power swirl, and it is therefore an inherently sociocultural practice wherever it takes place. Like other forms of violence, it also poses a personal challenge to anthropologists who observe it in practice and have to decide whether to remain an observing bystander. At one time, I made that choice. In this article, I explain why I no longer do.
One Path to Positive Anthropological Activism
Aaron L. Miller
The Construction of Boyhood through Corporal Punishment and Educational Discipline in Taare Zameen Par
In this article I examine boyhood as presented through the figure of an eight year- old boy, Ishaan, in the Hindi film Taare Zameen Par (2007). In the current era of India’s globalization, how does the particular politics of hegemonic masculinity inform the very foundations underlying the family and school as punitive structures? By positing the analytical perspectives of childhood studies and the performativity of identity against Foucauldian inflected terminology, I argue that Ishaan enacts the dual role of both victim and agent in a film that mediates between two forms of harsh regulatory practices—corporal punishment and educational discipline. The climactic reorientation of an ideal boyhood gradually unfolds against the backdrop of the performances of other contrasting masculinities installed through the figures of the boy’s father, brother, fellow-students, and school-teachers. By drawing such interconnections, I see the film as contesting the ways in which domestic and academic institutions affect contemporary masculine subject formation.