CHARACTERIZED by high levels of female literacy and life expectancy for women, the state of Kerala has been hailed as the epitome of gender development in India. Yet disquieting evidence on widespread sex selective abortions, soaring dowry demands and high rates of crime and domestic violence against women makes it imperative that a fresh look be taken at the problem of gender relations in Kerala.
The Enigma of the Kerala Woman: A Failed Promise of Literacy consists of multi-disciplinary research carried out on various aspects of gender relations in Kerala by scholars from a range of social science disciplines under The Gender Network, a regional network of researchers investigating the phenomenon to gender under varied social and economic settings. The introductory chapter provides an overarching framework for the individual studies. Breaking new ground in analytical and methodological dimensions of Women's Studies, the papers collectively seek to provide an answer to the 'enigma' of the Kerala woman.
The book has a rich body of data which provides comparative figures relating to development indices for Kerala in relation to some other states as well as India as a whole.
The book comes alive through two separate sections. The first one is devoted to case studies of women from the area of research and the second to photographs of Kerala women in various social settings with detailed anthropological captions. The two sections complement each other in supporting the main theme of the book.
Swapna Mukhopadhyay is former Professor of Economics at the Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi and Director, Institute of Social Studies Trust, New Delhi. She is currently Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in New Delhi and Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the International Research Network on Poverty and Economic Policy (PEP).
Preface and Acknowledgements:
This book took a long time in coming. For somebody entrusted with the job of designing and directing an inter-county research programme on gender, the contradictory signals of women's empowerment from Kerala had stuck out like a sore thumb. The search for a convincing understanding of the curious case of the Kerala woman had started fairly early in the Gender Network research agenda. But not until recently did things seem to fall in place. The search process has taken a long time. The introductory chapter contains the history of this search in some detail.
It is a pleasure to acknowledge the many individuals and organizations that have helped me in putting this book together. My first debt of gratitude is to the authors of the papers included in this volume and all the others who have been part of the Kerala team of researchers over the years. This includes researchers from the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Thiruvananthapuram who have collaborated with us in earlier phases of the Gender Network; the team of dedicated doctors under the stewardship of Dr E. Mohamed who were instrumental in carrying out the field survey on mental health in Kerala; several of my younger colleagues who were associated with the work at various stages and in various capacities at the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) where the Gender Network project was stationed, and especially Rajib Nandi who was a boon to have as a colleague at ISST. I will continue to miss Professor Ravi Kapur, and his brilliant presence and sense of humour. He provided me with the inputs on mental health, which turned out to be so crucial for this research. His able student and co-author, Shobna Sonpar, became an integral part of the project at a crucial stage of its development. J. Devika, the feminist historian from CDS, has enlightened me in many ways, and has been a pleasure to known and work with. My special thanks to her.
A debt of gratitude must go to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada and the various programme officers who have from time to time been in charge of the Gender Network Project in that organization. They gave me the space and the latitude to follow the leads in designing the research agenda on Kerala, often in a manner, which could not be foreseen at the time of writing the project proposals. Our debt to the agency is considerable also because it has financially supported this research for several years at the ISST, during my tenure at that organization as the Director, and having continued to do so until such time that the project came to an end.
Finally I owe a huge debt to Social Science Press (SSP), for the meticulous professionalism that it has brought to this publication. It has been a great pleasure working with Esha. My sincere thanks go to Meenakshi Chawla who has worked on the script ceaselessly with care and patience. Thanks are also due to Meera Juneja who prepared an exhaustive index, all of which we have not been able to carry here, in a very short span of time.
To my husband Badal, I will be eternally grateful for smilingly suffering a volatile wife through the ups and down of this work.
List of Contributors:
Swapna MukhopadhyayFormer Professor of Economics at the Institute of Economic Growth and Director of the Institute of Social Studies Trust, New Delhi. She is currently Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy and Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the International research network on Poverty and Economic Policy (PEP).
S. Irudaya RajanChair Professor of the Research Unit on International Migration at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
SreerupaResearch scholar at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthipuram, Kerala.
Jayanti BasuPsychoanalyst and a Rehabilitation Psychologist. She is Head of the Department of Applied Psychology, Calcutta University.
J. DevikaA historian and research associate at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthipuram, Kerala. She has published in English and Malayalam, on social history and the evolution of gender in Kerala.
Avanti MukherjeeResearch scholar in the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Jipson SikheraPhoto journalist based in Cochin, Kerala.
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