In this essay, I review two books about the social and cultural context of violence in India and Pakistan. Veena Das’s Life and Words provides a remarkable theorization of the anthropological significance of the everyday, and Roma Chatterji and Deepak Mehta’s Living with Violence provides a rich ethnographic treatment of violence and the everyday. Together, these books produce new insights into how social and cultural life can be re-created in the aftermath of violent events. By focusing on mundane, ordinary events over the long duration in contexts filled with conflict and uncertainty, the authors argue convincingly that violent acts are not necessarily only witnessed and remembered but also rewoven in the process of ordinary life into newly imagined cultural worlds. These findings have crucial implications for how anthropologists devise ethnographic studies of large-scale violence. Both books make plain the relevance of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later thought for an ethically responsible ethnography. [violence, language, nation-states, kinship, gender, memory]
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