Resistant vulnerability: Voices of feminist dissent from the Panjabi minority in Italy

  • Sara Ahimsa Bonfanti (University of Trento (ITA))


Set in Brescia, an Italian city with a sizeable Indo-Pakistani minority, this article considers the media panic that honor killings raised and echoed nationwide since 2006. Based on extensive ethnographic work, the article draws from participant observation and personal narratives shared with Panjabi locals to investigate such ‘cultural crimes’, pondering which status of victim is (self-)ascribed to ‘Brown immigrant’ women. While the remnants of a Mediterranean culture of ‘honor-and-shame’ is almost forgotten today in the country, the repressive control that South Asian women seem to endure within their domestic environments saw the simultaneous condemnation from different social actors. As racialized Islamophobia escalates, the protection of migrant/ethnic women from honour-related violence (HRV) becomes more complex: who is entitled to ‘defend’ them? When and where can these women raise their own voices? The intersectional resistance that Panjabi women in Italy oppose against the objectification inflicted on them by family, community and public discourses (liberal feminist, multicultural or chauvinist) can barely be heard. Concurring with critical literature on HRV, this article argues to critically interrogate the idea of culture as a motivation for violence against minority women but also recognizes the pervasiveness of such narrative in the strenuous efforts waged by the same subjects in voicing their distress.

Keywords: honor and shame, femicides, culturally oriented crimes, xenophobia, gendered racism.

How to Cite:

Bonfanti, S. A., (2022) “Resistant vulnerability: Voices of feminist dissent from the Panjabi minority in Italy”, DiGeSt - Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies 9(2), 54–69. doi:

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Published on
26 Dec 2022
Peer Reviewed