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Vividly showcasing new ethnographic research on extraordinary South Asian women who have abandoned worldly life for spiritual pursuits, the contributors to this collection offer feminist insights into Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, Baul, and Bon ascetic traditions. With intimate narratives documenting contemporary women's experiences, the book explores the lives of women who have renounced involvements such as sex, financial security, kin, and the pursuit of beauty, in favour of higher spiritual ideals. The authors consider the hardships endured by women and warn against any easy romanticization of their lives. At the same time, the book offers a refreshing antidote to the relentless image of South Asian women as dependent on male kin and defined by their sexual and procreative roles.
Patriarchy asserts men are superior to women
Feminism clarifies women and men are equal
Queerness questions what constitutes male and female
Queerness isn’t only modern, Western or sexual, says mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik. Take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over two thousand years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver a devotee’s child; Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend, and many more . . .
Playful and touching—and sometimes disturbing—these stories, when compared with their Mesopotamian, Greek, Chinese and Biblical counterparts, reveal the unique Indian way of making sense of queerness.
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
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.
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.
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.
This book is an attempt to understand the causes, nature and consequences of gender-based violence in public spaces. It provides a framework that locates gender based violence within the politics and dynamics of public space, and helps us to understand the commonality between these diverse forms of violence, ranging from sexual harassment, sexual assault, moral policing, 'honour' killing, acid throwing, witch hunting, parading naked, tonsuring, rape and homicide. The writers unpack and examine the idea of a 'public' space: although by and large a notional space, they begin by identifying it as the geographical space between the home and the workplace and then, go beyond this to look at the violation faced by homeless women and girls who live on the streets, as well as those who work in public spaces in the unorganised sector.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
A thematic history of the women's movement in India both before and after independence, this book covers the period from the nineteenth century to the present day. It looks at how women's issues were raised, initially by men and as part of the movements for social reform, and then with the involvement of women in the nationalist movement, by women themselves. Using photographs, old and new documents, excerpts from letters, books and informal writings, the author documents the growing involvement of women and the formation of the early women's organizations, she examines the foregrounding of the `women's issue' during the reform and nationalist movements and its subsequent disappearance from the agenda of public debate until the post independence period of the Sixties and Seventies when it surfaces again.
Radha Kumar is Senior Fellow and Director of the project on Ethnic Conflict, Partition and Post-Conflict Reconstruction at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She is author of Divide and Fall: Bosnia in the Annals of Partition. She was formerly Executive Director, Helsinki Citizen's Assembly.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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