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With a domestic market of around 70 billion dollars, the Indian fashion industry employs over 60 million people and accounts for a sizeable chunk of the country’s GDP. Despite this, models—the most visible yet voiceless actors of the industry—are rarely given the recognition they deserve. It is this overlooked demographic that forms the focus of Manjima Bhattacharjya’s remarkable study, bringing these women’s voices and perspectives to us.
Tracing the rise of the modelling and beauty industry from the 1960s to the present day, Bhattacharjya argues that modelling is work, and should be recognized as such. At the heart of the book lies a difficult question: should the industry be seen as objectifying women or as acknowledging their agency? Mannequin is also an individual’s personal exploration of the changing relationship between fashion and feminism.
“This book does an impossible thing — bridge the gap between fashion and feminism. Manjima Bhattacharjya offers us a sweeping history of India’s beauty industry, but more precious are the stories she brings from behind the catwalk — stories from small towns, stories of osmosis, desire, and ultimately, empowerment. “
—Tishani Doshi, poet and writer
“Mannequin attempts to decode the link between fashion and feminism and emerges as an important voice in the struggle toward empowerment through its intensive research and empathy.”
—Nonita Kalra, editor, Harper’s Bazaar India
“An extraordinary and unputdownable deep dive into the fascinating world of Indian fashion.”
—Sonia Faleiro, author of The Girl and Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars
Manjima Bhattacharjya is a feminist researcher, writer and activist. She has been part of the Indian women’s movement for over two decades. She holds a PhD in sociology. Her areas of specialization include gender and sexuality, and labour and the body. Her first book, an edited volume Sarpanch Sahib was long-listed for the Crossword Best Non-Fiction Book of 2009. She has written for several publications including the Times of India, ELLE and Info-change India. She lives and works out of Mumbai. Find her on Twitter @manzibarr.
Feminist artists have always been bold, original and outspoken, and The Elephant in the Room honours this legacy by offering up a delightfully thought-provoking, myth-busting visual feast. Across its pages, sixteen comic artists from India and Germany explore how women see the world and themselves, taking apart and repurposing ideas of identity, power and love; sex, family, and bodies.
Confronting the elephant with humour and passion, these graphic artists insistently draw the awkward and the difficult. As feminist art has always done, this book reminds us that the personal is the political. Exploring taboos, exploding myths, raising awkward questions and posing visionary answers, each story shines a light on the 'elephant in the room'–what does it mean to be a woman?
A many-layered work of historical reportage, Watercolours draws on the real life story of Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt (1923-2009), a Czech-American artist of Jewish ancestry, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, and whose story came to light in the late nineties. It was at this time that Gottliebova attempted once more to recover the art she had created in the concentration camp, and which had become the property of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The dispute escalated into an international scandal, with the American Department of State and the Polish government becoming involved.
Here, journalist Lidia Ostalowska reconstructs Gottliebova’s time in the camp, while looking also at broader issues of historical memory, trauma, racism and the relationship between the torturer and the victim. In Gottliebova’s case, SS Doctor Josef Mengele took a special interest in her talent, commissioning her to paint portraits (the watercolours of the title) of Roma prisoners. Mengele himself is one of the many characters in this narrative.
Ostalowska draws on hundreds of studies and accounts of the hell of the camps, and tells the story of one woman’s incarceration and her battle for survival, bringing in many other supporting lives. Before she worked for Mengele, Gottliebova had decorated the children’s barracks at Auschwitz with of the Disney film, Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. After the war, she worked as an animator for Warner Brothers and married Walt Disney animator Art Babbitt, the man behind many of the world’s best-known cartoon characters including Goofy and Dumbo. Gottlibova (under the name Dina Babbitt) lived in the California until her death in 2009 at the age of 86.
July 15, 2004, Imphal (Manipur): An amazing scene unfolds in front of Kangla Fort, the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, a unit of the Indian army. Soldiers and officers watch aghast as twelve women, all in their sixties and seventies, position themselves in front of the gates and then, one by one, strip themselves naked. The imas, the mothers of Manipur, are in a cold fury, protesting the custodial rape and murder, by the army, of Thangjam Manorama, a 32-year-old woman suspected of being a militant. The women hold aloft banners and shout, ‘Indian Army Rape Us’, ‘Take Our Flesh’. Never has this happened before: the army is appalled. Very soon, news of the protest goes viral. People around the country are shocked. Can this be possible? A naked protest in India by mothers?
In this unusual book, journalist Teresa Rehman tells the story of these twelve women, the momentous decision they took, and how they carried it out with precision and care. In doing so she connects the reader to the broader history of conflict-torn Manipur and the courage and resistance of its people, in particular its women.
In 2008, when the Azad Foundation, an NGO based in Delhi, began training poor women to become drivers of commercial and private vehicles, most people thought they were somewhat out of touch with reality. Poor, illiterate women, many of them from violent homes, some of them single mothers, others from families and communities which had never allowed women to step out of the home – how could these women take the wheel, drive around in unsafe cities, be confident and competent, earn money? At the time, there was only one known woman auto driver in Delhi. When Azad turned to radio cab companies to suggest they take in women drivers, there wasn’t much interest. Today, more than 300 women drivers have received training from Azad and are on the roads of several cities. Nine years after radio companies turned Azad away, special services or women with women drivers are being introduced within these same companies. In 2015, the Delhi Transport Corporation got its first woman driver, and in 2016, the Delhi Commission for Women recruited 25 women drivers to be part of their women’s helpline. Clearly, things are changing.
Lady Driver maps the journeys of twelve women from poor, marginalized communities who have transformed their lives by taking up the challenge of becoming women drivers. Each story is unique; there’s no Cinderella effect here. Reality does not change overnight. Instead, as the women featured here painstakingly claim a relationship with the road, it translates into claims for identity, for dignity, for a livelihood. Their stories are about beginnings, but have no endings – there is still quite a way to drive. OR – there are many kilometres to drive yet.
When Revathi’s powerful memoir, The Truth About Me, first appeared in 2011, it caused a sensation. Readers learned of Revathi’s childhood unease with her male body; her escape from her birth family to a house of hijras (the South Asian generic term for transgender people), and her eventual transition to being the woman she always she knew was. This new book charts her remarkable journey from relative obscurity to becoming India’s leading spokesperson for transgender rights and an inspiration to thousands.
Revathi describes her life, her work in the NGO Sangama, which works with people across a spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations, and how she rose from office assistant to director in the organization. Today she is an independent activist, theatre person, actor and writer, and works for the rights of transgender persons.
In the second part of the book, Revathi offers the reader insight into one of the least talked about experiences on the gender trajectory, that of being trans men. Calling several female-to-male trans persons her sons, Revathi puts before us their moving, passionate and sometimes tragic stories of marginalisation, courage, resistance and triumph.
An unforgettable book, A Life in Trans Activism will leave the reader questioning the ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ binaries of male/female that so many of us take for granted.
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
Winner of the Muse India Translation Prize (2018), Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar’s elegant new translations of eighth-century Tamil poet and founding saint Andal, cements her status as the South Indian corollary to Mirabai.
In this one volume is her entire corpus, composed before she apocryphally merged with the idol of her chosen god as a young teenager, leaving behind the still popular song of congregational worship, the Thiruppavai, a collection of thirty pasuram (stanzas) sung for Lord Tirumal (Vishnu) and the much less frequently translated and rapturously erotic Nacchiyar Thirumoli.
Chabria and Shankar employ a radical new method of revitalizing classical verse by shifting it into a contemporary poetic idiom in another language. Some of the hymns are translated collaboratively, others by one or another of the translators, and others separately by each. This kaleidoscopic approach allows the reader multiple perspectives on the rich sonic and philosophical complexity of Andal’s classical Tamil.
On a cold February night in 1991, a group of soldiers and officers of the Indian Army pushed their way into two villages in Kashmir, seeking out militants assumed to be hiding there. They pulled the men out of their homes and subjected many to torture, and the women to rape. According to village accounts, as many as 31 women were raped.
Twenty-one years later, in 2012, the rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi galvanized a protest movement so widespread and deep that it reached all corners of the world. In Kashmir, a group of young women, all in their twenties, were inspired to re-open the Kunan-Poshpora case, to revisit their history and to look at what had happened to the survivors of the 1991 mass rape. Through personal accounts of their journey, this book examines questions of justice, of stigma, of the responsibility of the state, and of the long-term impact of trauma.
The midnight knock on the door and the disappearance of a loved one into the hands of authorities is a 20th-century horror story familiar to many destined to “live in interesting times.” Yet, some stories remain untold. Such is the account of the internment of ethnic Chinese who had settled for many years in northern India. When the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962 broke out, over 2,000 Chinese-Indians were rounded up, placed in local jails, then transported over a thousand miles away to the Deoli internment camp in the Rajasthan Desert.
Born in Calcutta, India, in 1949, and raised in Darjeeling, Yin Marsh was just thirteen years old when first her father was arrested, and then she, her grandmother and her eight-year-old brother were all taken to the Darjeeling Jail, then sent to Deoli. Ironically, Nehru – India’s first Prime Minister and the one who had authorized the mass arrests – had once “done time” in Deoli during India’s war for independence. Yin and her family were assigned to the same bungalow where Nehru had also been unjustly held.
Eventually released, Yin emigrated to America with her mother, attended college, married and raised her own family, even as the emotional trauma remained buried. When her own college-age daughter began to ask questions and when a friend’s wedding would require a return to her homeland, Yin was finally ready to face what had happened to her family.
A searing memoir of a political life that took the Telugu literary world by storm.
Well-known as the widow of Kondapalli Seetharamaiah (KS), founder of the Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh, Koteswaramma’s life spans a tumultuous century of the Independence movement, the Communist insurrection and the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh. A dedicated worker for the Communist Party, she went underground in the difficult years of the late forties, living a secret life, running from safe house to safe house. Throughout, it was the support and companionship of her husband, Seetharamaiah, that gave her strength. And then, everything changed when he deserted her.
Refusing to be cowed down, Koteswaramma rebuilt her life step by painful step. She educated herself, took up a job, raised her grandchildren, wrote poetry and prose and established herself as a thinking person in her own right. This moving memoir is a testimony of her courage and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, as well as her understanding of the frailties of human beings and political institutions. That women in India often face incredible suffering is known. That they can fight back and emerge winners is exemplified in Koteswaramma’s life.
The constructed “naturalness” of a world made up of two sexes, two genders, and heterosexual desire as the only legitimate desire has been continuously questioned and challenged by those marginalised by these norms. This forces us to ask some important questions: How is gender really understood and constructed in the world that we inhabit? How does it operate through the various socio-political-cultural structures around us? And, most crucially, how is it lived?
No Outlaws in the Gender Galaxy answers these questions with a research study that attempts to understand gender through the lives of queer persons assigned gender female at birth. The lived realities of the respondents, echoing in the book through their voices, help to interrogate gender as well as provide clues to how it can be envisioned or revisioned to be egalitarian.
This book explores how gender plays out in public and private institutions like the family, educational institutions, work and public spaces. Looking at each of these independently, it elaborates the specific ways in which binary gender norms are woven into each arena and it also explores the multiple ways in which interlocking systems of heteronormativity, casteism, class and ableism are enmeshed within patriarchy to create exclusion, marginalisation, pathologisation and violence. This book illustrates the multiplicity of ways in which people live gender and testifies that even if there are gender laws, in a just world there can be no gender outlaws.
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