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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.
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.
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 absence of gender awareness in policy and planning in the past has given rise to a variety of efficiency, welfare and equity costs. This book develops an analytical framework and a set of tools which can assist planners, as well as trainers, to ensure that gender is systematically integrated into different aspects of their work. It offers as inventory of the kinds of assumptions which lead to gender-blind policy, and assesses integrationist and transformatory strategies by feminist advocates to influence the mainstream policy agenda. An analytical framework for examining the gender inequalities generated by key institutions through which development takes place occupies a central place in the book. A selection of case studies from the Indian context serves to illustrate different aspects of the framework and its application.
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.
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 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.
In The Sexual Life of English, Shefali Chandra examines how English became an Indian language. She rejects the idea that English was fully formed before its life in India or that it was imposed from without. Rather, by drawing attention to sexuality and power, Chandra argues that the English language was produced through conflicts over caste, religion, and class. Sentiments and experiences of desire, respectability, conjugality, status, consumption and fashion, came together to create the Indian history of English. The language was shaped by the sexual experiences of Indians and by native attempts to discipline the normative sexual subject. Focusing on the years between 1850 and 1930, Chandra scrutinizes the English-education project as Indians gained the power to direct it themselves. She delves into the history of schools, the composition of the student bodies, and disagreements about curricula, the way that English-educated subjects wrote about English and debates in English and Marathi popular culture. Chandra shows how concerns over linguistic change were popularly voiced in a sexual idiom, how English and the vernacular were separated through the vocabulary of sexual difference, and how the demand for matrimony naturalized the social location of the English language.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this creative, ethnographic and historical critique of labor practices on an Indian plantation, Piya Chatterjee provides a sophisticated examination of the production, consumption and circulation of tea. Allowing personal, scholarly and artistic voices to speak in turn, the author discusses the fetishization of women who labor under colonial, post/colonial and now neofeudal conditions. A Time for Tea demonstrates that at the heart of these narratives of travel, conquest and settlement are compelling stories of women workers. While exploring the global and political dimensions of local practices of gendered labor, Chatterjee also reflects on the privileges and paradoxes of her own "decolonisation" as a third-world feminist anthropologist.
PIYA CHATTERJEE is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the University of California, Riverside, USA
This collection of essays focuses on the post-1980s period of the Indian feminist movement, a moment rich in new and different modes of resistance, of widespread political engagements with issues of rights, of justice, of identity and much more. The writers here, all well-known activists and founders of some of the most important of feminist institutions, describe their individual and collective journeys, bringing attention to the movement, to their struggles, their campaigns, their victories and the challenges they have faced. In using the tools of feminist analysis – a focus on life stories, on oral accounts, on group formation and more – they also make a case for advocacy through legal and socio-political means.
Despite being one of the most dynamic of feminist movements in the world, the Indian feminist movement has seldom been recognized as such. And yet, in addressing how women’s oppression and discrimination lie at the intersection of complex inequalities of caste, of region and religion, of class, of patriarchy, race, ethnicity, to name only a few, the writers in this volume make a case for the need for constant introspection, reflection and self-questioning, so that the movement can learn and grow. They show how in India, and indeed across much of South Asia, it is feminists who have stood against capitalism, war and violence, environmental degradation and fundamentalism and have forged alliances with varied movements, learning from them, working strengthening them but also infusing them with a feminist analysis.
CONTRIBUTORS: Flavia Agnes | Abha Bhaiya | Anjali Dave | Padma Deosthali | V. Geetha | Poonam Kathuria | Corinne Kumar | Kanchan Mathur | Madhu Mehra | Yashoda Pradhan | Sangeeta Rege | Jaya Sharma | Taranga Sriraman | Suneeta Thakur | Saumya Uma
Poonam Kathuria is the founder and executive secretary of SWATI (Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative).
Abha Bhaiya is one of the founder members of Jagori, a feminist organization set up in 1984 in Delhi.
Both are activists with a longstanding involvement in the women’s movement in India.
“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.
The fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and of dictatorships in Latin America brought new attention to democratic movements worldwide. Most interest focused on national activities, electoral politics and the expansion of capitalist markets, and though much has been written about social movements, the connections between women's grassroots organisations and democratization has been neglected. This book explores how these movements contribute to the expansion of pubic and private spaces and democratic processes. The sixteen case studies highlight women's grassroots movements in India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Eritrea, South Africa, Syria, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Poland, Russia, Belgium, Ireland, Canada, the United States (Appalachia) and Australia. They reveal the connections between local political and social action and the growth of democratic processes at state, regional and global levels. The book illustrates how community-based actions, programmes and organizations that empower women contribute to the creation of a civil society and thus enhance democracy.
Jill M Bystdzienki is Director of Women's Studies and Professor of Sociology at Iowa State University. She is author of Women in Electoral Politics: Lessons from Norway and editor of Women Transforming Politics: Worldwide Strategies for Empowerment.
Joti Sekhon is Professor of Sociology at Greensboro College, where she is also the coordinator of the International Studies Programme. She is the author of Modern India.
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
Over the last several years, regular evaluation of development programs has become essential in measuring and understanding their true impact. Feminist and gender-sensitive evaluations have gradually emerged, drawing attention to existing inequities—gender, caste, class, location, and more—and the cumulative effect of these biases on daily life. Such evaluations are also deeply political; they explicitly acknowledge that gender-based inequalities exist, show how they remain embedded in society, and articulate ways to address them.
Based on four years of research, Voices and Values offers critical insight into how gender, class, and nationality inflect and affect sociological research. It examines how feminist evaluations could make an effective contribution to new policy formulations oriented to gender and social equity. The essays here focus centrally on the structural roots of inequity: giving weight to all perspectives; adding value to marginalized groups and people under evaluation; and taking forward the findings of evaluation into advocacy for change. In doing so, each essay advances the understanding of feminist evaluation both conceptually and as practice.
CONTRIBUTORS: Venu Arora | Sneha Bhat | Pallavi Gupta | Vasundhara Kaul | Renu Khanna | Seema Kulkarni | Ranjani K. Murthy | Rajib Nandi | Srinidhi Raghavan | Neha Sanwal | Shubh Sharma | Ratna M. Sudarshan | Enakshi Ganguly Thukral | Sonal Zaveri
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.
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.
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