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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 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
In rejecting falsely homogenizing accounts of women’s lives, feminist economists have, in recent years, unlocked the multiple ways in which gendered relations of dominance and subordination are maintained. One of the key differences they have turned their attention to is ethnicity. This study of Muslim, Sinhala and Tamil households in Sri Lanka examines both the commonality of patriarchal structures and economic problems in such households, as well as the differences created by the ethnicities that divide them. The author looks at the nature and reliability of kinship support for female heads and the reciprocal obligations in terms of female propriety and conventional conduct extracted from female heads. She questions development policies premised on the patriarchal household and argues for a recognition of diversity and complexity.
Jill M Bystdzienki is Director of Women's Studies and Professor of Sociology at Iowa State University.
Joti Sekhon is Professor of Sociology at Greensboro College, where she is also the coordinator of the International Studies Programme. She is the author of Modern India.
The Self-Respect Movement launched by Periyar (E.V.Ramasami Naiker) in 1926 questioned the ways in which the lower castes were systematically excluded from the Indian nation and constructed as the 'Other' by the Brahmin elites. While Periyar's role within the movement has received critical and scholarly attention, women Self-Respecters and the issues they raised have gone largely unnoticed. This collection of essays and fiction by women Self-Respecter translated from the Tamil could serve as the material basis for writing an alternative history of the writing an alternative history of the movement. In mapping the voices of women who identified with movement this anthology helps us arrive at a different and richer understanding of what the Self-Respect movement stood for. There is an urgent need not only to improve upon existing Self respect histories but also to critique the ways in which they have so far been written. This anthology provides a basis for such critique.
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.
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.
Across the South Asian region, water determines livelihoods and in some cases even survival. However, water also creates exclusions. Access to water, and its social organisation, are intimately tied up with power relations. This book provides an overview of gender, equity and water issues relevant to South Asia. The essays empirically illustrate and theoretically argue how gender intersects with other axes of social difference such as class, caste, ethnicity, age and religion to shape water access, use and management practices. Divided into six thematic sections, each of which starts with an introduction of relevant concepts, debates and theories, the book looks at laws and rights, policies, technologies and intervention strategies. In all, the book clearly shows how understanding and changing the use, distribution and management of water is conditional upon understanding and accommodating gender relations.
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.
"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.
It is now widely recognized that gender analysis has both challenged and enriched many of the standard assumptions and concepts that inform economic analysis of different kinds, whether to do with paid or unpaid work, peasant studies, care labour and many other areas. Despite this, changes in economic policies have been few and far between, and most do not translate into women-friendly economic policies. Nor have the important contributions of women's studies research to the field of economics 'standardly seen as a male discipline' been given its due importance or recognition.
This collection of essays by some of the best-known academics and practitioners in the fields of economics, women's studies, development and sociology, examines a wide range of areas in which women's studies has played a crucial part. Accessibly written and rigorously researched, this book will be useful for academic and general readers, and for those in the related fields of economics, development and gender studies.
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.
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.
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
Winner of the 2005 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize
Even childbirth is affected by globalization—and in India, as elsewhere, the trend is away from home births assisted by midwives toward hospital births that increasingly rely on new technologies. And yet, as this work of critical feminist ethnography clearly demonstrates, as biomedical models of childbirth spread throughout the globe, they fuse with local practices to create distinctive forms of modern birth.
Through vivid description and animated dialogue, this book conveys the birth stories of the women of Tamil Nadu in their own voices. Cecilia Van Hollen uses these stories to explore larger questions about how the structures of colonialism and postcolonial international and national development have helped to shape the form and meaning of birth for Indian women today.
Cecilia Van Hollen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University.
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.
Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence elucidates the centrality of political and foundational violence in the governance of conflicted democracies in the postcolony, calling attention to the urgent need for transformation. Spectacular and quotidian gendered and sexualized violence by states and collectives holds in place fraught and unjust histories and relations between elites and subalterns, majoritarian subjects and non-dominant “Others.” At the intersections of nationalist and decolonial confrontations, such violence regularizes states of emergency and exception. Through oral history, archival, and legal research undertaken over three years, this interdisciplinary work underscores the need for transitional and transformative justice mechanisms in conflicted democracies to address protracted conflict (focusing on their internal dimensions) and social upheaval. India serves as a case in point, exemplified by ongoing and recent conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab and episodic social upheavals in Gujarat (in 2002) and Odisha (in 2008). Victim-survivor narratives of counter-memory, historical records, and legal analyses of formative cases detail the depth and texture of social suffering and illustrate the inadequacy and inhumanity of official responses to events of extraordinary violence. Expanding on methods in justice and accountability and espousing the right to heal, scholars and practitioners raise critical questions regarding the state, civil society, and diverse institutions, and the most elemental of constituents: victim-survivors.
“A very important feature of Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence: The Right to Heal is that it shows the ubiquity of sexual violence that is not simply concomitant to other forms of violence but is a weapon that is part and parcel of the weaponry in the hands of the state and of transnational militant movements. What are the mechanisms through which violence is continuously sustained within democracies? This exemplary book helps us ask that question without the plethora of evasions that often allow democratic states to deflect that question to some other concern—national security, national honor or the necessity of pragmatism in view of the enormity of new forms of warfare. I am so grateful for this book and for the courage of scholar-activists and the victim-survivors who have put the results of years of hard labor on these questions before us.”
Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, John Hopkins University
“The monograph provides an incisive, comparative, and contextual framework for grappling with some of the most challenging issues of our time—gender and sexual violence in conflict. The document makes a compelling case for the development of effective national accountability mechanisms for political democracies to address conflict-based issues and grave social violence. The monograph underlines the pressing need to place victims-survivors at the center of owning knowledge and defining remedy. This monumental work stands to impact scholarship, policy, and advocacy for addressing gender-based and sexualized violence in conflicted democracies.”
Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2008-2014
"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.
Though commonplace today as a technological quick fix for infertility, assisted reproduction is a complex phenomenon, located at the intersection of patriarchy, medicalization and commerce, These technologies create both challenges and opportunities, and responses to them have sought to balance questions of ethics, rights and politics. The essays in this volume map the journey of ARTs in different countries, examining the global industry and the challenges it poses in the context of markets, and look at regulatory frameworks in diverse settings.Together they bring a feminist lens to the examination of the now-established ART industry.
Sama's long-standing work provides a special focus on India: the spread and features of the industry, the gendered nature of the burden and treatment of infertility, the destabilisation of the family as we know it, and feminist debated around surrogacy that reassess ideas of agency and commodification.
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.
An innovative collection of essays on events and dynamics across South Asia, this volume addresses how violence marks the present in wars of direct and indirect conquest. Anti-colonial struggles that achieved independence to form postcolonial nation-states have consolidated themselves through prodigious violence that defines and disfigures communities and futures. This book examines the very borders such brutality enshrines and its intimate inscriptions upon bodies and memories, examining the performance of gendered violence through the spectacular and in everyday life, through wars, nationalisms and displacements.
Women in and of South Asia offer inspired, gendered and contested histories of the discontinuous present, excavating nation-making and its intersections with projects of militarisation and cultural assertion, modernisation and globalisation, noting how Gujarat, post-9/11 mobilisations, and the war on Afghanistan and Iraq by Empire, signify the rapidity with which brutal events continue to encompass lives and cultures globally.
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