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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.
Cornelia Sorabji was a social reformer, an author and the first woman to practise law in India and Britain. By the time poor sight ended her work in India, she had helped many hundreds of wives, widows and orphans. She also successfully organized a League for Infant Welfare, Maternity and District Nursing.
Her writings provide a priceless and fascinating documentation of one of India's most outstanding women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her noble career and valuable archives have left behind a heritage to the people of India and their causes. Her truly extraordinary life of dedication to public service, evident from her writings and ceaseless hard work deserve to be acknowledged and publicised. This book achieves both.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) are usually publicised as 'miracle cures for infertility.' However, the social and economic context in which these technologies are developed and promoted have a strong bearing on their use or misuse.
Carefully packaged in the garb of 'modernity' and 'choice,' the efficacy of these technologies is difficult to challenge. On a deeper analysis, their costs seem to heavily outweigh the benefits. A chain of adverse effects on women's and children's health, commodification of their bodies, commercialisation of the reproductive process, unabashed encouragement to sex selection, obsession about biological progeny and eugenics are only some of the concerns that ARTs bring to the fore.
This book is an attempt to look into various aspects of ARTs - their social, medical, legal and economic implications on women in particular, and society at large. The book comprises seven essays by eminent activists and academics, each exploring a specific aspect of ART.
This book provides a holistic analysis of the gendered nature of armed conflict and political violence, and in a broader understanding of the complex, changing roles and power relations between women and men during such circumstances, predominantly viewed as ‘male domains’, perpetrated by men acting as soldiers, guerillas, paramilitaries or peacemakers. The involvement of women has received far less attention, with a tendency to portray a simplistic division of roles between men as aggressors and women as victims, particularly of sexual abuse. Consequently the gendered causes, costs and consequences of violent conflicts have been, at best, under-represented and, most often, misrepresented.
Caroline O. N. Moser, a social anthropologist and social policy specialist, is a Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, London.
Fiona C. Clark is an independent researcher.
This book addresses the current issues of violence, masculinity and power in the postcolonial context and their representation in films.The essays contribute critical insights into the analyses of films based on societal violence in postcolonial cultures: be it in the context of colonial oppression, terrorism, genocide, communal riots, criminal underworld or mob violence etc.
The volume seeks to investigate some of those variegated facets of postcolonial 'violences' as they are played out in historically and culturally diverse public spaces of different postcolonial societies through the paradigm of cinematic representation. Although the book seeks to explore the phases of differences among postcolonial cultures, the essays hinge around common questions ? How does the experience and representation of violence change with the specificity of the postcolonial context? How do postcolonial cinemas negotiate ideas of conflict through the scenes of violence? How does violence as a cinematic trope shape postcolonial identities, especially of masculinities?
The authors set out to discuss these through the spectacle of violence in postcolonial films, consequently invoking issues of both representational and affective aspects of violence as a performative act in the postcolonial public space.
The book interrogates the experience of being young and becoming adult in rural Bangladesh, in a context of profound processes of socioeconomic change.
Throughout South Asia, new educational opportunities and an increase in the age at which girls and boys get married are opening new spaces for young people to live the passage to adulthood. This book documents and describes the everyday reality of this changing gendered transition for young people in a rural area of South West Bangladesh. It focuses on three main areas that are central to young people's experience: those of college and student life, friendships and relationships with those of the same sex and across sexes and marriage and the issues involved in the choice of a marriage partner.
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.
A fascinating, multi-disciplinary exploration of water, wells and women’s spaces in Gujarat.
Centuries ago, in the arid landscape of Gujarat, where water is scarce and rains scanty, stepwells sustained life and enabled crops to flourish. Women played a major role in the construction and patronage of many of these stepwells, which were unique structures that linked three worlds: the subterranean, the earthly and the celestial. Women also frequently served as inspiration for their construction — these were often built to honour a virtuous wife or benevolent mother, a local goddess or a beloved mistress. As a gathering place for women, the stepwells also became a favourite subject in folklore. Every stepwell yields tales of love and betrayal, courage and sacrifice. Through a historical analysis and visual documentation of these distinctly female spaces, Purnima Bhatt sheds light on the relationship between women, water, architecture and religion. Examining the artistic and aesthetic aspects of these structures, the author describes the art of the stepwells as looking beyond the patriarchal gods of classical Hinduism and celebrating the feminine principle. She also explores the idea of these wells acting as indicators of women’s changing social and economic status and challenging the stereotypes of the passivity of women. Her focus on ‘the woman factor’ aims to give voice to countless women who are forgotten and neglected by history, thereby making the invisible, visible.
At various levels, from the city to the institutions and from the neighbourhood to the dwelling, the ideal and the real about the social relationship between men and women is expressed in the built form. Cultural rules govern the use of space and codes regulate behaviour between genders.
This book examines the role of women as consumers and creators of the built space and focuses particularly on India and parts of South Asia. The essays included here explore the gender perspective from various angles. They cover a wide range of issues such as domesticity and home, women labourers and construction work, the practice of architecture, education in general and in schools of architecture, women and leisure as well as women's relationship to the public sphere and housing in the vernacular mode.
_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 remarkable study focuses on the relationship between forms of prostitution, discourses on law making, and law enforcement practices.
Across the 19th and early 20th centuries, the colonial government in Bombay city formulated laws on prostitution that were enormously repetitive. Activities such as soliciting men, pimping and procuring women and girls for prostitution were banned in identical ways in multiple eras. Across the same hundred years, commercial sex grew vast in scale, and Bombay became a node in a transnational sex trade circuit.
This book argues that while the expansion of Bombay's sex trade over the past century might suggest that laws were simply ineffectual, law making was instead a productive process that sustained particular forms of prostitution. In examining this dimension of colonial governance, Tambe evaluates the uses and limits of Foucault's approach to law and sexuality.
"Feminist Post-Development Thought addresses the crucial question of what development means for women. Is it still their best hope of social progress and equality, or does it simply raise false expectations for the future? In this groundbreaking collection with its diverse perspectives, feminist thinkers explore whether Third World women ought to continue along the path of development or abandon full-scale modernization and seek post-development alternatives instead. It represents the first attempt to ascertain the possibilities, and limitations, of the post-development path for women.
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.'
In Queer Activism in India, Naisargi N. Dave examines the formation of lesbian communities in India from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Based on ethnographic research conducted with activist organizations in Delhi, a body of letters written by lesbian women, and research with lesbian communities and queer activist groups across the country, Dave studies the everyday practices that constitute queer activism in India.
Dave argues that activism is an ethical practice comprising critique, inven- tion, and relational practice. She investigates the relationship between the ethics of activism and the existing social norms and conditions from which activism emerges. Through her analysis of different networks and institutions, Dave documents how activism oscillates between the potential for new social arrangements and the questions that arise once the activists’ goals have been achieved. Queer Activism in India addresses a relevant and timely phenomenon and makes an important contribution to the anthropology of queer communi- ties, social movements, affect, and ethics.
“The exciting aspect of this book is how Dave draws on the everyday practices of queer activism, in particular lesbian activism in India, to expose the deeply considered and ethical positions that they take. . . . Dave’s book marks a significant contribution to the archive of queer scholarship generally, but more importantly to making visible a postcolonial perspective in this scholarship.” — Ratna Kapur, Journal of Anthropological Research
“A beautifully written ethnography, offering a passionately detailed ethnographic perspective on queer politics, feminism, and social movements in India.” — Kamala Visweswaran, author of Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference
“Dave’s book, with its anecdotes, observations, and rich endnotes, will no doubt add to our understanding of urban lesbian activism while compelling us to reflect about methods and ethics in the age of “affect.”” — Shohini Ghosh, Journal of Asian Studies
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.
Mahua Sarkar examines how Muslim women in colonial Bengal came to be more marginalized in nationalist discourse than their Hindu counterparts. She considers how their near-invisibility, except as victims, underpins the construction of the ideal citizen-subject in late colonial India. She argues that the nation-centredness of history as a discipline, and the intellectual politics of liberal feminism, have together contributed to the production of Muslim women as the oppressed, mute, and invisible 'other' of the normative modern Indian subject.
Drawing on extensive archival research and oral histories, Sarkar traces Muslim women as they surface and disappear in colonial, Hindu, nationalist and liberal Muslim writings. This compelling study concludes by tracing the complex links between past constructions of Muslim women, current representations, and the violence against them in contemporary India.
"...an analytically insightful, genuinely original work that breaks new ground in South Asian history, gender and women's studies, postcolonial theory, and historical sociology." -- Antoinette Burton
During the past forty years, South Asia has been the location and the focus of dynamic, important feminist scholarship and activism. In this collection of essays, prominent feminist scholars and activists build on that work to confront pressing new challenges for feminist theorising and practice.
Examining recent feminist interventions in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, they address feminist responses to religious fundamentalism and secularism, globalisation, labour, and migration, militarisation and state repression, public representations of sexuality' and the politics of sex work. Their essays attest to the diversity and specificity of South Asian locations and feminist concerns, while also demonstrating how feminist engagements in the region can enrich and advance feminist theorising globally.
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.
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.
Shenkottai Sri Avudai Akkal, a remarkable eighteenth-century woman saint from Tamil Nadu, was a self-realised advaitin who sang passionately about the ecstasy of spiritual union with the Absolute. A desolate and stigmatised Brahmin child-widow, she was initiated into Vedanta by the great master Tiruvisainallur Shridhara Venkatesa Ayyawal. Her songs, a radical elision of the metaphysical sublime and personal devotion, are narrated through existential tropes sourced from daily life, and also offer a powerful critique of the oppressive orthodox socio-religious practices of that period.
Composed in simple, colloquial Tamil, and bringing hope and solace to women in general and widows in particular for almost three centuries, these songs by Avudai Akkal were preserved within the oral tradition by Brahmin women of Tirunellveli district who sang them on all occasions. The songs were documented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have appeared in many Tamil publications. They appear in English translation for the first time in this book. Each song is accompanied by annotations and themed essays.
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