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Books > Language and Literature > Ideals, Images and Real Lives: Women in Literature and History
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Ideals, Images and Real Lives: Women in Literature and History
Ideals, Images and Real Lives: Women in Literature and History
Description
From the Jacket

Women studies as a distinct field emerged in India in mid-seventies. But preoccupation with the position of women dates back more than a century and a half. What is striking in the case of India is the way the women question became central to rising national consciousness. This volume brings together studies of how the women question was formulated at different time, the impact of conflicting pressures on women, their own reactions and the role they themselves played.

By the use of methods of history, literary criticism and analysis of discourse, this volume seeks not only to illustrate the broadening of the sphere of women studies in India in recent years, but also to point to the need for relating ideas about women and gender relations to the social and economic forces that shape history. It does not, however, lay any claim to being definitive history covering events, issues and factors in a systematic manner. Its chapters are partial accounts drawn from writings in English in a single journal, the Economic and Political Weekly, over the years. The selection is offered as a set of exemplars of feminist historiography which may help to clarify the formation of gender.

The papers in this volume reflect the refinement of theoretical approaches in many ways. They exemplify both the advanced in feminist theory, especially with regard to notions of and interconnections between gender, male power and ideology, and the course of women's movements in the third world. An important theoretically contribution of the third world scholars - unlike western theory which ignored imperialism - has been the examination of changes in gender relations brought about by the impact of colonialism.

The real lives and mythic models depicted here intersect at various points - they are not two separate histories. Section I deals with real lives. Section II presents the formation of a nationalist iconography in fiction where nationalism is conjoined with notion of womanhood. In Section III are dealt with models for women provided by Indian tradition and its various interpreters, and the ways in which feminists have tried to grapple with them.

Preface

Fifteen years ago when, after consultation with Maithreyi, I proposed to the editor of the Economic and Political weekly (EPW) the inclusion of a semi-annual insert devoted to studies on women, he was completely taken aback. In fact, over the previous years the EPW had published several articles on subjects such as women education, women's participation in the labour force, women's role in political movements. But the possibility of regular feature in the same form as the prestigious existing supplements on Agriculture, Management and Political Economy had never been mooted. Once his surprise had been overcome, Krishna Raj's breadth of vision proved equal to the challenge. The Review of Women Studies (RWS) was inaugurated in the April 25, 1985 number (Volume XX Number 17). It has continued to appear in the last issues for April and October in each subsequent year.

At the outset, Maithreyi and I put considerable effort into scouting for articles. We sent off a canvassing letter to everyone whom we could think of as a potential contributor. We asked colleagues to recommend their students and other possible authors. We importuned participant in conferences one or the other of us attended to write up their oral presentations for the RWS. Quite soon our own efforts were overtaken by a positive flood of unsolicited material. Writers, sometimes unknown to either one of us, began to send in pieces directly to the Weekly. Scholars directing research projects offered us the resulting papers. Since so many articles of the requisite quality arrived, the EPW often printed them in its regular pages in addition to those which we selected for the RWS.

Apparently the existence of an outlet in the form of the Review served to stimulate the production of papers. More to the point, our initiative itself can be understood as arising from the same factors, which favoured the dramatic rise of interest in matters relating to women and their place in Indian society. Questions of women's age at marriage, constraint upon widows, schooling for girls had been widely debated during the colonial year. In fact, these issues were inextricably entwined with Indian demands for greater political representation and, in later years, for self-fule. One of the reasons given for the maintenance of the British Raj was that by their treatment of women Indians showed they were not yet ready for self-government. Many, although by no means all, of the nationalist spokesmen were at the same time proponents of social reform. But the participants in these debates, British as well as Indian, were almost exclusively men. Rather than demands raised by women themselves or formulated in terms of women's own aspirations, the nationalists argued in terms of the nation's need or generations of stalwart males, nurtured by mothers properly trained in modern (I e, western) child-care, hygiene and housekeeping, while nonetheless devoted to preserving "traditional" Indian values.

The broadening of women's vistas through the active role they took in the mass struggles of the 1920s, 30s has been often related, and attributed primarily to the charisma of Gandhi. Even though women typically slipped back into housework and anonymity each time the tide ebbed, the possibility of asserting themselves on a large scale was engraved in their memories. For a limited number of educated young women, programmes of economic and social development undertaken during the Five-Year Plan periods provided possibilities for employment and, to some extent, self-determination. Although the numbers of females counted in the decennial census as workers in field, factory and handicrafts continued to shrink, opportunities multiplied for them in government agencies, business offices, bank airlines, newspaper offices. Rapid expansion of higher education brought into being a corps of thoughtful and articulate young women serving as Instructors and Readers in colleges all over the country, planting and harvesting of crops, dealing with merchants, moneylenders, and public authorities. Everyone's right to vote opened up another space, in which a handful of women became prominent in political parties and achieved ministerial status at national and state level. Both foreign-funded and local development-oriented associations, popularly known as NGOs, some of them specifically committed to "empowerment" or "conscientisation" of women proliferated. International feminist gathering became occasions for Indian activists to be invited abroad.

In the setting of changes and challenges, the 1970s and 80s witnessed a spate of militant activities by women in many different spheres. Groups sprang up in Delhi, Bombay and other cities to protest against violence in the form of rape, wife-battering, dowry deaths. Women played a leading role in environmental campaigns such as the Chipko movement, in which they were reported as having saved trees from being chopped down by embracing them for hours on end. A tireless woman leader, Medha Patkar, was able to recruit a team of dedicated young people and, by a series of imaginative interventions, to draw national attention to the threat of total submersion of tribal villages as a result of the construction of a high dam on the Narmada River.

Questions of legal rights with regard to inheritance, divorce, title (patta) to land were raised by women in discussion groups and public meetings as well as in the courts. In certain districts of Andhra Pradesh women took dramatic action against state auctions of liquor-selling licences. Health issues which came to the fore, particularly in relation to population control programmes sponsored by government or by international agencies, included dangers inherent in the use and misuse of newly-developed contraceptive devices; lack of adequate maternal and child care facilities; need for attention to illnesses specific to women such as menstrual pain and post-partum backache. The possibility opened by the procedure of amniocentesis of determining the sex of a foetus in the early weeks of pregnancy gave rise to widespread abortions of girl fetuses and to a heated debate on the ethical issue involved. All of these topics are still on the agenda.

More recently concern has been voiced about the impact on women's lives of religious fundamentalism and identity politics. In the wake of the controversial Shah Bano case, the government enacted a law restricting the right of a divorced Muslim woman to maintenance by her former husband. This was widely interpreted as a move to curry favour with the most conservative elements in the Islamic community for electoral purposes. Women active in the public sphere and their various Organisations were quick to protest.

CONTENTS
Preface Alice Thornerv
Permeable Boundaries Maithreyi Krishnaraj 1
REAL LIVES
1 'Birds in a Cage': Changes in Bengali Social Life as Recorded in Autobiographies by Women
SRABASHI GHOSH

37
2In Search of the 'Pure Heathen': Missionary Women in Nineteenth Century India
GERALDINE H FORBES

68
3Sarojini Naidu: Romanticism and Resistance
MEENA ALEXANDER

91
4Women, Emancipation and Equality: Pandita Ramabai's Contribution to Women's Cause
MEERA KOSAMBI

104
5Outside the Norms: Women Ascetics in Hindu Society
CATHERINE CLEMENTIN-OJHA
145
FICTIONAL HEROINES
6Nationalist Iconography: Image of Women in 19th Century Bengali Literature
TANIKA SARKAR
159
7Positivism and Nationalism: Womanhood and Crisis in Nationalist Fiction - Bankimchandra's
Anandmath
Jasodhara Bagchi

176
8Govardhanram's Women
SONAL SHUKLA
192
9How Equal? Women in Premachand's Writings
GEETANJALI PANDEY

216
10Representing Devadasis: 'Dasigal Mosavalai' as a Radical Text
S ANANDHI
233
MEN'S IDEALS
11The Virangana in North Indian History: Myth and Popular Culture
KATHRYN HANSEN
257
12Construction and Reconstruction of Woman in "Gandhi
SUJATA PATEL
288
13Feminine Identity and National Ethos in Indian Calendar Art
PATRICIA UBEROI
322
Index347

Ideals, Images and Real Lives: Women in Literature and History

Item Code:
IDI525
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2000
Publisher:
ISBN:
8125008438
Size:
8.6" X 5.6
Pages:
365
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From the Jacket

Women studies as a distinct field emerged in India in mid-seventies. But preoccupation with the position of women dates back more than a century and a half. What is striking in the case of India is the way the women question became central to rising national consciousness. This volume brings together studies of how the women question was formulated at different time, the impact of conflicting pressures on women, their own reactions and the role they themselves played.

By the use of methods of history, literary criticism and analysis of discourse, this volume seeks not only to illustrate the broadening of the sphere of women studies in India in recent years, but also to point to the need for relating ideas about women and gender relations to the social and economic forces that shape history. It does not, however, lay any claim to being definitive history covering events, issues and factors in a systematic manner. Its chapters are partial accounts drawn from writings in English in a single journal, the Economic and Political Weekly, over the years. The selection is offered as a set of exemplars of feminist historiography which may help to clarify the formation of gender.

The papers in this volume reflect the refinement of theoretical approaches in many ways. They exemplify both the advanced in feminist theory, especially with regard to notions of and interconnections between gender, male power and ideology, and the course of women's movements in the third world. An important theoretically contribution of the third world scholars - unlike western theory which ignored imperialism - has been the examination of changes in gender relations brought about by the impact of colonialism.

The real lives and mythic models depicted here intersect at various points - they are not two separate histories. Section I deals with real lives. Section II presents the formation of a nationalist iconography in fiction where nationalism is conjoined with notion of womanhood. In Section III are dealt with models for women provided by Indian tradition and its various interpreters, and the ways in which feminists have tried to grapple with them.

Preface

Fifteen years ago when, after consultation with Maithreyi, I proposed to the editor of the Economic and Political weekly (EPW) the inclusion of a semi-annual insert devoted to studies on women, he was completely taken aback. In fact, over the previous years the EPW had published several articles on subjects such as women education, women's participation in the labour force, women's role in political movements. But the possibility of regular feature in the same form as the prestigious existing supplements on Agriculture, Management and Political Economy had never been mooted. Once his surprise had been overcome, Krishna Raj's breadth of vision proved equal to the challenge. The Review of Women Studies (RWS) was inaugurated in the April 25, 1985 number (Volume XX Number 17). It has continued to appear in the last issues for April and October in each subsequent year.

At the outset, Maithreyi and I put considerable effort into scouting for articles. We sent off a canvassing letter to everyone whom we could think of as a potential contributor. We asked colleagues to recommend their students and other possible authors. We importuned participant in conferences one or the other of us attended to write up their oral presentations for the RWS. Quite soon our own efforts were overtaken by a positive flood of unsolicited material. Writers, sometimes unknown to either one of us, began to send in pieces directly to the Weekly. Scholars directing research projects offered us the resulting papers. Since so many articles of the requisite quality arrived, the EPW often printed them in its regular pages in addition to those which we selected for the RWS.

Apparently the existence of an outlet in the form of the Review served to stimulate the production of papers. More to the point, our initiative itself can be understood as arising from the same factors, which favoured the dramatic rise of interest in matters relating to women and their place in Indian society. Questions of women's age at marriage, constraint upon widows, schooling for girls had been widely debated during the colonial year. In fact, these issues were inextricably entwined with Indian demands for greater political representation and, in later years, for self-fule. One of the reasons given for the maintenance of the British Raj was that by their treatment of women Indians showed they were not yet ready for self-government. Many, although by no means all, of the nationalist spokesmen were at the same time proponents of social reform. But the participants in these debates, British as well as Indian, were almost exclusively men. Rather than demands raised by women themselves or formulated in terms of women's own aspirations, the nationalists argued in terms of the nation's need or generations of stalwart males, nurtured by mothers properly trained in modern (I e, western) child-care, hygiene and housekeeping, while nonetheless devoted to preserving "traditional" Indian values.

The broadening of women's vistas through the active role they took in the mass struggles of the 1920s, 30s has been often related, and attributed primarily to the charisma of Gandhi. Even though women typically slipped back into housework and anonymity each time the tide ebbed, the possibility of asserting themselves on a large scale was engraved in their memories. For a limited number of educated young women, programmes of economic and social development undertaken during the Five-Year Plan periods provided possibilities for employment and, to some extent, self-determination. Although the numbers of females counted in the decennial census as workers in field, factory and handicrafts continued to shrink, opportunities multiplied for them in government agencies, business offices, bank airlines, newspaper offices. Rapid expansion of higher education brought into being a corps of thoughtful and articulate young women serving as Instructors and Readers in colleges all over the country, planting and harvesting of crops, dealing with merchants, moneylenders, and public authorities. Everyone's right to vote opened up another space, in which a handful of women became prominent in political parties and achieved ministerial status at national and state level. Both foreign-funded and local development-oriented associations, popularly known as NGOs, some of them specifically committed to "empowerment" or "conscientisation" of women proliferated. International feminist gathering became occasions for Indian activists to be invited abroad.

In the setting of changes and challenges, the 1970s and 80s witnessed a spate of militant activities by women in many different spheres. Groups sprang up in Delhi, Bombay and other cities to protest against violence in the form of rape, wife-battering, dowry deaths. Women played a leading role in environmental campaigns such as the Chipko movement, in which they were reported as having saved trees from being chopped down by embracing them for hours on end. A tireless woman leader, Medha Patkar, was able to recruit a team of dedicated young people and, by a series of imaginative interventions, to draw national attention to the threat of total submersion of tribal villages as a result of the construction of a high dam on the Narmada River.

Questions of legal rights with regard to inheritance, divorce, title (patta) to land were raised by women in discussion groups and public meetings as well as in the courts. In certain districts of Andhra Pradesh women took dramatic action against state auctions of liquor-selling licences. Health issues which came to the fore, particularly in relation to population control programmes sponsored by government or by international agencies, included dangers inherent in the use and misuse of newly-developed contraceptive devices; lack of adequate maternal and child care facilities; need for attention to illnesses specific to women such as menstrual pain and post-partum backache. The possibility opened by the procedure of amniocentesis of determining the sex of a foetus in the early weeks of pregnancy gave rise to widespread abortions of girl fetuses and to a heated debate on the ethical issue involved. All of these topics are still on the agenda.

More recently concern has been voiced about the impact on women's lives of religious fundamentalism and identity politics. In the wake of the controversial Shah Bano case, the government enacted a law restricting the right of a divorced Muslim woman to maintenance by her former husband. This was widely interpreted as a move to curry favour with the most conservative elements in the Islamic community for electoral purposes. Women active in the public sphere and their various Organisations were quick to protest.

CONTENTS
Preface Alice Thornerv
Permeable Boundaries Maithreyi Krishnaraj 1
REAL LIVES
1 'Birds in a Cage': Changes in Bengali Social Life as Recorded in Autobiographies by Women
SRABASHI GHOSH

37
2In Search of the 'Pure Heathen': Missionary Women in Nineteenth Century India
GERALDINE H FORBES

68
3Sarojini Naidu: Romanticism and Resistance
MEENA ALEXANDER

91
4Women, Emancipation and Equality: Pandita Ramabai's Contribution to Women's Cause
MEERA KOSAMBI

104
5Outside the Norms: Women Ascetics in Hindu Society
CATHERINE CLEMENTIN-OJHA
145
FICTIONAL HEROINES
6Nationalist Iconography: Image of Women in 19th Century Bengali Literature
TANIKA SARKAR
159
7Positivism and Nationalism: Womanhood and Crisis in Nationalist Fiction - Bankimchandra's
Anandmath
Jasodhara Bagchi

176
8Govardhanram's Women
SONAL SHUKLA
192
9How Equal? Women in Premachand's Writings
GEETANJALI PANDEY

216
10Representing Devadasis: 'Dasigal Mosavalai' as a Radical Text
S ANANDHI
233
MEN'S IDEALS
11The Virangana in North Indian History: Myth and Popular Culture
KATHRYN HANSEN
257
12Construction and Reconstruction of Woman in "Gandhi
SUJATA PATEL
288
13Feminine Identity and National Ethos in Indian Calendar Art
PATRICIA UBEROI
322
Index347
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