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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.
"Women always face violence from men. Equality is only preached, but not put into practice. Dalit women face more violence every day, and they will continue to do so until society changes and accepts them as equals." --Bharati from Andhra Pradesh
The right to equality regardless of gender and caste is a fundamental right in India. However, the Indian government has acknowledged that institutional forces arraigned against this right are powerful and shape people's mindsets to accept pervasive gender and caste inequality. This is no more apparent than when one visits Dalit women living in their caste-segregated localities. Vulnerably positioned at the bottom of India's gender, caste and class hierarchies, Dalit women experience the outcome of severely imbalanced social, economic and political power equations in terms of endemic caste-class-gender discrimination and violence.
This study presents an analytical overview of the complexities of systemic violence that Dalit women face through an analysis of 500 Dalit women's narratives across four states. Excerpts of these narratives are utilised to illustrate the wider trends and patterns of different manifestations of violence against Dalit women.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The essays in this volume focus on Nepal, which though not directly colonized, has not remained immune from the influence of colonialism in its neighbourhood. In addition to home-grown feudal patriarchal structures, the writers in this volume clearly demonstrate that it is the larger colonial and post-colonial context of the subcontinent that has enabled the structuring of inequalities and power relations in ways that today allow for widespread sexual violence and impunity in the country – through legal systems, medical regimes and social institutions.
The period after the 1990 democratic movement, the subsequent political transformation in the aftermath of the Maoist insurgency and the writing of the new constitution, has seen an increase in public discussion about sexual violence. The State has brought in a slew of legislation and action plans to address this problem. And yet, impunity for perpetrators remains intact and justice elusive. What are the structures that enable such impunity? What can be done to radically transform these? How must States understand the search for justice for victims and survivors of sexual violence? The essays in this volume attempt to trace a history of sexual violence in Nepal, look at the responses of women’s groups and society at large, and suggest how this serious and wide-ranging problem may be addressed.
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.
Khabar Lahariya, an eight-page newspaper published every fortnight since 2002 from Uttar Pradesh's Chitrakoot district, covers the news that mainstream media forgot. It is brought out by an all-women team. Most of them are Dalit. Some of them, barely literate. Waves in the Hinterland takes you on a journey through women's lives in feudal Bundelkhand, on dusty pot-holed roads, through caste prejudice, water shortages, police stations, polling booths, and the world of small-town journalism to tell the story of the extraordinary women behind this extraordinary newspaper.
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.
“ … the strength of the volume lies in its ability to mesh its diverse theoretical concerns with rich empirical data from all across India …” -- Seminar
This timely volume brings together the work of some of India’s leading feminist economists, historians, political scientists, journalists and anthropologists to investigate the contemporary situation of women in India. It focuses on four broad domains: the cultural, the social, the political and the economic. The writers argue that despite apparently positive indicators of progress in education and paid employment, women’s status has not improved.
Karin Kapadia has taught at the London School of Econmoics, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and at the Unviersities of Sussex and Durham. Her publications include Siva and Her Sisters: Gender, Caste and Class in Rural South India, The Worlds of Indian Industrial Labour (co-edited) and Rural Labour Relations in India (co-edited). From January 1999 to November 2001 she worked at the World Bank, Washington D.C., as the South Asia Region Coordinator for Gender and Development.
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.
Organizing Empire critically examines how concepts of individualism functioned to support and resist British imperialism in India. Through readings of British colonial and Indian nationalist narratives that emerged in parliamentary debates, popular colonial histories, newsletters, memoirs, biographies, and novels. Purnima Bose investigates the ramifications of reducing collective activism to individual intentions. Paying particular attention to the construction of gender, she shows that ideas of individualism rhetorically and theoretically bind colonials, feminists, nationalists, and neocolonials to one another. She demonstrates how reliance on ideas of the individual - as scapegoat or hero - enabled colonial and neocolonial powers to deny the violence that they perpetrated. At the same time, she shows how analyses of the role of the individual provide a window into the dynamics and limitations of state formations and feminist and nationalist resistance movements.
From a historically grounded, feminist perspective, Bose offers four case studies, each of which illuminates a distinct individualizing rhetorical strategy. She looks at the parliamentary debates on the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, in which several hundred unarmed Indian protestors were killed; Margaret Cousin's firsthand account of feminist organizing in Ireland and India; Kalpana Dutt's memoir of the Bengali terrorist movement of the 1930s, which was modeled in part on Irish anti-colonial activity; and the popular histories generate by ex-colonial officials and their wives. Bringing to the fore the constraints that colonial domination placed upon agency and activism, Organizing Empire highlights the complexity of the multiple narratives that constitute British colonial history.
PURNIMA BOSE is Associate Professor of English at Indiana University.
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.
Poster Women is an archive of over 1500 posters from the Indian Women's Movement, collected over an 18 monthperiod from all over India. Put together by Zubaan, this unique archive demonstrates the dynamism, richness and variety of this important movement. Spanning the periodfrom the 70s to the present day, the collection is divide into a number of key campaigns that cover areas such as violence, health, political participation, the environment, religion and communalism, literacy and rights and marginalization. Also included are posters on different themes such as the use of the goddess metaphor, or the marking of particular days that ara important to the movement. The collection has been sourced from over 200 groups all over the country.
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.
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.
"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 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.
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.
"Drawing from field research in Cameroon, Ghana, Viet Nam and the Amazon forests of South America, this book explores the relationship between gender and land, revealing the workings of global capital and of people's responses to it.
A central theme is the people's resistance to global forces, frequently through an insistence on the uniqueness of their livelihoods.
The book addresses a gap in the literature on land tenure and gender in developing countries. It raises new questions about the process of globalization, particularly about who the actors are (local people, the state, NGOs, multinational companies) and the shifting relations among them. The book also challenges the very concepts of gender, land and globalization. "
Dzodzi Tsikata is a senior Research Fellow at Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research(ISSER) and Deputy Head of the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) at the University of Ghana. Her research interests are the areas of gender and livelihoods, gender and development policy and practice, land and resources tenure reforms. She has several publications on these subjects including a book, Living in the Shadow of the Large Dams: Long Term Responses of Lakeside and Downstream Communities of Ghana's Volta River Project(2006).
Pamela Gholah worked as Program Officer with the Women's Rights and Citizenship Program at the International Development Research Centre, Canada. In 2009, she joined the Research and Evaluation Branch at Citizenship and Immigration Canada as a Policy and Research Analyst.
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