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E-ESSAYS FROM ZUBAAN | 16 OCTOBER, WOMEN'S WRITING/LITERATURE

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE!

Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase. To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here! 

Our previous sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movementssexual violencedomestic space and kinshipreligion and conflictstate crimes and impunitytraumahealth, violence against womenand nation.

The essays in this set study women’s writing in historical context, and the ways in which it fashions discourse. Authors Meenakshi Moon and Urmila Pawar focus on Dalit women’s voices in the rich literary tradition of the mid-twentieth century; while Uma Chakravarti looks specifically at writing about widowhood, both personal and critical; and Tilottoma Misra’s work showcases Assamese women, detailing the subjective experience of violence through poetry and prose. Together the pieces offer an alternative understanding of how notions of ‘literature’ come to be, through specificities of theme, language, politics and law.

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 1. 'ON WIDOWHOOD: THE CRITIQUE OF CULTURAL PRACTICES IN WOMEN'S WRITING' by UMA CHAKRAVARTI, from REWRITING HISTORY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PANDITA RAMABAI (1998)

35_On Widowhood_cover

This essay examines women’s writing in the 19th century on the oppression of widows, focusing on voices that writer Uma Chakravarti believes have been invisibilized over the years. Stating that the history of social reforms and widowhood has been predominantly understood from a knowledge-based male perspective, Chakravarti proposes balancing the discourse with several female perspectives based on experiencing widowhood first-hand.

The essay is divided into three parts: the first focuses on women’s works on widowhood, examining the writing of Sushila Devi, Tarabai Shinde and Rakhmabai. The second section looks at widows from Poona Widows’ Home writing about their own experiences, and the third at writers like Pandita Ramabai and Parvati Athavale who were actively involved in providing support to other widows. From scathing criticism to personal experiences, the works criticize the then existing male-dominant Reformist movement, which focused only on widow remarriage, and outline the problems faced by widows, such as deprivation of basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, and the enforcement of unpaid and unacknowledged labour. 54 pp. Read more.

₹70.00

Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

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2. 'ENLIGHTENMENT THROUGH LITERATURE' by MEENAKSHI MOON, URMILA PAWAR, WANDANA SONALKAR (TRANS.), from WE ALSO MADE HISTORY: WOMEN IN THE AMBEDKARITE MOVEMENT (1989)

36_Enlightenment Through Literature

This essay is a historical overview of Dalit literature, focusing on the contribution of women writers. The authors Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon show how the Dalit movement gained momentum with the rise of Dalit centric newspapers and literary societies, which gave a voice to the Dalit people. Led by Babasaheb Ambedkar, this literary movement was strengthened through talks, discussions, analysis of folk songs, and by spreading literacy and encouraging research. By the 1960s, Dalit writers had created a huge collection of short stories, poems, novels, autobiographies and analytical pieces.

The authors focus on the gradual increase of female voices and perspectives in Dalit writing – on topics ranging from religious customs like funerary rites, birth control, to mixed marriages. Appreciating these works for their literary merits as well as social significance, the authors suggest that they helped people understand and appreciate their own history, and facilitated the spread of radical ideas of identity and self-worth. 12 pp. Read more.

Meenakshi Moon was a close associate of B. R. Ambedkar. Her essays, research papers, articles study the daily religious practices and marital rules of Dalit communities, the practice of ritual prostitution, women’s issues and the Dalit movement.

Urmila Pawar received an MA from the University of Bombay and worked in the Maharashatra department of labour welfare. A former actor of radical Marathi theatre, she writes non-fiction and short stories informed by her self-definition as a Dalit, Buddhist and a feminist.

Wandana Sonalkar (translator) teaches economics at Dr. Babasaheb Marathwada University, Aurangabad. She is a founding member of Aalochana Centre for Documentation and Research on Women.

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3. 'WOMEN WRITING IN TIMES OF VIOLENCE' by TILOTTOMA MISRA from THE PERIPHERAL CENTRE: VOICES FROM INDIA'S NORTHEAST (2010)

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This essay uncovers how the writings of women have emerged as forms of protest in Assam, a region torn by political violence and prolonged militancy. For Tilottoma Misra, these voices are doing more than simply responding to a need to represent the marginalised; they are attempting to depict the trauma that the women experience in their lives. In discussing the power of the narrative, Misra lays out those aspects of traumatic events that a literary discourse can grasp more expansively than a strictly historical narrative.

Written by women during times of conflict, these stories and poems help explore nuances of the ways in which one's psyche is affected by the conflict. With a population facing discoveries of mass graves and an increasing breakdown of basic civic amenities, Misra poses urgent questions as to the role of the writer in such difficult times. 25 pp. Read more.

50.00

Tilottoma Misra is an academic and author. She formerly taught English Literature at Indaprastha College, New Delhi and Dibrugarh University, Assam. She was awarded the Ishan Puraskar by the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad for her novel Swarnalata. Currently, she is writing on literature and society of eastern India and is engaged in a research project on customary law and women’s rights in Northeast India.

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FREE IN OCTOBER, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:

31_India as Home_cover

'INDIA AS HOME' by GEETANJALI SINGH CHANDA from INDIAN WOMEN IN THE HOUSE OF FICTION (2008)

Geetanjali Singh Chanda explores, in this essay, the idea of the nation and its representation as a house or home in postcolonial Indian English literature. The author identifies that this literature has a dual parentage that manifests in its narratives, where characters with fragmented identities negotiate to make India their home.

Chanda explores this depiction of ‘Indianness’ through three prominent literary works: Nayantara Sahgal’s Rich Like Us (1983), Meena Alexander’s Nampally Road (1991), and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997). She focuses on the treatment of history within these narratives, and the struggle of characters to reconcile their personal or national history with the post-colonial present. This is done by connecting the events in the text to a significant historical event – like the Indian Independence in 1947, or the Emergency of 1975. 37 pp. Read more.

Dr. Geetanjali Singh Chanda is a senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programme at Yale University, USA. She has taught courses on globalization, autobiographies, family, cultural identity, popular culture, international feminisms and postcolonial India since 2001.

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A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. New essays are released in sets each month, curated to a theme; subscribers receive each curated set in their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we've therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have accordingly standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our mailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post. Happy Reading!

E-ESSAYS FROM ZUBAAN | 1 OCTOBER, NATION

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE!

Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase. To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here! 

Our previous sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violence, domestic space and kinship, religion and conflict, state crimes and impunity, trauma, health and violence against women.

This set of essays considers how various conceptions of the ‘nation’/statehood — the Peshwai, the British Raj, the Indian state — have negotiated their relationship with their women ‘citizens’, and vice versa. Discussing how gendered and casteist social codes created paradigms for the ‘pure’ (Brahman, male) citizen (as exemplified by the Peshwai reign) in Indian polity, Uma Chakravarti chronologically points the way towards Radha Kumar’s essay, which engages with how women, when finally considered (future) citizens of a to-be-independent India, began to take part in civil disobedience and nationalist projects of the early 20th century. Farida Abdulla picks apart the ways in which independent India's nation-building project now re-negotiates, through violence and armed conflict, Kashmiri women’s citizenship as one forged in terror and precarious kinship. This month’s free essay is a complement to these others, focusing on the metaphor of the nation as home in Indian women’s writing.

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34_Towards Becoming The Mothers of the Nation_cover 1. 'TOWARDS BECOMING 'THE MOTHERS OF THE NATION'' by RADHA KUMAR, from THE HISTORY OF DOING: AN ILLUSTRATED ACCOUNT OF MOVEMENT FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND FEMINISM IN INDIA, 1800-1990 (1999)

This chapter from The History of Doing focuses on the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, when social reform movements in India were beginning to show results and women were becoming more visibly present in the public sphere. Kumar provides a thematic history of the women’s movement before independence, beginning with focusing on the 1889 session of the Indian National Congress in Bombay where ten women delegates attended the assembly for the first time.

Using photographs and a wide variety of print sources from books to newspapers, Kumar looks at how women’s issues were raised and how women were involved in addressing these. The essay discusses at length the steps taken to regulate prostitution by the British in India and the level of support this received from reformers and moderate nationalists. The turn of the century saw a proliferation of homes for widows, with schemes to train widows as teachers. The Swadeshi movement in Bengal during this time period marked the beginning of women’s participation in national activities on a larger scale. Kumar offers detailed portraits on the lives of some of the women involved in the above movements and reforms like Swarnakumari Debi, her daughter Sarala Debi Ghosal and Bhikaiji Cama.  21 pp. Read more.

50.00

Dr. Radha Kumar is the Chair of the United Nations University Council and the Director General of the think tank Delhi Policy Group. She has published various books and journal articles, and her work looks at ethnic conflicts, peacemaking and peacebuilding from a feminist perspective.

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32_A Life of Peace and Dignity_coverfixed2. 'A LIFE OF PEACE AND DIGNITY' by FARIDA ABDULLA from SPEAKING PEACE: WOMEN'S VOICES FROM KASHMIR (2002)

Written by Farida Abdulla, this essay is a personal account of her experience in Kashmir - before, during and after the enforcement of centralized government rule over the area. Born and brought up in Kashmir, she reflects on the seething resentment of people treated like more border territory than citizens of the country.

Through the essay Adulla looks at ‘what’ instead of ‘why’ – she does not delve into the historical context for the rule, but focuses on the effects of such a rule on the local population. By narrating two incidents strongly embedded in her mind, she attempts to show the complexity of the situation, and the pain and confusion of the people living there. 6 pp. Read more.

₹ 50.00

Farida Abdulla is professor, Educational Studies at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi where she headed the same department from 2007-09. She has taught psychology and education in departments of Education of Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Central Institute of Education of the University of Delhi.

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3. 'CASTE, GENDER AND THE STATE IN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY MAHARASHTRA' by UMA CHAKRAVARTI from REWRITING HISTORY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PANDITA RAMABAI (1998)

This essay discusses caste, gender and the state, and the relationship between the three in the context of militarisation under Peshwa rule in eighteenth century Maharashtra. Analysing materials available in the Peshwa daftar, Uma Chakravarti illustrates the different ways in which the state played a decisive role in upholding the caste system and in installing social codes to legitimise women’s sexuality.

Chakravarti points out how the Peshwa state upheld Brahmanical social order by prohibiting ‘untouchables’ from approaching the temple of Vithoba (which also housed a shrine for Chokhamela, a saint belonging to the Mahar community), threatening punishment if they failed to conform. She also explores ideological structures of enforced widowhood, the difference in punishment that women and men who committed adultery faced, and the role of the state in arranging marriage for girls between ages seven and ten. Connecting caste with women’s sexuality, the essay gestures towards Brahmanya’s investment in the undiluted purity of its women. 42 pp. Read more.

Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

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FREE IN OCTOBER, WITH THE PURCHASE OF ANY OTHER ESSAY:

31_India as Home_cover

'INDIA AS HOME' by GEETANJALI SINGH CHANDA from INDIAN WOMEN IN THE HOUSE OF FICTION (2008)

Geetanjali Singh Chanda explores, in this essay, the idea of the nation and its representation as a house or home in postcolonial Indian English literature. The author identifies that this literature has a dual parentage that manifests in its narratives, where characters with fragmented identities negotiate to make India their home.

Chanda explores this depiction of ‘Indianness’ through three prominent literary works: Nayantara Sahgal’s Rich Like Us (1983), Meena Alexander’s Nampally Road (1991), and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997). She focuses on the treatment of history within these narratives, and the struggle of characters to reconcile their personal or national history with the post-colonial present. This is done by connecting the events in the text to a significant historical event – like the Indian Independence in 1947, or the Emergency of 1975. 37 pp. Read more.

Dr. Geetanjali Singh Chanda is a senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programme at Yale University, USA. She has taught courses on globalization, autobiographies, family, cultural identity, popular culture, international feminisms and postcolonial India since 2001.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. New essays are released in sets each month, curated to a theme; subscribers receive each curated set in their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we've therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have accordingly standardised all our essays in PDF files.
If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our mailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post. Happy Reading!
e-Essays from Zubaan | 1 August, Religion and Conflict

E-essays header fixed

Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

The first three sets of e-Essays focused on Indian women's movements, sexual violence and domestic space and kinship. Our fourth collection of essays is on the theme of religion and conflict. The deep-rooted association between religion and patriarchy has continued to hinder women from realising their rights. This has been further exacerbated by the politicisation of religion. Situations of conflict triggered by the desire for dominance through communal assertions place demands on women to fulfil different, seemingly contradictory, roles. The essays that we bring to you this month, on the theme of religion and conflict, explore women’s roles as victims, survivors, peacekeepers and as actors who have been denied any active participation/role in peacebuilding efforts.

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1. 'Surviving Violence, Making Peace: Women in Communal Conflict in Mumbai'
by Kalpana Sharma from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender & Social Inequalities in India, 2002

14_Surviving Violence, Making Peace - Karin KapadiaKalpana Sharma's essay explores the multiple roles that women came to occupy in the riots that took place in Mumbai post the Babri Masjid demolition. As the news of this destruction – carried out on 6th December 1992 – was broadcast across the country, it triggered communal violence, resulting in two phases of riots between the Muslim and the Hindu communities. The essay looks at the people who were some of the most affected by the carnage in the city, the urban poor, and highlights how their specific spatial and economic locations had a great bearing on their lives in this period. Sharma argues in her essay that the role of the women during these riots was not defined by their gender identity alone, or even their religious affiliation, but also by their class and their location in the metropolis. 24pp.
Read more.

50.00

Kalpana Sharma is an independent journalist and author, currently a Consulting Editor with Economic & Political Weekly. She specializes in gender, developmental, and environmental issues, and has worked as a journalist for over 40 years.

 

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2. 'Personal Law and Communal Identities'
by Radha Kumar from The History of Doing, 2002

13_Personal Law and Communal Identities - Radha KumarRadha Kumar's essay considers the history of the 1985 Shah Bano case and the feminist debates on personal law that it gave rise to. The call for a common civil code that emerged from the case was extensively critiqued by feminists, liberals and secularists, as well as Muslim religious leaders. The essay traces how the sociopolitical context led to the quick descent of the issue into communal agitation, with a demand that Muslims be exempt from Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code that had been cited in granting Shah Bano maintenance from her husband.

Kumar then traces the opposition by various women’s groups to the 1986 Bill, which was introduced in parliament with an aim to exclude divorced Muslim women from the purview of the hotly debated Section 125. She explores the ‘bitter lessons’ that Indian feminists learnt from the public and state responses to Shah Bano’s case, which then posed certain questions that would become increasingly important to feminists in the years to follow 12 pp.

Read more.

Dr. Radha Kumar is the Chair of the United Nations University Council and the Director General of the think tank Delhi Policy Group. She has published various books and journal articles, and her work looks at ethnic conflicts, peacemaking and peacebuilding from a feminist perspective.
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3. 'Crab Theology: Women, Christianity and Conflict in the 'NorthEast''
by V Sawmveli and Ashley Tellis from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast, 2010

12_Crab Theology - V.Sawmveli and Ashley Tellis_cover

 

In this essay, Sawmveli and Tellis address the role that religion plays in sociopolitical processes in Mizoram by attempting to gauge the impact that churches have had in mediating conflicts and brokering peace in the state since the 1960s. The authors also examine the role of women (and lack thereof) in peace-building processes and explores gendered critiques of the same.

Sawmveli and Tellis explain this lack of women in political processes as an affect of entrenched patriarchy and misogyny in Mizo society. They further state that since most political parties in the region are aligned with churches, patriarchy in politics overlaps with patriarchal church culture to marginalize women. However, they also discuss the many women’s organizations that have come up over the years to facilitate women’s entry into the public sphere. 13pp.
Read more.

Dr. V. Sawmveli is an Assistant Professor at the Guwahati campus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Her research methodology is qualitative in nature, and focuses on the role that public, religious, and state institutions play in gendered and sexual violence in northeastern India.Dr. Ashley Tellis has held professor and lecturer positions in colleges both in India and the USA. His teaching and research interests include post colonialism, Irish literature, women’s writing, literary theory, gender studies, and poetry.
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Free in August, with the purchase of any other essay:

 

11_The Everyday and the Exceptional - Uma Chakravarti_cover'The Everyday and the Exceptional: Sexual Violence and Impunity in Our Times (Introduction)'
by Uma Chakravarti from Fault  Lines of History: The India Papers II, 2016

Uma Chakravarti’s introduction to Fault Lines of History: The India Papers II uses a brief history of protest in the north-eastern states of India to illustrate the contract between the state, the army and the rule of law. Detailing the spread of AFSPA as a result and a feature of this contract, Chakravarti points to particular building blocks in the story of resistance in the area — the case of Manorama, Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike, the naked protest by imas in Manipur among others — and castigates mainstream state theorists’ neglect of AFSPA’s existence and growing application as a tool of oppressive state-building. She explains how the postcolonial state’s painting of AFSPA and militarisation, and the accompanying conflicts, as ‘states of exception’ is key to the contract, which is characterised by the tension between the rule of law and the state’s need for avowal of sovereign emergency.
This chapter also provides a valuable cross-section of the volume, summarising each author’s argument while drawing connections between them and larger themes of impunity, militarisation, conflict, revolution, state (un)accountability, ‘security’ and feminist scholarship. 34pp.

Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

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A note on pricing, frequency and format:

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, undertaken to make our near-fifteen years of feminist research more accessible to our readers and community. Ten new essays are released each month (on the 1st, 11th, 21st), each set curated to a theme, which subscribers receive their inbox. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we have therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have therefore standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our emailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

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