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Monthly Archives: October 2017

E-ESSAYS FROM ZUBAAN | 16 OCTOBER, WOMEN'S WRITING/LITERATURE

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE!

Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase. To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here! 

Our previous sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movementssexual violencedomestic space and kinshipreligion and conflictstate crimes and impunitytraumahealth, violence against womenand nation.

The essays in this set study women’s writing in historical context, and the ways in which it fashions discourse. Authors Meenakshi Moon and Urmila Pawar focus on Dalit women’s voices in the rich literary tradition of the mid-twentieth century; while Uma Chakravarti looks specifically at writing about widowhood, both personal and critical; and Tilottoma Misra’s work showcases Assamese women, detailing the subjective experience of violence through poetry and prose. Together the pieces offer an alternative understanding of how notions of ‘literature’ come to be, through specificities of theme, language, politics and law.

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 1. 'ON WIDOWHOOD: THE CRITIQUE OF CULTURAL PRACTICES IN WOMEN'S WRITING' by UMA CHAKRAVARTI, from REWRITING HISTORY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PANDITA RAMABAI (1998)

35_On Widowhood_cover

This essay examines women’s writing in the 19th century on the oppression of widows, focusing on voices that writer Uma Chakravarti believes have been invisibilized over the years. Stating that the history of social reforms and widowhood has been predominantly understood from a knowledge-based male perspective, Chakravarti proposes balancing the discourse with several female perspectives based on experiencing widowhood first-hand.

The essay is divided into three parts: the first focuses on women’s works on widowhood, examining the writing of Sushila Devi, Tarabai Shinde and Rakhmabai. The second section looks at widows from Poona Widows’ Home writing about their own experiences, and the third at writers like Pandita Ramabai and Parvati Athavale who were actively involved in providing support to other widows. From scathing criticism to personal experiences, the works criticize the then existing male-dominant Reformist movement, which focused only on widow remarriage, and outline the problems faced by widows, such as deprivation of basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, and the enforcement of unpaid and unacknowledged labour. 54 pp. Read more.

₹70.00

Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

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2. 'ENLIGHTENMENT THROUGH LITERATURE' by MEENAKSHI MOON, URMILA PAWAR, WANDANA SONALKAR (TRANS.), from WE ALSO MADE HISTORY: WOMEN IN THE AMBEDKARITE MOVEMENT (1989)

36_Enlightenment Through Literature

This essay is a historical overview of Dalit literature, focusing on the contribution of women writers. The authors Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon show how the Dalit movement gained momentum with the rise of Dalit centric newspapers and literary societies, which gave a voice to the Dalit people. Led by Babasaheb Ambedkar, this literary movement was strengthened through talks, discussions, analysis of folk songs, and by spreading literacy and encouraging research. By the 1960s, Dalit writers had created a huge collection of short stories, poems, novels, autobiographies and analytical pieces.

The authors focus on the gradual increase of female voices and perspectives in Dalit writing – on topics ranging from religious customs like funerary rites, birth control, to mixed marriages. Appreciating these works for their literary merits as well as social significance, the authors suggest that they helped people understand and appreciate their own history, and facilitated the spread of radical ideas of identity and self-worth. 12 pp. Read more.

Meenakshi Moon was a close associate of B. R. Ambedkar. Her essays, research papers, articles study the daily religious practices and marital rules of Dalit communities, the practice of ritual prostitution, women’s issues and the Dalit movement.

Urmila Pawar received an MA from the University of Bombay and worked in the Maharashatra department of labour welfare. A former actor of radical Marathi theatre, she writes non-fiction and short stories informed by her self-definition as a Dalit, Buddhist and a feminist.

Wandana Sonalkar (translator) teaches economics at Dr. Babasaheb Marathwada University, Aurangabad. She is a founding member of Aalochana Centre for Documentation and Research on Women.

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3. 'WOMEN WRITING IN TIMES OF VIOLENCE' by TILOTTOMA MISRA from THE PERIPHERAL CENTRE: VOICES FROM INDIA'S NORTHEAST (2010)

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This essay uncovers how the writings of women have emerged as forms of protest in Assam, a region torn by political violence and prolonged militancy. For Tilottoma Misra, these voices are doing more than simply responding to a need to represent the marginalised; they are attempting to depict the trauma that the women experience in their lives. In discussing the power of the narrative, Misra lays out those aspects of traumatic events that a literary discourse can grasp more expansively than a strictly historical narrative.

Written by women during times of conflict, these stories and poems help explore nuances of the ways in which one's psyche is affected by the conflict. With a population facing discoveries of mass graves and an increasing breakdown of basic civic amenities, Misra poses urgent questions as to the role of the writer in such difficult times. 25 pp. Read more.

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Tilottoma Misra is an academic and author. She formerly taught English Literature at Indaprastha College, New Delhi and Dibrugarh University, Assam. She was awarded the Ishan Puraskar by the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad for her novel Swarnalata. Currently, she is writing on literature and society of eastern India and is engaged in a research project on customary law and women’s rights in Northeast India.

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FREE IN OCTOBER, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:

31_India as Home_cover

'INDIA AS HOME' by GEETANJALI SINGH CHANDA from INDIAN WOMEN IN THE HOUSE OF FICTION (2008)

Geetanjali Singh Chanda explores, in this essay, the idea of the nation and its representation as a house or home in postcolonial Indian English literature. The author identifies that this literature has a dual parentage that manifests in its narratives, where characters with fragmented identities negotiate to make India their home.

Chanda explores this depiction of ‘Indianness’ through three prominent literary works: Nayantara Sahgal’s Rich Like Us (1983), Meena Alexander’s Nampally Road (1991), and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997). She focuses on the treatment of history within these narratives, and the struggle of characters to reconcile their personal or national history with the post-colonial present. This is done by connecting the events in the text to a significant historical event – like the Indian Independence in 1947, or the Emergency of 1975. 37 pp. Read more.

Dr. Geetanjali Singh Chanda is a senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programme at Yale University, USA. She has taught courses on globalization, autobiographies, family, cultural identity, popular culture, international feminisms and postcolonial India since 2001.

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A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. New essays are released in sets each month, curated to a theme; subscribers receive each curated set in their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we've therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have accordingly standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our mailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post. Happy Reading!

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY | THE MOTHERS OF MANIPUR

tbt3

 Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday, a new series where we will revisit backlist titles one Thursday every month. This August, we’re looking at The Mothers of Manipur: Twelve Women Who Made History by Teresa Rehman.


About the book

tmomJuly 15, 2004, Imphal (Manipur): An amazing scene unfolds in front of Kangla Fort, the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, a unit of the Indian army. Soldiers and officers watch aghast as twelve women, all in their sixties and seventies, position themselves in front of the gates and then, one by one, strip themselves naked. The imas, the mothers of Manipur, are in a cold fury, protesting the custodial rape and murder, by the army, of Thangjam Manorama, a 32-year-old woman suspected of being a militant. The women hold aloft banners and shout, ‘Indian Army Rape Us’, ‘Take Our Flesh’.

In this book, journalist Teresa Rehman tells the story of these twelve women, the momentous decision they took, and how they carried it out with precision and care. In doing so she connects the reader to the broader history of conflict-torn Manipur and the courage and resistance of its people, in particular its women.


About the author

Teresa Rehman is an award winning journalist, and the founder-editor of The Thumb Print, a webzine with a special focus on India’s North-East. She has previously worked with India Today magazine, The Telegraph and Tehelka. Rehman also has a personal blog, www.teresarehman.net.


 Quotes from readers

 Award-winning journalist Teresa Rehman tells us the extraordinary story of otherwise ordinary women. Through meticulous reporting, she brings into focus a hitherto blurred, pixelated picture of collective action. [...] Through Rehman’s stories, a “hazy geo-political riddle in a remote corner” of India comes alive. We learn of its protest songwriters and poets. The Meira Paibis who keep vigil against social evils and human rights violations. The activism around HIV/AIDS. - Namita Bhandare, The Quint

The Mothers of Manipur fills a void. Rehman gives faces to those naked bodies and turns them into real women. They are little girls who grew up wanting to go to school, daughters who looked after families, wives who earned respect from their husbands or abandoned them, women who fought against injustice and for change in their societies, and friends who supported each other and sometimes failed in doing all these. They are activists, poets, actors, businesswomen. [...] As a feminist, I thank Rehman for this book. I think that her visits to the women and hearing their stories also gave the women a sense of pride. - Banamallika Choudhary, The Hoot

She (Rehman) weaves her interviews with the Imas (mothers) along with vignettes of Manipur’s society and culture. [.....] What emerges is a series of fascinating portraits of Manipuri women, negotiating for spaces to accommodate their various shades of activism in a very traditional society. - Freny Manecksha, The Wire.in

E-ESSAYS FROM ZUBAAN | 1 OCTOBER, NATION

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE!

Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase. To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here! 

Our previous sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violence, domestic space and kinship, religion and conflict, state crimes and impunity, trauma, health and violence against women.

This set of essays considers how various conceptions of the ‘nation’/statehood — the Peshwai, the British Raj, the Indian state — have negotiated their relationship with their women ‘citizens’, and vice versa. Discussing how gendered and casteist social codes created paradigms for the ‘pure’ (Brahman, male) citizen (as exemplified by the Peshwai reign) in Indian polity, Uma Chakravarti chronologically points the way towards Radha Kumar’s essay, which engages with how women, when finally considered (future) citizens of a to-be-independent India, began to take part in civil disobedience and nationalist projects of the early 20th century. Farida Abdulla picks apart the ways in which independent India's nation-building project now re-negotiates, through violence and armed conflict, Kashmiri women’s citizenship as one forged in terror and precarious kinship. This month’s free essay is a complement to these others, focusing on the metaphor of the nation as home in Indian women’s writing.

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34_Towards Becoming The Mothers of the Nation_cover 1. 'TOWARDS BECOMING 'THE MOTHERS OF THE NATION'' by RADHA KUMAR, from THE HISTORY OF DOING: AN ILLUSTRATED ACCOUNT OF MOVEMENT FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND FEMINISM IN INDIA, 1800-1990 (1999)

This chapter from The History of Doing focuses on the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, when social reform movements in India were beginning to show results and women were becoming more visibly present in the public sphere. Kumar provides a thematic history of the women’s movement before independence, beginning with focusing on the 1889 session of the Indian National Congress in Bombay where ten women delegates attended the assembly for the first time.

Using photographs and a wide variety of print sources from books to newspapers, Kumar looks at how women’s issues were raised and how women were involved in addressing these. The essay discusses at length the steps taken to regulate prostitution by the British in India and the level of support this received from reformers and moderate nationalists. The turn of the century saw a proliferation of homes for widows, with schemes to train widows as teachers. The Swadeshi movement in Bengal during this time period marked the beginning of women’s participation in national activities on a larger scale. Kumar offers detailed portraits on the lives of some of the women involved in the above movements and reforms like Swarnakumari Debi, her daughter Sarala Debi Ghosal and Bhikaiji Cama.  21 pp. Read more.

50.00

Dr. Radha Kumar is the Chair of the United Nations University Council and the Director General of the think tank Delhi Policy Group. She has published various books and journal articles, and her work looks at ethnic conflicts, peacemaking and peacebuilding from a feminist perspective.

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32_A Life of Peace and Dignity_coverfixed2. 'A LIFE OF PEACE AND DIGNITY' by FARIDA ABDULLA from SPEAKING PEACE: WOMEN'S VOICES FROM KASHMIR (2002)

Written by Farida Abdulla, this essay is a personal account of her experience in Kashmir - before, during and after the enforcement of centralized government rule over the area. Born and brought up in Kashmir, she reflects on the seething resentment of people treated like more border territory than citizens of the country.

Through the essay Adulla looks at ‘what’ instead of ‘why’ – she does not delve into the historical context for the rule, but focuses on the effects of such a rule on the local population. By narrating two incidents strongly embedded in her mind, she attempts to show the complexity of the situation, and the pain and confusion of the people living there. 6 pp. Read more.

₹ 50.00

Farida Abdulla is professor, Educational Studies at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi where she headed the same department from 2007-09. She has taught psychology and education in departments of Education of Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Central Institute of Education of the University of Delhi.

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33_Caste, Gender and State in Eighteenth Century Maharashtra_cover

3. 'CASTE, GENDER AND THE STATE IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY MAHARASHTRA' by UMA CHAKRAVARTI from REWRITING HISTORY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PANDITA RAMABAI (1998)

This essay discusses caste, gender and the state, and the relationship between the three in the context of militarisation under Peshwa rule in eighteenth century Maharashtra. Analysing materials available in the Peshwa daftar, Uma Chakravarti illustrates the different ways in which the state played a decisive role in upholding the caste system and in installing social codes to legitimise women’s sexuality.

Chakravarti points out how the Peshwa state upheld Brahmanical social order by prohibiting ‘untouchables’ from approaching the temple of Vithoba (which also housed a shrine for Chokhamela, a saint belonging to the Mahar community), threatening punishment if they failed to conform. She also explores ideological structures of enforced widowhood, the difference in punishment that women and men who committed adultery faced, and the role of the state in arranging marriage for girls between ages seven and ten. Connecting caste with women’s sexuality, the essay gestures towards Brahmanya’s investment in the undiluted purity of its women. 42 pp. Read more.

Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

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FREE IN OCTOBER, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:

31_India as Home_cover

'INDIA AS HOME' by GEETANJALI SINGH CHANDA from INDIAN WOMEN IN THE HOUSE OF FICTION (2008)

Geetanjali Singh Chanda explores, in this essay, the idea of the nation and its representation as a house or home in postcolonial Indian English literature. The author identifies that this literature has a dual parentage that manifests in its narratives, where characters with fragmented identities negotiate to make India their home.

Chanda explores this depiction of ‘Indianness’ through three prominent literary works: Nayantara Sahgal’s Rich Like Us (1983), Meena Alexander’s Nampally Road (1991), and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997). She focuses on the treatment of history within these narratives, and the struggle of characters to reconcile their personal or national history with the post-colonial present. This is done by connecting the events in the text to a significant historical event – like the Indian Independence in 1947, or the Emergency of 1975. 37 pp. Read more.

Dr. Geetanjali Singh Chanda is a senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programme at Yale University, USA. She has taught courses on globalization, autobiographies, family, cultural identity, popular culture, international feminisms and postcolonial India since 2001.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. New essays are released in sets each month, curated to a theme; subscribers receive each curated set in their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we've therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have accordingly standardised all our essays in PDF files.
If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our mailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post. Happy Reading!
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