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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Good governance became the mantra in international development debates in the 1990s. The key approaches to bringing about good governance involved reforming the state and 'improving' public administration. Improving and strengthening democratic governance, while acknowledged as important by some international development agencies, was concentrated nevertheless on reforming the institutional design of the state through reforms of th electoral, judicial and legal systems and decentralization and devolution of government. But were these approaches sufficient to make governance participatory, accountable and responsive to citizens and respectful of rights? The action research on which this book is based undertaken in eight country contexts across two regions, Southern Africa and South Asia, by sixteen civil society organisations, looked at governance as political process, rather than solely as a series of technical interventions to improve state functioning. It investigated how women among marginalized groups could be enabled to stake their claim to participation in governance, and ho to create accountability of governance institutions to poor women's interest and rights. The book provides insights into the changing role of civil society organisations representing women's interest in creating 'voice' of the most marginalized women and strategies, methods and tools developed to reach poor women's voices to governance institutions in order to ensure policy responsiveness and implementation.
While women's language, women's writings, and women's views about the world we live in have all been the focus of much debate and study, this book explores the translation of these experiences and these writings in the context of India, with its multifaceted, multilingual character. If women's language is different from the patriarchal language that forms the basis of communication in most language communities, what has been the impact of writings from the women's perspective and how have these writings been translated? Indian women writers have been translated into English in the Indian context as well as into other western languages. What are the linguistic and cultural specificities of these literary productions? What is foregrounded and what is erased in these translations? What are the politics that inform the choices of the authors to be translated? What is the agency of the translators, and of the archivist, in these cultural productions? What is the role of women translators? These are some of the questions that this book explores. The book contains insightful essays by some of the best translation scholars in India with an in-depth Introduction and an essay by the well-known writer Ambai on her experience of being translated.
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
Knowing Our Rights is designed as a tool for activists engaged in lobbying and advocacy related to Muslim women's rights within the family, at the policy level and in communities. It covers twenty-six topics relevant to marriage and divorce, including the status of children (paternity and adoption) and child custody and guardianship. It is unique in providing a user-friendly, cross-comparative analysis of the diversities and commonalities of laws and customs across the Muslim world. This handbook is an essential resource for those taking a critical and questioning approach to rights, laws, and constructions of womanhood in Muslim countries and communities and beyond.
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is an international support network formed in 1984, in response to situations that required urgent action, related to Islam, laws and women. Starting as an Action Committee, WLUML evolved into an international network of information, solidarity and support.
“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.
"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 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.
"At various levels, from the city to the institutions and from the neighborhood 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 behavior 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 laborers 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."
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.
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, as well as two standalone volumes) 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 remarkable and wide-ranging study, activist and historian V. Geetha unpacks the meanings of impunity in relation to sexual violence in the context of South Asia. The State’s misuse of its own laws against its citizens is only one aspect of the edifice of impunity; its less-understood resilience comes from its consistent denial of the recognition of suffering on the part of victims, and its refusal to allow them the dignity of pain, grief and loss.
Time and again, in South Asia, the State has worked to mediate public memory, to manipulate forgetting, particularly in relation to its own acts of commission. It has done this by refusing to take responsibility, not only for its acts but also for the pain such acts have caused. It has done this by denying suffering the eloquence, the words, the expression that it deserves and papering over the hurt of people with routine government procedures.
The author argues that the State and its citizens must work together to accord social recognition to the suffering of victims and survivors of sexual violence, and thereby join in what she calls ‘a shared humanity’. While this may or may not produce legal victories, the acknowledgment that the suffering of our fellow citizens is our collective responsibility is an essential first step towards securing justice. It is this, that in a fundamental sense, challenges and illuminates the contours and details of State impunity and positions impunity as not merely a legal or political conundrum, but as resolute refusal on the part of State personnel to be part of a shared humanity.
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.
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.
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.
Winner of the Joan Kelley Memorial Prize in Women's History
A huge international controversy followed the 1927 publication of Mother India, an expose written by American journalist Katherine Mayo. Mother India provided graphic details of a variety of social ills in India, especially those related to the status of women and to the particular plight of the country's child wives. The book was translated into more than a dozen languages, and it was reviewed in virtually every major publication on five continents. Mrinalini Sinha traces the controversy surrounding Mother India, explaining how the uproar became a catalyst for far-reaching changes, including a reconfiguration of the relationship between the political and social spheres in colonial India.
Mrinalini Sinha is Associate Professor of History and Women's Studies at Penn State University.
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