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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.
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.
"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.
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.
Cornelia Sorabji was a social reformer, an author and the first woman to practise law in India and Britain. By the time poor sight ended her work in India, she had helped many hundreds of wives, widows and orphans. She also successfully organized a League for Infant Welfare, Maternity and District Nursing.
Her writings provide a priceless and fascinating documentation of one of India's most outstanding women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her noble career and valuable archives have left behind a heritage to the people of India and their causes. Her truly extraordinary life of dedication to public service, evident from her writings and ceaseless hard work deserve to be acknowledged and publicised. This book achieves both.
The creation of widespread public consent for family planning in Kerala, which ensured the non-coercive implementation of birth control in Malayali society, has been regarded as no less than the jewel in the crown of the 'Kerala Model' of social development. Individuals, Householders, Citizens reconstructs the history of the generation of such assent to produce a critical examination of this crucial aspect of social development in Kerala. It participates in the ongoing feminist critique of the Kerala Model, seeking to unravel the particular ways in which people were interpellated into the discourse of Family Planning.
Devika's study adds to the new inter-disciplinary work on questions traditionally considered native to demography. It employs some of the insights of economists and demographers on Kerala's demographic transition as entry points for critical historical inquiry into questions of gender and power in contemporary Kerala. The book is of interest to anyone interested in Kerala's experience of social development and its demographic 'achievements.'
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.
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.
The women's movement in India has a long and rich history in which millions of women live, work and struggle to survive in order to remake their family, home and social lives. Whether fighting for safe contraception, literacy, water and electricity or resisting sexual harassment, they are participating in vibrant and active women's movements that are thriving in many parts of India today. Fields of Protest explores the political and cultural circumstances under which groups of women organize to fight for their rights and self-worth. Starting with Bombay and Calcutta, Raka Ray discusses the creation of "political fields"- structured, unequal and socially constructed political environments within which organisations exist, flourish or fail. Women's organisations are not anonymous or free agents; rather, they inherit a "field" and its accompanying social relations, and when they act, they act in response to it and within it. Drawing on the literature of both social movements and feminism, Ray analyses the striking differences between the movements in these two cities.
Raka Ray is an Assistant Professor in the department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her areas of specialization are gender and feminist theory, social movements, and relations between dominant and subaltern groups in India. She is editor of Feminist Studies.
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, 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.
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 study of Pandita Ramabai's life, one of India's earliest feminists, is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary. (Now with a new Afterword)
This book outlines the reconstitution of patriarchies in nineteenth century Maharashtra through an exploration of the life, work and times of Pandita Ramabai, one of India's earliest feminists. It examines the manner in which the colonial state's new institutional structures, caste contestations, class formation and nationalism transformed and reorganized gender relations. It also explores the nature of the new agendas being set for women, how these were received by them and in what ways and to what extent their consent to these reconstructed patriarchies was produced.
Uma Chakravarti is a historian who has worked and written on issues of caste, labour and gender and is active in the democratic rights and women's movements. Among her published works are The Delhi Riots: Three Days in the Life of a Nation (co-authored) and Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism.
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.
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.
This landmark collection on colonial history is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
This collection of essays stands at an unarticulated conjuncture within the feminist movement and women's studies that have emerged in India since the 1970s. The anthology attempts to explore the inter-relation of patriarchies with political economy, law, religion and culture and to suggest a different history of 'reform' movements, and of class and gender relations. The book seeks to uncover the dialectical relation of feminism and patriarchy both in the policies of the colonial State and the politics of anticolonial movements. The writers in this volume include scholars from various disciplines.
Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid taught literature at Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University. Together they have edited a collection of essays entitled Women and Culture and have carried out extensive research on widow immolation in Rajasthan.
The Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia research project (coordinated by Zubaan and supported by the International Development Research Centre) brings together, for the first time in the region, a vast body of knowledge on this important – yet silenced – subject. Six country volumes (one each on Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and two on India) comprising over fifty research papers and two book-length studies detail the histories of sexual violence and look at the systemic, institutional, societal, individual and community structures that work together to perpetuate impunity for perpetrators.
In this collection of essays on Sri Lanka the authors – activists, lawyers, academics, journalists – look back at Sri Lanka’s long and intense armed conflict during which women and men were sexually brutalized, assaulted, tortured and disappeared. They examine not only the rampant sexual violence during the conflict period, and the impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators, but focus also on women’s struggles for survival, their interactions with community leaders and their navigation of society’s expectations, their understanding of, and access to justice. Essay after essay argues compellingly for the need to stop treating survivors of sexual violence as victims and to start seeing them as potentially powerful agents of change.
The writers highlight a hitherto unaddressed aspect of sexual violence: that of the structures that enable impunity on the part of perpetrators, be they security personnel and paramilitary forces, members of armed rebel groups, gangs, local politicians and police or ordinary citizens including close family members.
They demonstrate how impunity for perpetrators is both a failure of the formal justice process and a product of individual, community and social conditions and indeed the choices that victims and families often make, which promote silence over truth. At the end of more than a quarter century of conflict that has left some 100,000 dead, 50,000 women-headed households struggling to survive, and created countless victims and survivors of sexual violence, the calls for justice can no longer be ignored.
In 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.
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.
This wide-ranging collection of voices from India's Northeast is now available in a brand new paperback edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary
When Thangjam Manorama was arrested and killed by the Assam Rifles in July 2004 in Manipur, it unleashed a protest likes of which no one had witnessed before. This was one of the triggers for this collection - to provide a space for women and men from the 'Northeast' to tell us about the issues that confronted them daily, to talk about the pressures, the insecurities, the uncertainties confronting them in an area that has been facing low intensity warfare for decades.
The anger and the frustrations of the Manipuri women who staged that dramatic protest after Manorama's killing have in many ways been vindicated. Each essay in this book brings to mind that troubling image, each contributor points to the Manipuri women, holding them up as a flag of rebellion, of protest, of questioning. Each essay questions issues of nation, identity, of what makes the people of the Northeast so alienated from the 'mainstream'.
Many contributors are writers, academics or activists from the Northeast but there are many are, like the editor, 'outsiders'. But outsiders who share a passion for the region and an intense desire to see change, to see peace.
"It's impossible to cover the import of all the essays in the span of one review. But in short, the book is a brave attempt to cover just about everything there is to know about the region from a concerned citizen's point of view."-- Susan Abraham, DNA
“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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