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Winner of the Joan Kelley Memorial Prize in Women's History
A huge international controversy followed the 1927 publication of Mother India, an expose written by American journalist Katherine Mayo. Mother India provided graphic details of a variety of social ills in India, especially those related to the status of women and to the particular plight of the country's child wives. The book was translated into more than a dozen languages, and it was reviewed in virtually every major publication on five continents. Mrinalini Sinha traces the controversy surrounding Mother India, explaining how the uproar became a catalyst for far-reaching changes, including a reconfiguration of the relationship between the political and social spheres in colonial India.
Mrinalini Sinha is Associate Professor of History and Women's Studies at Penn State University.
"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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Celebratory new features about India's thriving middle class tell only part of the story of the country's recent economic rise, frequently glossing over the 300 million Indians who live on the margins and struggle to survive under economic liberalization. How do those, cast out of their country's successes, perceive and respond to their position and mobilize against disempowerment?
Aradhana Sharma takes up these questions, focusing on the work of an innovative women's programme called Mahila Samakhya, that is part governmental and part non-governmental and strives to empower those rural Indian woman who have been pushed aside. Detailing the awkward ideological articulations and paradoxical outcomes of this unique activist-cum-government organization, Paradoxes of Empowerment fosters a deeper understanding of development and politics in contemporary India.
In May 2009, the Sri Lankan army overwhelmed the last stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -- better known as the Tamil Tigers -- officially bringing to an end nearly three decades of civil war. The conflict resulted in massive displacement of people from their homes.
The figures are shocking around 80,000 Muslims were expelled from the LTTE controlled north, and nearly half of all Sri Lankan Tamils were displaced during the civil war.
Sharika Thiranagama's book focuses on two groups of displaced peoples : Sri Lankan Tamils from the north and Sri Lankan Muslims. Through detailed engagement with ordinary people struggling to find a home in the world, Thiranagama explores the dynamics with and between these two minority communities, describing how these relations were reshaped by violence, displacement and authoritarianism.
She tackles three major themes: the ideas of home, transformations within the family, and the impact of political violence on ordinary lives and public speech. Only by taking stock of these new Tamil and Muslim identities forged by the civil war can one envisage and work towards a peaceful future for this troubled land.
Drawing from feminist, post modern, cultural, sociological and medical anthropological literature, this work shows the complex intertwining of illness and culture in the context of mental disorder.
The ethnographic context of the study is the interface between mental health professionals, patients and their families in a local psychiatric hospital in New Delhi. The book anchors the discussion around feminist thinking and praxis in the mental health realm, along with the traditions of cultural psychiatry and medical anthropology.
Deconstructing Mental Illness is relevant and contemporary, and makes an important contribution to the field of mental health of women. This important new work extends the frontiers of social science research and offers alternative perspectives on women, health and disability.
Inclusive Citizenship seeks to go beyond the intellectual debates of recent years on democratization and participation to explore a related set of issues around changing conceptions of citizenship. People’s understandings of what it means to be a citizen go to the heart of the various meanings of identity, including national identity, political and electoral participation, and rights. The researchers in this volume come from a wide variety of societies, including the industrial countries in the North, and they seek to explore these difficult questions from different angles. Themes include: Citizenship and Rights, Citizenship and Identity, Citizenship and Political Struggle and the policy implications of substantive notions of citizenship.
Naila Kabeer is Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, and a member of the Poverty and Social Policy Research Team. Her research interests include gender, population and poverty issues. Her recent books include The Power to Choose: Bangladeshi Women and Labour Market Decisions in London and Dhaka and Reversed Realities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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