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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.
"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."
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
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.
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
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 focuses on Bangladesh, a nation born in 1971, in a birth that was as marked by bloodshed as it was by sexual violence. The history of widespread sexual violence, and incidents of sexual slavery, as well as the absence of accountability for the perpetrators, is by now well known. The essays here address the structural dynamics of impunity at the individual and societal levels, looking not only at the conditions that go into its creation, but also the elements that fuel it. They ask what helps it to become so embedded and point to its human, global and national costs. Together they explore the ways in which the women’s movement and feminist practice have worked to demand accountability and recognition for the victims and survivors of sexual violence, challenging the impunities embedded in the patriarchal structures of Bangladeshi society. In doing so, they bear witness to the continuing efforts of women’s groups in Bangladesh to give this crucial issue the attention that it deserves, for without that, justice for victims and survivors, will remain elusive.
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.
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.
Although there have been notable gains for women globally in the last few decades, gender inequality and gender-based inequities continue to impinge upon girls’ and women’s ability to realize their rights and their full potential as citizens and equal partners in decision-making and development. In fact, for every right that has been established, there are millions of women who do not enjoy it.
In this book, studies from Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are prefaced by an introductory chapter that links current thinking on gender justice to debates on citizenship, entitlements, and law and development. A concluding chapter situates the discussion of gender justice, citizenship, and entitlements in current development debates on poverty alleviation and social exclusion. The book brings together multidisciplinary perspectives from leading feminist scholars of sociology, political science and legal studies, among others, and in doing so, provides new insights for both advocacy and research.
MAITRAYEE MUKHOPADHYAY is the Area Leader for Social Development and Gender Equity in the Department of Development Policy and Practice at the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam.
NAVSHARAN SINGH is Senior Program Officer in the Women’s Rights and Citizenship Program of IDRC, and is based at IDRC’s office in New Delhi.
The last few decades have witnessed growing theoretical and practical concerns with intersections between violent conflict and development. Links between poverty and natural resources have been minutely explored, and attention has also been given to how state collapse and bad governance have contributed to violent conflict. However, gender relations and ideologies have often been overlooked in theorization of these interconnections, as well as in designing development strategies meant to mend the devastating impact that war leaves on a society.
This book looks at the intersections between development practice and violent conflict from an explicit gender perspective and situates the fields of inquiry within a global condition of neo-liberal economy and militarism. Using the notions of femininity and masculinity as analytical tools, contributors question theoretical, political and policy approaches pertaining to specific development strategies in times of prolonged violent conflict, transitions to peace, and post-conflict periods. They further analyse various social, cultural, economic and political processes and relations of power that impact upon different groups of women, men and children in the contexts of militarization and violence.
Dubvravka Zarkov is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. She works on gender, sexuality, ethnicity and violent conflict. With Cynthia Cockburn she has co-edited The Postwar Moment: Militaries, Masculinities and International Peacekeeping, on experiences in Bosnia and the Netherlands. Her book The Fe/Male Body and the Productive Power of Violence: On `Media War’ and `Ethnic War’ in Former Yugoslavia, is forthcoming.
How can women live fully? If autonomy is critical for humans, why do women have little or no choice vis-à-vis motherhood? Do women know they have a choice, if they do? How 'free' are these choices in a context where the self is socially mired and deeply enmeshed into the familial? What are implications of motherhood on how human relatedness and belonging are defined?
These questions underlie Amrita Nandy's remarkable research on motherhood as an institution, one that conflates 'woman' with 'mother' and 'personal' with 'political'.
As the bedrock of human survival and an unchallenged norm of 'normal' female lives, motherhood expects and even compels women to be mothers—symbolic and corporeal. Even though the ideology of pronatalism and motherhood reinforce reproductive technology and vice versa, the care work of mothering suffers political neglect and economic devaluation. However, motherhood (and non-motherhood) is not just physiological. As the pivot to a web of heteronormative institutions (such as marriage and the family), motherhood bears an overwhelming and decisive influence on women's lives. Against the weight of traditional and contemporary histories, socio-political discourse and policies, this study explores how women, as embodiments of multiple identities, could live stigma-free, 'authentic' lives without having to abandon reproductive 'self'-determination.
"Feminist Post-Development Thought addresses the crucial question of what development means for women. Is it still their best hope of social progress and equality, or does it simply raise false expectations for the future? In this groundbreaking collection with its diverse perspectives, feminist thinkers explore whether Third World women ought to continue along the path of development or abandon full-scale modernization and seek post-development alternatives instead. It represents the first attempt to ascertain the possibilities, and limitations, of the post-development path for women.
The Self-Respect Movement launched by Periyar (E.V.Ramasami Naiker) in 1926 questioned the ways in which the lower castes were systematically excluded from the Indian nation and constructed as the 'Other' by the Brahmin elites. While Periyar's role within the movement has received critical and scholarly attention, women Self-Respecters and the issues they raised have gone largely unnoticed. This collection of essays and fiction by women Self-Respecter translated from the Tamil could serve as the material basis for writing an alternative history of the writing an alternative history of the movement. In mapping the voices of women who identified with movement this anthology helps us arrive at a different and richer understanding of what the Self-Respect movement stood for. There is an urgent need not only to improve upon existing Self respect histories but also to critique the ways in which they have so far been written. This anthology provides a basis for such critique.
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 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.
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 wide-ranging collection of voices from India's Northeast is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary
When Thangjam Manorama was arrested and killed by the Assam Rifles in July 2004 in Manipur, it unleashed a protest likes of which no one had witnessed before. This was one of the triggers for this collection - to provide a space for women and men from the 'Northeast' to tell us about the issues that confronted them daily, to talk about the pressures, the insecurities, the uncertainties confronting them in an area that has been facing low intensity warfare for decades.
The anger and the frustrations of the Manipuri women who staged that dramatic protest after Manorama's killing have in many ways been vindicated. Each essay in this book brings to mind that troubling image, each contributor points to the Manipuri women, holding them up as a flag of rebellion, of protest, of questioning. Each essay questions issues of nation, identity, of what makes the people of the Northeast so alienated from the 'mainstream'.
Many contributors are writers, academics or activists from the Northeast but there are many are, like the editor, 'outsiders'. But outsiders who share a passion for the region and an intense desire to see change, to see peace.
"It's impossible to cover the import of all the essays in the span of one review. But in short, the book is a brave attempt to cover just about everything there is to know about the region from a concerned citizen's point of view."-- Susan Abraham, DNA
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.
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.
This powerful counter-narrative to the mainstream assumptions about the development of feminism in India in the 20th century is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
The last decade saw the emergence and assertion of separate Dalitbahujan women's organizations both at the national and regional levels. Excluded from political and cultural spheres, Dalit women's movements have sought to transform both Dalit and feminist politics in India. They have fought against the reproduction of caste within modern spaces like universities, bureaucracies and within the women's movement as well as women's studies. The assumptions about caste identities being private and personal have been questioned and serious challenges posed for understanding caste and gender in contemporary India.
Located within this context, this book brings together extracts from the work of Kumud Pawade, Urmila Pawar, Shantabai Kamble, Mukta Sarvagod, Shantabai Dani, Vimal More and Janabai Girhe.
Sharmila Rege is a Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Pune. She has worked for several years with the Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women?s Studies Centre, University of Pune. She has written and published on sociology of gender, Dalit feminism and Dalitbahajun public culture in Maharashtra. Her present work concerns the documentation of music and print cultures of the Ambedkarite counterpublics in contemporary Maharashtra.
"So riveting is the narration that it is difficult to put down the book until their stories are finished. For a non-fiction academic work this is no small feat." -- Anupama Katakam, The Hindu
This book links caste and gender to the social production of motherhood. Dandekar argues that in contradiction to the assumption about motherhood being primarily a female-centred and positive domain, subaltern agency produces it as malign, dangerous, malevolent and marginal.
Highlighting the manner in which the experience and expression of motherhood is constructed as androgynous and nonthreatening to patriarchal hegemony, the author emphasizes the consolidation of ‘lower’ caste positive identity through valorization processes and endorses high caste and class ownership and power by producing the birth and survival of a male child as its ideological validaton.
Little has been written about the experiences of motherhood in India, outside of the debates around public health statistics. Here, the author reinvents and deconstructs existing notions of maternity by interrogating the very systemic and patriarchal nature of its language that depoliticizes oppression.
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