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“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.
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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.
The Tamil text Nīlakeci, dated around the 5th century CE (debated), is an unusual literary creation. It retrieves a violent, vengeful pēy (female possessing spirit) of Palayanur, transforming her into a Jaina philosopher. It was a profoundly subversive idea of its time, using the female persona and voice (for a hitherto disembodied being) to debate with preceptors of different schools of thought/religions of the time, all male, barring the Buddhist nun, Kuṇṭalakeci. Nīlakeci’s debates focus on questions of non-violence, existence of the soul, authorship and caste, among others.
However, in order to truly appreciate this alter-texting, one has to unravel layers of other texts and traditions: the lesser known villuppāttu (bow-song) and nātakam (theatrical) versions of the pēy Nīli stories, as well as the story of Kuṇṭalakeci’s own transformative journey. Umamaheshwari situates these in a comparative context, while maintaining the centrality of the debates within Nīlakeci, using translation of selected excerpts.
R. UMAMAHESHWARI did her doctorate in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has been an independent journalist and historian for some years. She was Fellow at the Institut d’Études Avancées de Nantes (Nantes Institute for Advanced Study), France (2017-18), and the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (2014-16). She is author of Reading History with the Tamil Jainas: A Study on Identity, Memory and Marginalisation, 2017 and When Godavari Comes: People’s History of a River (A Journey in the Zone of the Dispossessed), 2014.
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
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.
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.
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.
The Reproduction and Child Health policy (RCH) in India has been in force since 1995. Coming after the Cairo conference, 1994, the RHC was expected to usher in 'paradigm shift' in India's population policy. From a family welfare programme that has historically been top-down, even coercive, the Indian government projected the RHC to be a participatory, women-centered reproductive health service. Ironically, the policy was devised barely four years after the start of Indian State's tryst with the market development, and was launched into a political environment in ideological transition. This book provides a political analysis of RHC policy, tracking how neo-liberal and purportedly, women-centered reproductive health discourses are positioned against each other.
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.
"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.
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.
“ … 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.
While women's language, women's writings, and women's views about the world we live in have all been the focus of much debate and study, this book explores the translation of these experiences and these writings in the context of India, with its multifaceted, multilingual character. If women's language is different from the patriarchal language that forms the basis of communication in most language communities, what has been the impact of writings from the women's perspective and how have these writings been translated? Indian women writers have been translated into English in the Indian context as well as into other western languages. What are the linguistic and cultural specificities of these literary productions? What is foregrounded and what is erased in these translations? What are the politics that inform the choices of the authors to be translated? What is the agency of the translators, and of the archivist, in these cultural productions? What is the role of women translators? These are some of the questions that this book explores. The book contains insightful essays by some of the best translation scholars in India with an in-depth Introduction and an essay by the well-known writer Ambai on her experience of being translated.
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.
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.
Every year millions of impoverished families living in the rained parts of India leave their homes in search of work. Forced to migrate due to a livelihoods collapse in the villages, these distress seasonal migrants shut up their spartan homes, take a few meager belongings and move, often across long distances. The large numbers of children who accompany their parents are forced to drop out of school, and in most instances, do not find schooling in the areas they move to. As a result, at work sites these children are put to work from young ages. The numbers of such children under the age of 14 years is estimated to be in the region of 9 million. This study, commissioned by the American India Foundation, draws on the work of four NGOs in different parts of India, and in different sectors: sugarcane harvesting in Maharashtra, salt pan, roof tile and charcoal making in Gujarat, and brick kiln migrations from Orissa to Andhra Pradesh. Both macro and micro aspects of distress seasonal migration are covered, including the spread and scale of the occurrence, the seasonality factor, the differing contexts, employer-labour relations, working and living conditions of migrant families, and children, and the links of such migration with child labour.
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.
This book makes an important contribution towards an understanding of citizenship as mediated by other collective, historically determined identities: of gender, ethnicity, class and national status. It brings together a group of prominent international scholars from moral philosophy, law, political science and sociology to offer a major re-conceptualization of the idea of citizenship. The contributors demonstrate how the growing ambivalence of State sovereignty in the face of multinational capitalism and the absence of political accountability structures are complicit in the definitions of gendered citizenship. Against these, women’s communal mobilization and political activism are considered in terms of their power effects and political potentialities.
This book examines the structures of governance as they impact women in five conflict zones in South Asia: Swat in Pakistan, the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, the Northern Province in Sri Lanka, and Kashmir and Manipur in India.
Despite their different historical and political contexts, the five studies included here throw up some common patterns. War and conflict have weakened and eroded existing formal structures and institutions of governance. New formations, whether made up of militant groups, or more ‘secular’ state institutions like armies, do not see women as rights-bearing actors. Further, the authors argue, the impact of war, conflict, settlerism and militancy can make state structures more distant and sometimes incomprehensible to citizens, leaving women’s specific gender concerns unaddressed.
Taken together, the essays show that women’s relationship with governance institutions is complex, and combines dependence on such institutions with the challenge of dealing with new forms of patriarchy that take root as structures transform and change. The gendering of governance policy and practice therefore, is of crucial importance.
CONTRIBUTORS: Amena Mohsin | Delwar Hossain | Nazish Brohi Saba Gul Khattak | Malathi De Alwis | Udhayani Navaratnam | Nima Lamu Yolmo | Shaheena Parveen | Ayesha Parvez | Seema Kazi
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.
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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