Zubaan has been publishing quality content in gender-related fields for 14 years. However, it’s not always easy for readers to purchase edited and research volumes — especially when they need only one chapter or one paper from a book. Recognising that, in 2017 we ran a short pilot programme making individual essays available in e-formats for a reasonable fee.
A note on pricing, frequency and format
Subscribers received each new set in their inbox a few times per month. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we 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 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.
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.
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 paradisms 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.
This week’s essays focus on violence against women. A broad overview of the Indian feminist movement’s strategies to combat violence in the 1970s and its focus on legislation, provides the context for a close examination of two key areas: caste and the violence of conflict. Case studies and interviews provide evidence of the long term impact of violence on the lives of Dalit women, and show how they face continuing violence at the hands of upper caste men, as well as within their own homes. In regions of conflict, as in the Northeast, interviews show how women are subjected to particular forms of violence as their bodies become pawns in the game of war. Further, post-conflict reconstruction, which posits a return to normalcy, does not take account of the domestic or intimate partner violence of ‘peacetime’.
The deaths of almost 300 children in 2017 in a hospital in Gorakhpur have again brought to the forefront the apathy of the Indian establishment towards the health and well being of its citizens. Among those who bear the biggest brunt of this indifference are women, who are made especially vulnerable both within healthcare structures and society at large, which expects them to not only be caregivers to the men but, in doing so, also ignore their own well being. The essays on health we bring to you this time outline the hardships women face in both private and public healthcare systems not only due to their gender, but also because of their socioeconomic, caste and professional backgrounds. The unique vulnerabilities that women encounter when they live in an area mired in political conflict are also examined.
This set of e-Essays, published between 2002 and 2016, comes together on the theme of trauma and its effects on the lives of individuals, communities in regions of conflict, as well as under patriarchal law. While Pratiksha Baxi interrogates the complicity of law and custom in creating trauma through the political atrocity of stripping and parading (of women), Sahba Husain, through her fieldwork in 1990s Kashmir, points to the debilitating effects of the mass trauma of militancy and militarisation on women’s mental health. Registers of the private and public come together in Sumita Ghose’s powerful monograph on the murder of her husband by ULFA terrorists, which speaks to grief and mourning, and the profoundly personal way in which armed conflict has long-reaching consequences on citizens’ lives.
Three strong essays comprise our fifth e-essays set, which focuses on legislation passed in India and its relationship with structures of violence from three consecutive loci. The first deals with legislation being a partially successful result of feminist protest against dowry in the 70s and 80s, while the second with the implications of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu & Kashmir, which allows the nation’s military forces to try themselves for (often violent and gendered) crimes in courts of their own making. The third essay discusses the implementation of the 73rd Amendment and how reservations for marginalised populations in Panchayati Raj institutions have initiated a backlash against women who are elected leaders from these populations. These three parallel engagements with law break apart the illusion of neutral or perfect legislation, challenging the foundation upon which that idea is built.
The movement against the Indian state in Kashmir, or the battle between Maoists and the state in Chhattisgarh are two examples of how governments often become suspicious of, and turn against their own citizens. Often, citizens—in these cases, women—are caught in complex webs of impunity created by state power (as in the impunity assumed by the army under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act) or by non-state actors (as in the impunity violent power gives to militants and underground factions in both states). If Kashmir and Chhattisgarh are examples of states of ‘war’, the ways in which social exclusion and caste marginalization work provide shameful examples of the ongoing ‘warlike’ situation faced by Dalit women, against whom violence, especially sexual violence, has been ‘naturalized’, with state protection often standing squarely behind the (savarna) perpetrators. This week’s selection of essays—one a photo essay—sheds light on state crimes and impunity, and how women’s lives are impacted by these confrontations with state power.
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 in this set, 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.
Our second lot of e-Essays are picked from two brilliant volumes on sexual violence. The three pieces differently focus on the loci of this violence: both men and women in militarised Kashmir, a single survivor narrative in Nagaland, and Dalit women in the jogini system, at the intersection of various structures of patriarchal and Brahmanical violence. Published between 2011 and 2016, the authors of these pieces use survivor narratives and analysis to examine the culture of impunity around sexual violence and its varying contributing factors.
We open our offering of the e-Essays with a focus on Indian women’s movements. A mapping of history shows the resilience and adaptability of different forms of patriarchies, whether in the functioning of the colonial state, or in that of the more modern, independent Indian state. How have women’s movements and women’s activism confronted such entrenched patriarchies, what strategies have they brought to their activism to fight for change? How, further, has the movement – if indeed there is only one – addressed the complicated issues of caste contestations and identity-based challenges to the nation-state? Covering a period from the time of the Peshwai in the eighteenth century to the present day, this week’s essays highlight the challenges and strengths of the women’s movement in India.
Upcoming essays will populate the following themes: Trauma, Exile, Important figures, Legislation, Expanding feminism/theory, Patriarchy, Health, Reproductive health, Religion/communalism, Work and labour, Civil society, Methodology, Family & kinship, Testimonials, Autobiography, Education, Sexual violence, Home and domestic spaces, Women’s movements, Religion & conflict, State crimes & impunity
FREE THIS MONTH
Geetanjali Singh Chanda’s chapter, ‘India as Home’ is FREE this month with any essay purchase. Add it to your cart before checkout and apply the coupon code “FREEREADS” in the box.
Note: this will not work if you have only one essay in your cart.