As the essays in this volume show, feminist writing has opened up ways of questioning and reinterpreting not only social life but also academic disciplines. The essays, themselves drawn from various disciplines and regions, explore epics, oral traditions, folksongs, puranic myths, proverbs. Women’s letters, autobiographies, tribal practices, field-based information and archival sources in new and provocative ways. They bring out a range of patriarchal configurations of social reform, of work and family, the gendering of consumption, the relationship between state formations, caste and class stratification, colonial educational policies, new development paradigms and transformations in gender relations. In the Introduction, the editors locate these essays, not only in wider contexts, both past and present, but, more significantly, within the profounder problematic of patterns of persistence and change within patriarchies on the subcontinent. This as yet under explored Problematic they argue has the capacity to change many conventional notions of periodisation and historical transition.
Uma Chakravarti teaches history at Miranda House, Delhi University. She has worked on both ancient and modern India, and written on issue of caste, labour and gender. Among her published works are Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism and Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai.
Kumkum Sangari teaches English at Indraprastha College, Delhi University, and is at present a fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. She has written on British, American and Indian literature, on critical theory and on gender issues such as labour, law, widow immolation. Among her published and edited works area Politics of the Possible: Essays in Gender, History, Narrative, Colonial English and Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History: For the past who decades, both Uma Chakravarti and Kumkum Sangari have been active in women’s issues and democratic rights.
This book has grown out a seminar on Women’s Studies held at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla in September 1993. It carries many of the papers presented at the seminar but for reasons of space we were unable to include all the presentations, including our own. The volume was delayed for several reasons such as waiting for revisions and attempting to bring the essays in line with the Institute’s style-sheet. Eventually, to avoid further delays, we dropped the bibliography and modifications some of the references supplied still do not contain all the information required and omissions are indicated in square brackets. Needless to say all this also extended our editorial labours. We are grateful to the I.I.A.S., Professor J.S. Grewal and Professor Mrinal Miri and especially to its publishing department and Mr. N.K. Maini for their co-operation.
Diacritical marks have been used throughout in the first four essays on ancient and medieval India but only when needed to maintain the sense of the word or phrase in subsequent essays. As a consequence, there are some variations in spelling too.
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