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How can women live fully? If autonomy is critical for humans, why do women have little or no choice vis-à-vis motherhood? Do women know they have a choice, if they do? How 'free' are these choices in a context where the self is socially mired and deeply enmeshed into the familial? What are implications of motherhood on how human relatedness and belonging are defined?
These questions underlie Amrita Nandy's remarkable research on motherhood as an institution, one that conflates 'woman' with 'mother' and 'personal' with 'political'.
As the bedrock of human survival and an unchallenged norm of 'normal' female lives, motherhood expects and even compels women to be mothers—symbolic and corporeal. Even though the ideology of pronatalism and motherhood reinforce reproductive technology and vice versa, the care work of mothering suffers political neglect and economic devaluation. However, motherhood (and non-motherhood) is not just physiological. As the pivot to a web of heteronormative institutions (such as marriage and the family), motherhood bears an overwhelming and decisive influence on women's lives. Against the weight of traditional and contemporary histories, socio-political discourse and policies, this study explores how women, as embodiments of multiple identities, could live stigma-free, 'authentic' lives without having to abandon reproductive 'self'-determination.
The states in the northeast of India have been subject to multiple protracted conflicts. In the cases where the gendered nature of these conflicts is considered, stereotypes of women as passive victims or natural peacemakers tend to be reproduced, and scholars follow the establishment’s cues in employing analyses from a conventional security studies perspective, focusing on ceasefires and surrender packages for militants, male-dominated negotiations over autonomy and statehood, and ‘homeland’ politics. Even as women have become increasingly vocal in civil society attempts to resolve conflict and build peace in the region, their voices and work are ignored. The media has turned its spotlight on activists like the Meira Paibis and Irom Sharmila, but has yet to acknowledge the significance of women’s everyday resistance, activism and agency – and this lack of attention is a further aspect of their marginalization.
This volume sheds light on the successes and failures of the women’s movements in and of the region; women’s responses and engagements with conflict and peace-building; as well as their challenges, aspirations and experiences as agents of change. It adds important insights into the debate on gender and political change in societies affected by conflict. Moreover, by engaging critically with the ‘women, peace and security’ literature, the volume takes a fresh look at ‘universalist’ feminist and interventionist biases, questioning the notion that peace processes should be treated as windows of opportunity for women’s empowerment and positing that it is crucial to understand gender relations during conflict as historically contingent, complex and multifaceted, and intertwined in the social fabric.
Many consider the autobiography to be a Western genre that represents the self as fully autonomous. The contributors to Speaking of the Self challenge this presumption by examining a wide range of women’s autobiographical writing from South Asia. Expanding the definition of what kinds of writing can be considered autobiographical, the contributors analyze everything from poetry, songs, mystical experiences and diaries, to prose, fiction, architecture and religious treatises. The authors they study are just as diverse: a Mughal princess, an eighteenth-century courtesan from Hyderabad, a nineteenth-century Muslim prostitute in Punjab, a housewife in colonial Bengal, a Muslim Gandhian devotee of Krishna, several female Indian and Pakistani novelists and two male actors who worked as female impersonators. The contributors find that in these autobiographies the authors construct their gendered selves in relational terms. Throughout, they show how autobiographical writing - in whatever form it takes - provides the means towards more fully understanding the historical, social and cultural milieu in which the author performs herself and creates her subjectivity.
Imelda Connor is a classic Irish lass—a fiery, red-headed beauty, quick to anger and fiercely protective of her younger siblings. Growing up on a small farm in the rolling hills of County Cork, she thinks she has her life completely mapped out. But Imelda soon finds that life doesn’t always go according to plan.
Everything is turned upside-down when Imelda moves to England and happens to meet a dashing Bengali man named Shu Bose. Shu is captivated by Imelda’s natural beauty and charm, and the two embark on a whirlwind romance. At the age of eighteen, in the spring of 1932, Imelda boards a ship bound for Calcutta—and a very different life to the one she had always imagined.
Milty Bose’s writing transports readers back to pre-Independence India, to London between the wars, and to the genteel life of bhadralok Bengali high society. From Cork to Calcutta tells the true story of Bose’s parents, their eccentric and unforgettable family, the trauma of loss, and the triumph of one woman’s remarkable spirit.
In the last 15 years, queer movements in many parts of the world have helped secure the rights of queer people. These moments have been accompanied by the brutal rise of crony capitalism, the violent consequences of the ‘war on terror’, the hyper-juridification of politics, the financialization/managerialization of social movements and the medicalization of non-heteronormative identities/practices. How do we critically read the celebratory global proliferation of queer rights in these neoliberal times?
This volume responds to the complicated moment in the history of queer struggles by analysing laws, state policies and cultures of activism, to show how new intimacies between queer sexuality and neoliberalism that celebrate modernity and the birth of the liberated sexual citizen, are in fact, reproducing the old colonial desire of civilizing the native. By paying particular attention to the problematics of race, religion and class, this volume engages in a rigorous, self-reflexive critique of global queer politics and its engagements, confrontations, and negotiations with modernity and its investments in liberalism, legalism and militarism, with the objective of queering the ethics of our queer politics.
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (1903-1988) was a remarkable woman of many passions and gifts. She played an important role in the struggle for Indian independence and was similarly a key figure in the international socialist feminist movement. She was India’s ambassador to Asia and Africa, an articulate and unflinching exponent of the idea of decolonization, and one of the earliest advocates of the idea of the global South. A staunch champion of women’s rights, she held views on women’s equality that continue to resonate in our times.
Greatly disheartened by the partition of India in 1947, Kamaladevi became involved in the resettlement of refugees and appeared to withdraw from political life. Indeed, the Kamaladevi that most Indians are familiar with is a figure who, above all, revived Indian handicrafts, became the country’s most well-known expert on carpets, puppets and its thousands of craft traditions, and nurtured the greater majority of the country’s national institutions charged with the promotion of dance, drama, art, theatre, music and puppetry. Throughout her life, however, she upheld with all the intellectual vigour and emotional force at her command the idea of the dignity of every human life.
Kamaladevi wrote voluminously and her sojourns took her all over the world. She travelled in China during World War II, lectured in Japan, visited Native American pueblos in New Mexico, and forged links with working women and anti-colonial activists in countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. Sadly, most of her writings have long been out of print. The editors of this comprehensive anthology, which is the first serious scholarly attempt to grapple with Kamaladevi’s life and body of work, have sought to represent the wide range of her interests. The extensive selections, comprised largely of journal articles and excerpts from Kamaladevi’s books, are accompanied by a set of original essays by contemporary Indian and American scholars which analyse and contextualize her life and work. This volume should provide the resources for further examination and appreciation of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay’s unusual gifts and her place in modern Indian and world history.
A many-layered work of historical reportage, Watercolours draws on the real life story of Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt (1923-2009), a Czech-American artist of Jewish ancestry, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, and whose story came to light in the late nineties. It was at this time that Gottliebova attempted once more to recover the art she had created in the concentration camp, and which had become the property of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The dispute escalated into an international scandal, with the American Department of State and the Polish government becoming involved.
Here, journalist Lidia Ostalowska reconstructs Gottliebova’s time in the camp, while looking also at broader issues of historical memory, trauma, racism and the relationship between the torturer and the victim. In Gottliebova’s case, SS Doctor Josef Mengele took a special interest in her talent, commissioning her to paint portraits (the watercolours of the title) of Roma prisoners. Mengele himself is one of the many characters in this narrative.
Ostalowska draws on hundreds of studies and accounts of the hell of the camps, and tells the story of one woman’s incarceration and her battle for survival, bringing in many other supporting lives. Before she worked for Mengele, Gottliebova had decorated the children’s barracks at Auschwitz with of the Disney film, Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. After the war, she worked as an animator for Warner Brothers and married Walt Disney animator Art Babbitt, the man behind many of the world’s best-known cartoon characters including Goofy and Dumbo. Gottlibova (under the name Dina Babbitt) lived in the California until her death in 2009 at the age of 86.
July 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’. Never has this happened before: the army is appalled. Very soon, news of the protest goes viral. People around the country are shocked. Can this be possible? A naked protest in India by mothers?
In this unusual 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.
In 2008, when the Azad Foundation, an NGO based in Delhi, began training poor women to become drivers of commercial and private vehicles, most people thought they were somewhat out of touch with reality. Poor, illiterate women, many of them from violent homes, some of them single mothers, others from families and communities which had never allowed women to step out of the home – how could these women take the wheel, drive around in unsafe cities, be confident and competent, earn money? At the time, there was only one known woman auto driver in Delhi. When Azad turned to radio cab companies to suggest they take in women drivers, there wasn’t much interest. Today, more than 300 women drivers have received training from Azad and are on the roads of several cities. Nine years after radio companies turned Azad away, special services or women with women drivers are being introduced within these same companies. In 2015, the Delhi Transport Corporation got its first woman driver, and in 2016, the Delhi Commission for Women recruited 25 women drivers to be part of their women’s helpline. Clearly, things are changing.
Lady Driver maps the journeys of twelve women from poor, marginalized communities who have transformed their lives by taking up the challenge of becoming women drivers. Each story is unique; there’s no Cinderella effect here. Reality does not change overnight. Instead, as the women featured here painstakingly claim a relationship with the road, it translates into claims for identity, for dignity, for a livelihood. Their stories are about beginnings, but have no endings – there is still quite a way to drive. OR – there are many kilometres to drive yet.
1943: As the British Empire draws to a close, the state of Bengal is just emerging from the grip of famine. Exploited mercilessly by feudal landlords, landless peasants rise in protest and launch a movement in 1946 to retain two-thirds of the grain they harvest - Tebhaga.
More than 50,000 women participated in this movement: one whose history and tragic end - in the crossfire between state violence and revolutionary armed struggle - became a legend in its time. Yet in the written history of Tebhaga, the full-fledged women's movement that they forged has never featured.
In this authoritative study, based on interviews and women's memories, Kavita Panjabi sets the balance right with rare sensitivity and grace. Using critical insights garnered from oral history and memory studies, Panjabi raises questions that neither social history nor left historiography ask. In doing so, she claims the past for a feminist vision of radical social change. This account of the transformation of the struggle is unique in feminist scholarship movements.
Following the 1971 Bangladesh War, the Bangladesh government publicly designated the thousands of women raped by the Pakistani military and their local collaborators as birangonas, ("brave women”). Nayanika Mookherjee demonstrates that while this celebration of birangonas as heroes keeps them in the public memory, they exist in the public consciousness as what Mookherjee calls a spectral wound. Dominant representations of birangonas as dehumanized victims with disheveled hair, a vacant look, and rejected by their communities create this wound, the effects of which flatten the diversity of their experiences through which birangonas have lived with the violence of wartime rape. In critically examining the pervasiveness of the birangona construction, Mookherjee opens the possibility for a more politico-economic, ethical, and nuanced inquiry into the sexuality of war.
Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence elucidates the centrality of political and foundational violence in the governance of conflicted democracies in the postcolony, calling attention to the urgent need for transformation. Spectacular and quotidian gendered and sexualized violence by states and collectives holds in place fraught and unjust histories and relations between elites and subalterns, majoritarian subjects and non-dominant “Others.” At the intersections of nationalist and decolonial confrontations, such violence regularizes states of emergency and exception. Through oral history, archival, and legal research undertaken over three years, this interdisciplinary work underscores the need for transitional and transformative justice mechanisms in conflicted democracies to address protracted conflict (focusing on their internal dimensions) and social upheaval. India serves as a case in point, exemplified by ongoing and recent conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab and episodic social upheavals in Gujarat (in 2002) and Odisha (in 2008). Victim-survivor narratives of counter-memory, historical records, and legal analyses of formative cases detail the depth and texture of social suffering and illustrate the inadequacy and inhumanity of official responses to events of extraordinary violence. Expanding on methods in justice and accountability and espousing the right to heal, scholars and practitioners raise critical questions regarding the state, civil society, and diverse institutions, and the most elemental of constituents: victim-survivors.
“A very important feature of Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence: The Right to Heal is that it shows the ubiquity of sexual violence that is not simply concomitant to other forms of violence but is a weapon that is part and parcel of the weaponry in the hands of the state and of transnational militant movements. What are the mechanisms through which violence is continuously sustained within democracies? This exemplary book helps us ask that question without the plethora of evasions that often allow democratic states to deflect that question to some other concern—national security, national honor or the necessity of pragmatism in view of the enormity of new forms of warfare. I am so grateful for this book and for the courage of scholar-activists and the victim-survivors who have put the results of years of hard labor on these questions before us.”
Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, John Hopkins University
“The monograph provides an incisive, comparative, and contextual framework for grappling with some of the most challenging issues of our time—gender and sexual violence in conflict. The document makes a compelling case for the development of effective national accountability mechanisms for political democracies to address conflict-based issues and grave social violence. The monograph underlines the pressing need to place victims-survivors at the center of owning knowledge and defining remedy. This monumental work stands to impact scholarship, policy, and advocacy for addressing gender-based and sexualized violence in conflicted democracies.”
Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2008-2014
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