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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
A searing memoir of a political life that took the Telugu literary world by storm.
Well-known as the widow of Kondapalli Seetharamaiah (KS), founder of the Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh, Koteswaramma’s life spans a tumultuous century of the Independence movement, the Communist insurrection and the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh. A dedicated worker for the Communist Party, she went underground in the difficult years of the late forties, living a secret life, running from safe house to safe house. Throughout, it was the support and companionship of her husband, Seetharamaiah, that gave her strength. And then, everything changed when he deserted her.
Refusing to be cowed down, Koteswaramma rebuilt her life step by painful step. She educated herself, took up a job, raised her grandchildren, wrote poetry and prose and established herself as a thinking person in her own right. This moving memoir is a testimony of her courage and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, as well as her understanding of the frailties of human beings and political institutions. That women in India often face incredible suffering is known. That they can fight back and emerge winners is exemplified in Koteswaramma’s life.
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.
In this collection of essays on Sri Lanka the authors – activists, lawyers, academics, journalists – look back at Sri Lanka’s long and intense armed conflict during which women and men were sexually brutalized, assaulted, tortured and disappeared. They examine not only the rampant sexual violence during the conflict period, and the impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators, but focus also on women’s struggles for survival, their interactions with community leaders and their navigation of society’s expectations, their understanding of, and access to justice. Essay after essay argues compellingly for the need to stop treating survivors of sexual violence as victims and to start seeing them as potentially powerful agents of change.
The writers highlight a hitherto unaddressed aspect of sexual violence: that of the structures that enable impunity on the part of perpetrators, be they security personnel and paramilitary forces, members of armed rebel groups, gangs, local politicians and police or ordinary citizens including close family members.
They demonstrate how impunity for perpetrators is both a failure of the formal justice process and a product of individual, community and social conditions and indeed the choices that victims and families often make, which promote silence over truth. At the end of more than a quarter century of conflict that has left some 100,000 dead, 50,000 women-headed households struggling to survive, and created countless victims and survivors of sexual violence, the calls for justice can no longer be ignored.
In this essay, Geetanjali Singh Chanda explores the idea of the nation, and its representation as a house or home in postcolonial Indian English literature. The author identifies that this literature has a dual parentage that manifests in its narratives, where characters with fragmented identities negotiate to make India their home.
Chanda explores this depiction of ‘Indianness’ through three prominent literary works: Nayantara Sahgal’s Rich Like Us (1983), Meena Alexander’s Nampally Road (1991), and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997). She focuses on the treatment of history within these narratives, and the struggle of characters to reconcile their personal or national history with the post-colonial present. This is done by connecting the events in the text to a significant historical event—like the Indian Independence in 1947, or the Emergency of 1975, which becomes the setting of both Rich Like Us and Nampally Road.
While an exhaustive study of the novels’ characters and storyline shows differences in their narratives and the authors’ perspectives, Chanda identifies common themes of disillusionment, belonging, and a complicated relationship with a house, which in each narrative becomes symbolic of the characters’ relationship with the nation. Women in particular seem to have tenuous relationships with the house, often being marginalized in the idea of the nation. But their relationships with each other seem to transcend national and ethnic identities, and help them navigate through the nation. Chanda focuses on these relationships in particular, associating the motherland with the biological mother.
One of Hindi's best known writers, Prabha Khaitan spent much of her life as the 'second' woman in a long-term relationship with a married man. Born in a conservative Marwari family, she defied tradition and family expectations, insisting on living life as a single woman, setting up her own business and earning the respect of her peers and colleagues in the corporate world. Despite her yearning to be loved and cherished by the man to whom she gave her life, Prabha Khaitan lived life on her own terms.
With a frankness that is rare in the world of Hindi autobiographical writing by women, Prabha Khaitan here speaks of her feelings, her sense of discomfort and unease at not being the 'legitimate' woman, about what she gained and lost from a relationship that was generally frowned upon by society and how she fought to become her own woman. In doing so, she reflects on marriage, relationships, intimacy and distance, the professional and the personal, and the ways in which women are caught within these often conflicting forces.
"Prabha Khaitan's story of her life and times is possibly one of the most honest books I have ever read. Sometimes it cuts too close to the bone for middle class comfort, unsettling the safety net and entitlements of complacency and convenience. All her life, she swam upstream, defying convention, defying prejudice, questioning choices." -- Namita Gokhale
"One of the most arresting things about feminist writer and poet Prabha Khaitan's autobiography is its naked narrative and almost poetic vulnerability. Simply written, the narrative flows languorously."-- Prerna Kalbag, The Hindustan Times
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.
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.
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.
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
A true-life ‘rags to riches’ story of the First Lady of Bengali Cinema. Kanan Devi, one of the early singing stars, came into the film world in the silent era and, unlike many others, survived the transition to talkies.
Reduced to working as a domestic help after the death of her father, her life took a dramatic turn when she was offered a film role and, encouraged by her uncle, took it.
In this lively and candid account of her experiences (originally published in 1973 as Shobarey Aami Nomi), Kanan Devi recalls the early days of cinema in Bengal, analysing and comparing conditions of film acting in the early 1930s with what she saw about two or three decades later when she herself was a producer and director, with her own film company, Shrimati Pictures.
This fascinating and unusual story offers not only a different perspective on the growth of the film industry in Bengal, but also a first-hand account of the position of women who came into the public sphere in the early decades of the last century.
Incisive, eclectic and politically engaged, Seeing like a Feminist is a bold and wide-ranging book that reorders contemporary society.
For Nivedita Menon, feminism is not about a moment of final triumph over patriarchy but about the gradual transformation of the social field so decisively that old markers shift forever. From sexual harassment charges against international figures to the challenge that caste politics poses to feminism, from the ban on the veil in France to the attempt to impose skirts on international women badminton players, from queer politics to domestic servants' unions to the Pink Chaddi campaign, Menon deftly illustrates how feminism complicates the field irrevocably.
"Wonderfully engaging and perfectly lucid."" - Tanika Sarkar
Originally published in Marathi in 1989, this contemporary classic details the history of women's participation in the Dalit movement led by Dr B.R. Ambedkar, for the first time. Focusing on the involvement of women in various Dalit struggles since the early twentieth century, the book goes on to consider the social conditions of Dalit women's lives, daily religious practices and marital rules, the practice of ritual prostitution, and women's issues. Drawing on diverse sources including periodicals, records of meetings, and personal correspondence, the latter half of the book is composed of interviews with Dalit women activists from the 1930s. These first-hand accounts from more than forty Dalit women make the book an invaluable resource for students of caste, gender, and politics in India. A rich store of material for historians of the Dalit movement and gender studies in India, We Also Made History remains a fundamental text of the modern women's movement.
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 creation of widespread public consent for family planning in Kerala, which ensured the non-coercive implementation of birth control in Malayali society, has been regarded as no less than the jewel in the crown of the 'Kerala Model' of social development. Individuals, Householders, Citizens reconstructs the history of the generation of such assent to produce a critical examination of this crucial aspect of social development in Kerala. It participates in the ongoing feminist critique of the Kerala Model, seeking to unravel the particular ways in which people were interpellated into the discourse of Family Planning.
Devika's study adds to the new inter-disciplinary work on questions traditionally considered native to demography. It employs some of the insights of economists and demographers on Kerala's demographic transition as entry points for critical historical inquiry into questions of gender and power in contemporary Kerala. The book is of interest to anyone interested in Kerala's experience of social development and its demographic 'achievements.'
“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.
On a cold February night in 1991, a group of soldiers and officers of the Indian Army pushed their way into two villages in Kashmir, seeking out militants assumed to be hiding there. They pulled the men out of their homes and subjected many to torture, and the women to rape. According to village accounts, as many as 31 women were raped.
Twenty-one years later, in 2012, the rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi galvanized a protest movement so widespread and deep that it reached all corners of the world. In Kashmir, a group of young women, all in their twenties, were inspired to re-open the Kunan-Poshpora case, to revisit their history and to look at what had happened to the survivors of the 1991 mass rape. Through personal accounts of their journey, this book examines questions of justice, of stigma, of the responsibility of the state, and of the long-term impact of trauma.
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.
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