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Mahila Samakhya is as much a story of a government programme for women's education and empowerment, as it is of the celebration of the struggles of poor women for their rights. Spread across eight states and more than 150 districts in India, the programme grew out of a unique partnership between the women's movement and the government. In this collection of essays, scholars from different parts of the country chart Mahila Samakhya's fascinating journey of setting up poor women's collectives, and women's agency in establishing an equal space and voice in the public domain - a radical departure from the more common approaches of organising women around economic concerns. The writers explore broad gender issues grounded within the field experience of Mahila Samakhya providing insights into its workings at different levels, its conceptual challenges, strategic choices, the opportunities and pitfalls of partnership with government and, above all, the willingness of poor women to come together voluntarily to address and overcome gender barriers.
“It is …a commendable job done by the editor Dr. Mohan Rao to have put together this very readable anthology of rare media writings about the real health issues that plague women’s lives. To which he has also contributed a very lucid and well argued preface that adds to the value of the volume.” -- Mrinal Pande, The Book Review
The contributing journalists are winners of the Panos Reproductive Health Media Fellowship.
Mohan Rao teaches at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His publications include From Population Control to Reproductive Health: Malthusian Arithmetic and Disinvesting in Health: The World Bank’s Prescriptions for Health.
Why does gender bias persist in natural resource management policies and programmes, despite increasing recognition of rural and tribal women's contribution to conservation and sustainability?
Examining this question from the perspective of an academic and a practitioner, Sumi Krishna looks at diverse areas including the socialization of attitudes, the shaping of community ideologies, and the construction of disciplines and research methodologies. The author advances the novel concept of 'genderscapes' to reflect the totality of women's lifeworlds to revision natural resource management in complex landscapes. Rich case studies unravel the caring practices of forest-dwellers, women's knowledge of biodiversity, their responsibility for farming and food production.
Globalization and the failure of development have led to the feminization of poverty, environmental degradation, and an uncertain future for global peace and security. Development studies has reached an impasse, both in its theoretical paradigms and its practical prescriptions. Too economistic, too little focused on the daily lives of women, and devoid of vision, the field needs a radical imaginative overhaul. The contributors to this book, who work at the intersection of cultural studies, feminist studies, and critical development studies, articulate a new theoretical framework that they call Women, Culture and Development. They apply it to a range of issues and, through a series of shorter think pieces, present their ideas for the future.
"Women always face violence from men. Equality is only preached, but not put into practice. Dalit women face more violence every day, and they will continue to do so until society changes and accepts them as equals." --Bharati from Andhra Pradesh
The right to equality regardless of gender and caste is a fundamental right in India. However, the Indian government has acknowledged that institutional forces arraigned against this right are powerful and shape people's mindsets to accept pervasive gender and caste inequality. This is no more apparent than when one visits Dalit women living in their caste-segregated localities. Vulnerably positioned at the bottom of India's gender, caste and class hierarchies, Dalit women experience the outcome of severely imbalanced social, economic and political power equations in terms of endemic caste-class-gender discrimination and violence.
This study presents an analytical overview of the complexities of systemic violence that Dalit women face through an analysis of 500 Dalit women's narratives across four states. Excerpts of these narratives are utilised to illustrate the wider trends and patterns of different manifestations of violence against Dalit women.
The Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia research project (coordinated by Zubaan and supported by the International Development Research Centre) brings together, for the first time in the region, a vast body of knowledge on this important – yet silenced – subject. Six country volumes (one each on Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and two on India) comprising over fifty research papers and two book-length studies detail the histories of sexual violence and look at the systemic, institutional, societal, individual and community structures that work together to perpetuate impunity for perpetrators.
In this collection of essays on Sri Lanka the authors – activists, lawyers, academics, journalists – look back at Sri Lanka’s long and intense armed conflict during which women and men were sexually brutalized, assaulted, tortured and disappeared. They examine not only the rampant sexual violence during the conflict period, and the impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators, but focus also on women’s struggles for survival, their interactions with community leaders and their navigation of society’s expectations, their understanding of, and access to justice. Essay after essay argues compellingly for the need to stop treating survivors of sexual violence as victims and to start seeing them as potentially powerful agents of change.
The writers highlight a hitherto unaddressed aspect of sexual violence: that of the structures that enable impunity on the part of perpetrators, be they security personnel and paramilitary forces, members of armed rebel groups, gangs, local politicians and police or ordinary citizens including close family members.
They demonstrate how impunity for perpetrators is both a failure of the formal justice process and a product of individual, community and social conditions and indeed the choices that victims and families often make, which promote silence over truth. At the end of more than a quarter century of conflict that has left some 100,000 dead, 50,000 women-headed households struggling to survive, and created countless victims and survivors of sexual violence, the calls for justice can no longer be ignored.
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.
In the last couple of decades, violence as an analytic category has loomed large in the historical, literary, and anthropological scholarship of South Asia.
The challenge of thinking violence in its gendered incarnations fully and in all its complexity is not only theoretical or critical but also irreducibly ethical and political, given the proliferation of civil wars, pogroms and riots, fundamentalist movements, insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, and new technologies of violence and injury. All of these simultaneously feature and help constitute gendered actors and gendered scripts of violence.
States of Trauma seeks to examine this terrain by staging a set of questions. How are we to think about the moral charge that accrues to violence? What is the relationship between violence and non-violence? In considering the moral and affective economy of violence, how may we speak of the seductions of the idioms and practices of militarism and sexualized violence for women? How are these seductions/pleasures distinct from those proffered to men, if indeed they are distinct?
In this important study, Shirin Rai provides a comprehensive assessment of how gender politics has emerged and developed in post-colonial states.
In chapters on key issues of nationalism and nation-building, the third wave of democratization, and globalization and governance, Rai argues that the gendered way in which nationalist state-building occurred created deep fissures and pressures for development. She goes on to show how women have engaged with institutions of governance in developing countries, looking at political participation, democracy, representation, leadership and state feminism. Through this engagement, Rai claims, vital new political spaces have been created. Though Rai focuses on India, the book’s argument is highly relevant for politics across the developing world.
This is a unique and compelling synthesis of gender politics with ideas about development from an authoritative figure in the field.
“In this proof of her powerful scholarship, Shirin Rai combines discussions of key concepts in feminist and development studies, with studies of actual gender politics of development, from grass roots to global institutions.” -- Drude Dahlerup, Stockholm University
“Lucidly written, Shirin Rai’s essays are insightful contributions to recent feminist debates on democratization and globalization.” -- Bina Agarwal, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University
“ … the strength of the volume lies in its ability to mesh its diverse theoretical concerns with rich empirical data from all across India …” -- Seminar
This timely volume brings together the work of some of India’s leading feminist economists, historians, political scientists, journalists and anthropologists to investigate the contemporary situation of women in India. It focuses on four broad domains: the cultural, the social, the political and the economic. The writers argue that despite apparently positive indicators of progress in education and paid employment, women’s status has not improved.
Karin Kapadia has taught at the London School of Econmoics, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and at the Unviersities of Sussex and Durham. Her publications include Siva and Her Sisters: Gender, Caste and Class in Rural South India, The Worlds of Indian Industrial Labour (co-edited) and Rural Labour Relations in India (co-edited). From January 1999 to November 2001 she worked at the World Bank, Washington D.C., as the South Asia Region Coordinator for Gender and Development.
In rejecting falsely homogenizing accounts of women’s lives, feminist economists have, in recent years, unlocked the multiple ways in which gendered relations of dominance and subordination are maintained. One of the key differences they have turned their attention to is ethnicity. This study of Muslim, Sinhala and Tamil households in Sri Lanka examines both the commonality of patriarchal structures and economic problems in such households, as well as the differences created by the ethnicities that divide them. The author looks at the nature and reliability of kinship support for female heads and the reciprocal obligations in terms of female propriety and conventional conduct extracted from female heads. She questions development policies premised on the patriarchal household and argues for a recognition of diversity and complexity.
Originally published in Marathi in 1989, this contemporary classic details the history of women's participation in the Dalit movement led by Dr B.R. Ambedkar, for the first time. Focusing on the involvement of women in various Dalit struggles since the early twentieth century, the book goes on to consider the social conditions of Dalit women's lives, daily religious practices and marital rules, the practice of ritual prostitution, and women's issues. Drawing on diverse sources including periodicals, records of meetings, and personal correspondence, the latter half of the book is composed of interviews with Dalit women activists from the 1930s. These first-hand accounts from more than forty Dalit women make the book an invaluable resource for students of caste, gender, and politics in India. A rich store of material for historians of the Dalit movement and gender studies in India, We Also Made History remains a fundamental text of the modern women's movement.
Inclusive Citizenship seeks to go beyond the intellectual debates of recent years on democratization and participation to explore a related set of issues around changing conceptions of citizenship. People’s understandings of what it means to be a citizen go to the heart of the various meanings of identity, including national identity, political and electoral participation, and rights. The researchers in this volume come from a wide variety of societies, including the industrial countries in the North, and they seek to explore these difficult questions from different angles. Themes include: Citizenship and Rights, Citizenship and Identity, Citizenship and Political Struggle and the policy implications of substantive notions of citizenship.
Naila Kabeer is Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, and a member of the Poverty and Social Policy Research Team. Her research interests include gender, population and poverty issues. Her recent books include The Power to Choose: Bangladeshi Women and Labour Market Decisions in London and Dhaka and Reversed Realities.
Like homeless wanderers, Indo-English women writers are constantly yearning for a home - be it a nation, a house, a community, an identity - to call their own. Gender, generation and cultural values shape Indian lifestyles at home and abroad even as they carry traces of old homes into new ones. A woman's place is at the heart of these evolving notions of home. In Search of Home traces how women recreate an idea of home through their fiction.
The popularity of Indo-English literature both in India and abroad notwithstanding, the anxiety of Indianness still shadows authors and their works. Among women authors particularly the question of Indianness is represented in concerns of identities, nationalism, family or community values and gender roles. Home is often the site for the preservation, pedagogy and performance of Indianness.
The author maps Indian English literature in India and the diaspora while situating it in the larger framework of world literatures.
_Feminist Subversion and Complicity_ interrogates a specific form of feminist practice, that which has involved engaging with state and international institutions to insert gender knowledge in their development interventions. Bringing together contributions from eight feminists located in very different kinds of institutions and spaces from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, this book is the outcome of a deeply reflexive process to produce a critique from within of this present day feminist practice. An array of experiences and encounters are scrutinised from bringing feminist perspectives to governmental projects on education, health, and legal reform to transformations in the discourses and practices of women’s movements and feminisms as they encountered developmentalisms. The writers show that feminist politics is not merely assimilated in governmental projects but that it interrupts these projects even as it is assimilated; a feminist politics in which complicity is often a subversive activity, is destabilizing and contesting of meaning.
This book links caste and gender to the social production of motherhood. Dandekar argues that in contradiction to the assumption about motherhood being primarily a female-centred and positive domain, subaltern agency produces it as malign, dangerous, malevolent and marginal.
Highlighting the manner in which the experience and expression of motherhood is constructed as androgynous and nonthreatening to patriarchal hegemony, the author emphasizes the consolidation of ‘lower’ caste positive identity through valorization processes and endorses high caste and class ownership and power by producing the birth and survival of a male child as its ideological validaton.
Little has been written about the experiences of motherhood in India, outside of the debates around public health statistics. Here, the author reinvents and deconstructs existing notions of maternity by interrogating the very systemic and patriarchal nature of its language that depoliticizes oppression.
Why does the world’s largest democracy turn a blind eye to systematic violations of human rights in its periphery?
Drawing on the findings of a comparative research project, this volume tackles a set of intricate questions about the workings of impunity in India. How do victims of abuse and survivors of sexual violence end up being denied justice? What do those on the margins—those with the wrong sex, wrong identity markers, wrong political leanings— tell us about violence by state and non-state actors?
Bringing together senior academics, civil society leaders and fresh voices from across India, the volume offers analysis—contextual, structural and gendered—and breaks new conceptual ground on the underbelly of India Shining. The volume contains testimonies that were collected during fieldwork in four states.
Contributors include: Sanjay Barbora, Shahana Basavapatna, Anjuman Ara Begum, Uma Chakravarti, Warisha Farasat, Satish K. Jain, Ram Narayan Kumar, Harsh Mander, Bhagat Oinam
This study of Pandita Ramabai's life, one of India's earliest feminists, is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary. (Now with a new Afterword)
This book outlines the reconstitution of patriarchies in nineteenth century Maharashtra through an exploration of the life, work and times of Pandita Ramabai, one of India's earliest feminists. It examines the manner in which the colonial state's new institutional structures, caste contestations, class formation and nationalism transformed and reorganized gender relations. It also explores the nature of the new agendas being set for women, how these were received by them and in what ways and to what extent their consent to these reconstructed patriarchies was produced.
Uma Chakravarti is a historian who has worked and written on issues of caste, labour and gender and is active in the democratic rights and women's movements. Among her published works are The Delhi Riots: Three Days in the Life of a Nation (co-authored) and Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism.
The women's movement in India has a long and rich history in which millions of women live, work and struggle to survive in order to remake their family, home and social lives. Whether fighting for safe contraception, literacy, water and electricity or resisting sexual harassment, they are participating in vibrant and active women's movements that are thriving in many parts of India today. Fields of Protest explores the political and cultural circumstances under which groups of women organize to fight for their rights and self-worth. Starting with Bombay and Calcutta, Raka Ray discusses the creation of "political fields"- structured, unequal and socially constructed political environments within which organisations exist, flourish or fail. Women's organisations are not anonymous or free agents; rather, they inherit a "field" and its accompanying social relations, and when they act, they act in response to it and within it. Drawing on the literature of both social movements and feminism, Ray analyses the striking differences between the movements in these two cities.
Raka Ray is an Assistant Professor in the department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her areas of specialization are gender and feminist theory, social movements, and relations between dominant and subaltern groups in India. She is editor of Feminist Studies.
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.
The creation of widespread public consent for family planning in Kerala, which ensured the non-coercive implementation of birth control in Malayali society, has been regarded as no less than the jewel in the crown of the 'Kerala Model' of social development. Individuals, Householders, Citizens reconstructs the history of the generation of such assent to produce a critical examination of this crucial aspect of social development in Kerala. It participates in the ongoing feminist critique of the Kerala Model, seeking to unravel the particular ways in which people were interpellated into the discourse of Family Planning.
Devika's study adds to the new inter-disciplinary work on questions traditionally considered native to demography. It employs some of the insights of economists and demographers on Kerala's demographic transition as entry points for critical historical inquiry into questions of gender and power in contemporary Kerala. The book is of interest to anyone interested in Kerala's experience of social development and its demographic 'achievements.'
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