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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.
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Feminist movements in India have, both pre- and post-Independence, seen the family and home as the nexus of organizing women’s lives. By the early 1980s, attempts to analyse this nexus had led to examining the codification of women’s rights in marriage and property. It is in this vein that this essay considers the history of the 1985 Shah Bano case and the feminist debates on personal law that it gave rise to.
The call for a common civil code that emerged from the case was extensively critiqued by feminists, liberals and secularists, as well as Muslim religious leaders. The essay traces how the sociopolitical context led to the quick descent of the issue into communal agitation, with a demand that Muslims be exempt from Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code that had been cited in granting Shah Bano maintenance from her husband. It describes how Hindu communalism had been acquiring legitimacy in the eyes of the state, and the contribution of this factor to the national fervour surrounding Shah Bano’s case.
Kumar then traces the opposition by various women’s groups to the 1986 Bill, which was introduced in parliament with an aim to exclude divorced Muslim women from the purview of the hotly debated Section 125. She explores the ‘bitter lessons’ that Indian feminists learnt from the public and state responses to Shah Bano’s case, which then posed certain questions that would become increasingly important to feminists in the years to follow. She concludes with questions of secularism–its definition and its practice–and of representation, both of which are brought to the forefront by Shah Bano’s case.
Winner of the 2005 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize
Even childbirth is affected by globalization—and in India, as elsewhere, the trend is away from home births assisted by midwives toward hospital births that increasingly rely on new technologies. And yet, as this work of critical feminist ethnography clearly demonstrates, as biomedical models of childbirth spread throughout the globe, they fuse with local practices to create distinctive forms of modern birth.
Through vivid description and animated dialogue, this book conveys the birth stories of the women of Tamil Nadu in their own voices. Cecilia Van Hollen uses these stories to explore larger questions about how the structures of colonialism and postcolonial international and national development have helped to shape the form and meaning of birth for Indian women today.
Cecilia Van Hollen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University.
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.
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.
"Drawing from field research in Cameroon, Ghana, Viet Nam and the Amazon forests of South America, this book explores the relationship between gender and land, revealing the workings of global capital and of people's responses to it.
A central theme is the people's resistance to global forces, frequently through an insistence on the uniqueness of their livelihoods.
The book addresses a gap in the literature on land tenure and gender in developing countries. It raises new questions about the process of globalization, particularly about who the actors are (local people, the state, NGOs, multinational companies) and the shifting relations among them. The book also challenges the very concepts of gender, land and globalization. "
Dzodzi Tsikata is a senior Research Fellow at Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research(ISSER) and Deputy Head of the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) at the University of Ghana. Her research interests are the areas of gender and livelihoods, gender and development policy and practice, land and resources tenure reforms. She has several publications on these subjects including a book, Living in the Shadow of the Large Dams: Long Term Responses of Lakeside and Downstream Communities of Ghana's Volta River Project(2006).
Pamela Gholah worked as Program Officer with the Women's Rights and Citizenship Program at the International Development Research Centre, Canada. In 2009, she joined the Research and Evaluation Branch at Citizenship and Immigration Canada as a Policy and Research Analyst.
Drawing from feminist, post modern, cultural, sociological and medical anthropological literature, this work shows the complex intertwining of illness and culture in the context of mental disorder.
The ethnographic context of the study is the interface between mental health professionals, patients and their families in a local psychiatric hospital in New Delhi. The book anchors the discussion around feminist thinking and praxis in the mental health realm, along with the traditions of cultural psychiatry and medical anthropology.
Deconstructing Mental Illness is relevant and contemporary, and makes an important contribution to the field of mental health of women. This important new work extends the frontiers of social science research and offers alternative perspectives on women, health and disability.
Khabar Lahariya, an eight-page newspaper published every fortnight since 2002 from Uttar Pradesh's Chitrakoot district, covers the news that mainstream media forgot. It is brought out by an all-women team. Most of them are Dalit. Some of them, barely literate. Waves in the Hinterland takes you on a journey through women's lives in feudal Bundelkhand, on dusty pot-holed roads, through caste prejudice, water shortages, police stations, polling booths, and the world of small-town journalism to tell the story of the extraordinary women behind this extraordinary newspaper.
Part memoir, part oral testimony, part eyewitness account, Binodini's The Maharaja's Household provides a unique and engrossingly intimate view of life in the erstwhile royal household of Manipur in northeast India. It brings to life stories of kingdoms long vanished, and is an important addition to the untold histories of the British Raj.
Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi, who wrote under the single name of Binodini, published The Maharaja's Household as a series of essays between 2002 and 2007 for an avid newspaper reading public in Manipur. Already celebrated across the state for her award-winning novel, short stories, and film scripts, Binodini entranced her readers anew with her stories of royal life, told from a woman's point of view and informed by a deep empathy for the common people in her father's gilded circle.
Elephan hunts, polo matches and Hindu temple performances form the backdrop for palace intrigues, colonial rule and White Rajahs. With gentle humour, piquant obersavations and heartfelt nostalgia, Binodini evokes a lifestyle and era that is now lost. Her book paints a portrait of the household of a king that only a princess - his daughter - could have written.
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.
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?
Across the South Asian region, water determines livelihoods and in some cases even survival. However, water also creates exclusions. Access to water, and its social organisation, are intimately tied up with power relations. This book provides an overview of gender, equity and water issues relevant to South Asia. The essays empirically illustrate and theoretically argue how gender intersects with other axes of social difference such as class, caste, ethnicity, age and religion to shape water access, use and management practices. Divided into six thematic sections, each of which starts with an introduction of relevant concepts, debates and theories, the book looks at laws and rights, policies, technologies and intervention strategies. In all, the book clearly shows how understanding and changing the use, distribution and management of water is conditional upon understanding and accommodating gender relations.
"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.
This volume documents the focus on the widow, regarded as the dark half of womankind in tradition, the structural counterpart of the sumangali or the auspicious married woman, and to provide an archive on widowhood. The archive comprises prescriptions, injunctions, laws and other accounts dating back to the 5th century BC from Sanskrit texts as well as extracts from official documents, pamphlets and essays in many languages, published in the 19th and 20th centuries. The material is arranged in three parts: documents, personal narratives and creative writing in an attempt to capture the complexities of the experience of widowhood, its diversity and range across India. With the emergence of the women's movement in the last quarter of the 20th century, the terms of analysis have changed and feminist inspired scholarship has raised new questions. In the anthology the widow comes across not just as a passive 'pitiable' object, oppressed, victimised and patronised but as an active resisting survivor - it is this last image that stays with the reader.
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.
Though commonplace today as a technological quick fix for infertility, assisted reproduction is a complex phenomenon, located at the intersection of patriarchy, medicalization and commerce, These technologies create both challenges and opportunities, and responses to them have sought to balance questions of ethics, rights and politics. The essays in this volume map the journey of ARTs in different countries, examining the global industry and the challenges it poses in the context of markets, and look at regulatory frameworks in diverse settings.Together they bring a feminist lens to the examination of the now-established ART industry.
Sama's long-standing work provides a special focus on India: the spread and features of the industry, the gendered nature of the burden and treatment of infertility, the destabilisation of the family as we know it, and feminist debated around surrogacy that reassess ideas of agency and commodification.
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.
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.
This volume, the second on India, addresses the question of state impunity, suggesting that on the issue of the violation of human and civil rights, and particularly in relation to the question of sexual violence, the state has been an active and collusive partner in creating states of exception, where its own laws can be suspended and the rights of its citizens violated. Drawing on patterns of sexual violence in Kashmir, the Northeast of India, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Rajasthan, the essays together focus on the long histories of militarization and regions of conflict, as well as the ‘normalized’ histories of caste violence which are rendered invisible because it is convenient to pretend they do not exist. Even as the writers note how heavily the odds are stacked against the victims and survivors of sexual violence, they turn their attention to recent histories of popular protest that have enabled speech. They stress that while this is both crucial and important, it is also necessary to note the absence of sufficient attention to the range of locations where sexual violence is endemic and often ignored. Resistance, speech, the breaking of silence, the surfacing of memory: these, as the writers powerfully argue, are the new weapons in the fight to destroy impunity and hold accountable the perpetrators of sexual violence.
The essays in the volume consider the significance of nation and gender in the context of post-1989 transitions in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and in the context of post-partition India. The texts critique the ways in which narratives of nationhood and womanhood naturalize and essentialize difference and hierarchy. The authors explore uses of sexualized/gendered imagery in defining the space of the nation and sexualized/gendered metaphors of state fatherhood and motherhood in defining the distribution of power within that space. of the nation (e.g. feminized landscapes and battlefields) and sexualized /gendered metaphors of state fatherhood and motherhood in defining the distribution of power within that space. The particular histories of nationalism and partition are different in the countries involved, but commonalities in the narrative structures, state ad nation-building strategies, patriarchal patterns of control, and mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion are striking. This is particularly so with respect to the ways in which exclusive national identities are constituted through gendered representations of the nation and its members.
Water management is not an engineering matter alone, it involves ecological, socio- political, administrative and legal concerns. Gender is a key factor but has been neglected both conventionally and in recent water reform policies and structures. Yet, a cross-section of South Asian women have challenged socio-cultural norms and crossed personal and professional boundaries to make a profound impact on water and sanitation management. Their inspiring stories have scarcely been documented. This book is the first to profile women from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka ? women at the grassroots or with NGOs, women activists, journalists, administrators, scientists, academics, action-researchers - who have faced challenges related to water with courage and determination. Complementing the 32 women?s voices is data compiled from an analysis of the situation of women water professionals in the region. Written in an engaging manner, this book will be of interest both to the general reader and to academics and practitioners in water management and gender/women's studies.
This book sets out to examine the gendered expressions of Shia Muslim faith. How do contemporary women construct and experience their religious lives? How does gender impact Shia piety? In this intriguing study, the author critically analyses the world of women's religious expression, helping us to better understand not only the ritual lives of Shia women, but Muslim faith and practice in general.
The author argues that most research and writing on Shia Islam reflects male expressions and beliefs. Men have dominated the formation of knowledge within the Shia religious hierarchy, as well as the study of Shia Islam within the fields of Religious Studies and Islamic Studies. In contrast, the author takes women's lives and beliefs as her starting point, and uncovers powerful female expressions which dynamically shape Shia Muslim religious life.
Diane D'Souza helps us discover a vibrant women-centred narrative underpinning Shia faith. Whether by bringing to life female personalities which profoundly shaped religious history, illuminating the dynamic female leadership within today's religious rituals, or uncovering the fascinating development of a women-only shrine, this book provides a richer, more complete understanding of Shia Islam.
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