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Monday, January 2, 2012

UNIT 17 GENDER IN HISTORY

Structure

17.1 Introduction

17.2 History as the Narrative of Power

17.3 Absence of Women in Modern Historiography

17.4 Women’s Movement and Gender Sensitive History

17.5 Features of Feminist Historiography

17.6 Summary

17.7 Exercises

17.8 Suggested Readings

17.1 INTRODUCTION

Women have a dual relationship with history in India as they are simultaneously present and absent in the historical accounts that have come down to us. The women are invisible especially from a feminist standpoint, and they are relatively visible from the point of view of the concerns of nationalist history, especially in the context of ancient India. Thus the task of the feminist historian today is doubly difficult. Unlike many other parts of the world where women have had to be inserted into history, here history has, in a sense, to be ‘re’written. Further, rewriting history from a woman inclusive standpoint requires historians to not only explore (and re-explore) sources and social processes, uncover evidence (which has been ignored or marginalised because of existing biases) and thereafter insert issues of gender into new historical writing, such writing has also to uncover the many histories of suppression, resulting in history having become a flattened, and one-dimensional account of a few men. Historians writing in the last twenty years or so in India have therefore necessarily had to shift the focus onto the neglected segments of our society, thereby broadening its ambit. Under this new focus, a gender sensitive history is now beginning to be possible, although we need to note that this new field was not an automatic consequence of a shift of focus but the conscious product of feminist interventions. What also needs to be noted is that among the first tasks to be addressed by feminist scholars, even before launching into the writing of a new kind of history was the attention that had to be paid to analysing what had gone before: a feminist historiography has therefore preceded a feminist rewriting of the past. And finally, when the new feminist history began to be written it had to go beyond the concerns of colonialists and nationalists to explore the structures and ideologies that have contributed to the particularities of south Asian patriarchies.

17.2 HISTORY AS THE NARRATIVE OF POWER

Despite the surfacing of new concerns and a new will amongst a section of historians, there are many inherent problems in writing a history that is genuinely inclusive of women. The sources of history, here as elsewhere, reflect the concerns of those who have wielded power. It is sometimes argued, with justification, that the notion of time, and therefore of history, in the dominant Indian tradition, which may also be called the Brahmanical tradition, has been cyclical and not linear, making for a crucial difference in the understanding of history. One implication of this view is that the contemporary discipline of history in India is a derivative of the western, linear, tradition and violates
the spirit of the ‘authentic’ Indian tradition. The further implication is that, therefore, it 29

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cannot be subjected to certain kinds of scrutiny. What is ignored in this argument is that the cyclical notion of history is as much the product of those who have wielded power as the linear view of history is. It might be useful to note that unlike archaeological evidence, which may be loosely described as the ‘garbage’ of history, as the incidental remnants of material culture, and therefore not associated with the conscious decision to leave something to posterity, written records are self conscious products and are closely tied to those who have exercised power. The Rajatarangini, the Harshacharita or the Itihasa portions of the Puranas are unambiguous narratives of power even if they may reflect a cyclical view of history.

It might also be argued that these sources constitute only a small fraction of the sources we have for ancient India and the bulk of the sources are not conventional historical sources at all but a variegated collection of myths, religious texts, and other types of literary productions. Nevertheless the textual sources that have come down to us, even when they are ‘religious’, ‘cultural’, ‘social’, or concerned with the political economy, are products of a knowledge system which was highly monopolistic and hierarchical and thus narrowly concentrated in the hands of a few men — a group that was even narrower here than elsewhere.

In this context it might be useful to explore the manner in which scholars have tried to break out of the limited concerns imposed by the ‘recorders’ of history who have, in a sense, refracted history for us. In contemporary times it is possible to use oral history as a way of countering the biases of ‘official’history. But the relationship of orality to textuality is very complex in the case of our early history. In a sense, all ‘texts’were orally transmitted and then ‘written’ up much later. Though these texts only ultimately became prescriptive, or were regarded as sacred, they were treated as authoritative and therefore worthy of formal handing down in the traditional way which was oral precisely because it could be carefully controlled. ‘Oral’texts are not in and of themselves counter hegemonic. Further, certain oral traditions which had been brought into the ideological field of the religious literati but nevertheless circulated largely among the humbler folk, and were therefore more widely shared as they were narrated to a heterogeneous audience, such as the Jatakas or the Panchatantra, though significant in terms of yielding a different kind of evidence on women and the lower orders, are not necessarily the compositions of such sections, at least in the versions that have come down to us. The Jatakas for example, comprise a rich repertoire of narratives and often describe the experiences of ordinary women and men with great poignancy; they are, nevertheless, firmly located within a Buddhist world-view. As they stand, the Jatakas are the product of mediations between high culture and `low’ culture; framed by the bhikkhus (the Buddhist monks) these narratives cannot be termed ‘folk’. While they are an alternative to the Brahmanical texts they cannot be regarded as the dichotomised ‘other’ of elite texts. Similarly, the Therigatha, verses or songs of the bhikkhunis (the Buddhist nuns), a work that is probably one of the earliest compilations of women’s poetry anywhere in the world, while very definitely the compositions of women, have not escaped the editorial hand of the Buddhist monastic compilers. These factors have complicated the use of oral sources and the writing of a gender sensitive history from below. There are further problems because of the difficulties of dating oral texts, which therefore cannot easily be collated with other evidence available for specific periods; while we gain from the point of view of the richness of the data we lose from the point of view of specificity of time and region. Nevertheless, despite the many problems inherent in the sources the newer generation of historians, writing from a
‘history from below’ standpoint including feminists, have begun to use these sources creatively. Using strategies such as reading against the grain and between the lines, especially in the case of prescriptive texts, or looking at the way myths and narratives change in a diachronic context they are raising new questions and bringing in fresh insights. We will further discuss these issues in later sections.


17.3 ABSENCE OF WOMEN IN MODERN HISTORIOGRAPHY

It might be useful at this point to examine the factors that led to a shift in the writing of history and thus acted as a catalyst for gender history. In the Indian context nationalist history dominated the scene until the late 1950s. Nationalist history was primarily focussed on political history (kings, conquests, invasions, as in the case of the earlier colonial history; liberal and imaginative administrators, political institutions and so on) and cultural history — mainly a detailing of achievements on the cultural front. Apart from an obsessive concern with locating and outlining idealised images and golden ages, there was almost a conscious steering away from examining internal contradictions, hierarchies along different axes, and oppressive structures. This point may be illustrated by seeing the numerous works of R.K.Mukherji, R.C.Majumdar and K.P.Jayaswal among others. This trend in the writing of Indian history found its most systematic formulation in the Indian History and Culture volumes edited by R.C. Majumdar and published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay between 1956 and 1963. This was part of a move to present the imperial government with a united front but also a product of middle class myopia obsessed with a single axis of deprivation, between the colonial power and the nation’s bhadralok in relation to them. Tilak, the militant nationalist, for example, argued that the distinctions between labourers and masters was false; all Indians were labourers or rather shudras and slaves, and the British were the only masters

Meanwhile, going back to the late colonial period, social history made its appearance. Here as elsewhere, in the early stages, social history was a kind of residual history with politics and economics left out. Some of the issues explored under this rubric were the history of social reform, and religious and revivalist movements, mostly within the framework of biographical narratives of the men spearheading the movements. Finally in the decades after independence and under the influence of Marxist approaches, social history became the history of social formations. D.D. Kosambi pioneered this field with two brilliant and wide-ranging books and a series of imaginative papers published from the mid fifties onwards. His formulations were the basis for detailed analyses on various epochs of Indian history and the relationship between modes of production and other political and social institutions. By the late 1970s and 1980s there were raging debates on whether or not there was feudalism in India, and while the issues thrown up in the course of this debate were important, there was absolutely nothing on what happened to women in the feudal mode of production, or where they figured in the new relations of production. The underlying presumption was that history for women was the same as history for men. No attempt was made to move into the field of the modes of social reproduction while continuing to explore modes of production where class and gender could be combined making for a connection between gender structures, ideologies, and social and economic power structures. Similarly, although there was a welcome shift towards exploring the history of the lower orders, such as the dasa-karmakaras, shudras, and chandalas, bringing in issues of caste and class and unequal power relations, this did not include an examination of unequal gender relations. In any case a shortcoming, in my view, of the history of social formations is that human beings as individuals, whether men or women, and their experience of different social processes, seemed to be missing from it. Since it centred on modes of production the primary issues that were explored were the ways in which surplus was extracted, the particular forms of labour exploitation, and the role of technology in transforming relations of production, human experiences, mentalities, and emotions tended to be left unexplored. In some ways then, such a history was as distant as the earlier dynastic or administrative histories had been. This lacuna has to some extent been rectified by new trends in history writing under the label of ‘subaltern’studies but these scholars too have neglected women as a category. While
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they brought into the frame of history the lives and struggles of ordinary people such as peasants and tribals, they too focussed on peasant men and tribal men without even being conscious that there could be subalterns within subalterns. Their writing was as male centred as earlier nationalist or Marxist history had been. It is ironical that even as a certain space was opening up for a history of the ‘powerless’ the most powerless among the powerless remained outside the framework of new historical trends.

17.4 WOMEN’S MOVEMENT AND GENDER SENSITIVE HISTORY

How then did the shift occur in terms of the writing of women’s history? We may attribute this to the women’s movement of the 1970s which provided the context and the impetus for the emergence of women’s studies in India. As Tanika Sarkar has recently pointed out, women’s history as a sustained and self-conscious tradition developed from the 1970s since many feminist scholars were themselves involved in the vigorous and turbulent movements against rape, dowry and domestic violence. It was here that the contours of the multiple forms and structures of patriarchies, and the cultural practices associated with them began to be outlined through the experiences of women on the ground. These years, during the heyday of an explicitly political women’s movement, and the insights derived therein, provided feminist scholars with the experiential material on the basis of which they formulated gender as a category of analysis. (The recent phenomena of mainstream scholars cashing in on the space created for women’s history, without addressing the existence of patriarchies in their writing, is an explicitly anti-political and deflective agenda, marking a sharp break from feminist scholarship.) And since the 70s also witnessed other political movements of peasants, workers, and tribals turning our attention onto the marginalised and the oppressive conditions under which they lived and struggled, historians were forced to broaden the ambit of history; the content of history has thus been dramatically democratised and we are now happily moving in a direction which is making history the most dynamic discipline in the social sciences. But it is important to recognise that historians, and only some of them at that, respond to grass-roots assertions: they do not lead the new trends but merely follow the agendas set by our people, which is why a gender sensitive history had to wait for the women’s movement and was not an automatic or logical trend following from Marxist history or subaltern history.

17.5 FEATURES OF FEMINIST HISTORIOGRAPHY

In a moment such as this, it is apt that a review of the main trends in women’s history is undertaken. Beginning with tentative formulations and simple re-readings it is by now fairly evident that despite a weak institutional base women’s history has taken off. During the last decade some very fine work has appeared in the field of women’s history forcing mainstream historians to recognise and sometimes even cash in on the ‘market’ created by feminist scholarship. Among the first major moves made by feminist scholars was that of dismantling the dominant nationalist narrative of the glory of Hindu womanhood during the ancient past, specifically during the Vedic period. By breaking up the Hindu / Vedic woman into the ‘Aryan’ and the dasi woman attention was drawn to the differing histories of women according to respective social locations. This corrective was important because while it was necessary to insert gender as an axis of stratification it was equally necessary, perhaps more so, to outline the stratification that existed within women. The suppressions entailed in the homogenised product of the nationalists, the ‘Hindu’/ Vedic or ‘Aryan’ woman, became evident. At the same time the need to outline the distinctive social histories of women was highlighted. Thus while the major tendency during these early years was to write a complementary, or supplementary, history of women, to accompany the narratives of mainstream history, by plotting the history of women in different arenas and in different

types of struggles the distinctive experiences of women in the context of class was built into the analysis of gender.

Asecond feature of the thrust in writing women’s history was the painstaking uncovering and compiling of an archive of women’s writing. Given the male biases of the sources normally relied upon by mainstream history, and the difficulties experienced by feminist historians in finding alternative sources, the putting together of this archive has been very significant. It has helped to break down the canonisation of certain sources which are no longer invariably regarded as more reliable but, more correctly, as having achieved authoritative status through their closeness to power. A parallel and no less significant development has been the appearance of some extremely rich and sensitive readings of women’s writing.

An overview of women’s history and the insights derived from the new writing lead directly to the recognition that gender as a tool of analysis has been very unevenly used to explore the three conventional chronological phases of ancient, medieval and modern India. The bulk of the new writing is being done for colonial and post-colonial India and there is very little of such writing for ancient and even less for medieval India. This is in part due to the need for a knowledge of the classical languages in which the sources are available for these phases but it is also partly attributable to the dominant contemporary theoretical concerns which are focussed solely on colonial and post colonial Indian society. In practice this has also meant the abandonment of these phases to the continuing domination of the Indological framework which is locked into a high classical and consensus approach, unwilling to recognise that there could be other histories.

However, there have been pioneering works heralding a breakthrough in more ways than one. A recent study by Kumkum Roy on the emergence of monarchy in early India is significant because it uses precisely those sources that the Indologists have always relied upon, the Brahmanical texts relevant for the period, but opened them up to a totally different line of inquiry. The study also links the inter-relatedness of the different axes of stratification to outline the processes by which hierarchies were established and legitimised through the use of Brahmanical rituals. Once the structure was in place the king was regarded as the legitimate controller of the productive and reproductive resources of the kingdom. At the same time the yajamana, on whose behalf rituals were performed, came to be regarded as the controller of the productive and reproductive resources of the household. The most significant aspect of Roy’s work is that it breaks down the false, but perhaps for the moment operationally necessary, divide between gender history and mainstream history. It demonstrates how our understanding of the past is expanded and enriched when gender is included as a category of analysis.

Other issues that have been probed at the conceptual level include the relationship between caste, class, patriarchy and the state, and the dynamics of the household in early India. Apart from these studies which are attempts at exploring women’s histories at the level of the relationship of gender to other institutions there are studies of the changing versions of myths and other narratives, prostitution, motherhood, labouring women, property relations, women as gift givers, and women as rulers. These accounts have helped to gradually build up a base for further conceptualisations and to break the hold of the Altekarian paradigm, which has dominated the field of women’s history in the case of ‘ancient’ India. A major lacunae that continues to restrict our understanding is the way in which gender shapes, and is in turn shaped by, other structures within a given social formation.

While a beginning has been made from the point of view of using a gender-based framework in the case of early Indian history there is a singular paucity of works using gender as a category of analysis in medieval Indian history. Even a women’s history
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which complements or supplements mainstream history is far from being systematically written. Perhaps this is because there has been a slow response to engage with gender as a category of analysis from scholars with a mastery over Persian in a situation where Persian sources continue to dominate the field of medieval Indian history. Aslow beginning has been made recently but the works tend to be episodic rather than conceptual. The most sustained output is coming from south Asia specialists from American academies but these are usually narrowly empirical and steer clear of making broader analytical points. The lack of a strong gender based standpoint is unfortunate because it is not as if the sources for medieval India are peculiarly disadvantaged; in fact the situation is quite the reverse. It is just that the sources have never been systematically explored from the point of view of gender. Kumkum Sangari’s finely nuanced and elaborately analysed study of Bhakti poetry and within that of Mira’s location is an example of historicising literature, and indivduals during the medieval period. Sangari’s analysis of the family, kinship and the state is a pointer to the direction that a gender sensitive history could fruitfully take. Happily, studies are now underway on a range of themes such the genderedness of language, landownership, inheritance, the politics of the royal household, women against women in polygamous households, and the changing narratives that produced the model of the virtuous and chaste virangana. Perhaps these studies and others can be linked together, and others can be undertaken, leading to broader understanding of gender relations in medieval India.

An important lacuna in the gender history of both ancient and medieval India is the absence of region-based studies. With the exception of a few explorations of Tamil literature and inscriptions of early and medieval south India we have very little by which we can make connections between the social formations of different regions and the ways in which these would have shaped gender relations in their respective regions.

More wide-ranging explorations have been possible in the field of women’s history during the colonial and post-colonial period. More accessible from the point of view of the languages in which the sources are available, these sources are also better preserved. Consequently, feminist scholars have been able to not only insert women into history but also examine the relationship between various social and economic processes and gender. They have also been able to explore certain themes in some depth and have made a dent in historical debates about nationalism, class formation and the operations of caste.

Among the more rigorous areas of research in women’s history during this period has been the analysis of the way in which new colonial structures especially in the field of law shaped the lives of women. An impressive body of writing has examined the working of specific laws such as the Widow Remarriage Act, the impetus and the forces behind the creation and codification of laws, the contradictions between the applications of different sets of legal systems such as customary law and statutory law, statutory law and ‘personal’ law, and the general move towards homogenising the diversity of social customs and cultural practices. One of the most exhaustive and significant studies by Bina Agrawal has focussed on the way law shapes gender relations by denying women access to productive resources in the form of land. She has thus provided us with an understanding of the political economy of the vulnerarability of women. While some of these studies have been empirical others have examined the historical context, class dynamics and the relationship of law to colonialist and nationalist ideologies at given moments. These studies have also been able reveal the possibilities and limitations of a colonialist (and nationalist) hegemonic agendas.

The issue of women’s education has been the subject of numerous writings. Initially scholars tended to plot the different stages by which opportunities for women’s education were created and expanded in the context of the movement for social reform, taking for granted

its ‘positive’, liberatory and transformative potential. Men’s spearheading of the campaign for women’s education then appeared to be genuinely ‘liberal’; perhaps it was paternalistic but it was presumed that it was a means by which women would be emancipated from an earlier deprivation. These studies have now been taken much further to examine the crucial role of education, or rather ‘schooling’, in the agendas of new patriarchies and the relationship of schooling for women to processes of class formation. Men’s stake in women’s education and power over them, women’s agency and resistance in a conflict- ridden household in the process of many kinds of transition have also been outlined. Some of these analyses have been made possible through a close examination of women’s writing. As women were drawn into literacy and education, mostly at the instance of their menfolk (to make them companionate wives and fitting mothers), but sometimes against their approval, they took to writing. Letters, memoirs, essays, biographies, poetry, stories, travelogues, and, on occasion, social critiques of patriarchy appeared by the end of the 19th century and continued into the 20th century. Feminist scholarship on this alternative archive has been significant in fine tuning our understanding of social reform, but also in revealing to us what was suppressed in the accounts of mainstream history. It is to be expected that the social critiques written by 19th century women would be regarded as significant markers in the history of women’s resistance to the ideologies and practices of male domination; women like Pandita Ramabai and Tarabai Shinde have thus become known in the world of feminist scholarship. What is important is that through a sensitive reading of a seemingly conformist piece of writing, by Rashsundari Devi, too one can uncover an oblique but moving critique of upper caste cultural practices.

The history of labouring women too has been sought to be included in the rewriting of history. Accounts of their participation in agrarian struggles, issues that were raised and others that were suppressed and the perception of the women of those ‘magic’ days, as some of them put it, have been important not only to balance out the accounts of
‘peasant’ struggles but also in exploring the complicated relationship between issues of class and gender, and the strategies of left wing groups in highlighting class oppression and suppressing gender oppression. Feminist scholars discovered that in their recuperation of earlier histories of women’s political activism, questions of sexual politics and its complicated relations with broader struggles were of central, absorbing importance: struggles that needed women, mobilised them, conferred a political and public identity upon them, and yet subtly contained them and displaced their work for their own rights.

Women’s place in the organised labour force especially in the textile and jute industries have been the subject of monographs, and currently there are a number of studies underway on women in the unorganised sector, especially in the context of globalisation and the structural adjustment programme. These studies, being the first of their kind, have however retained a largely empirical approach. Perhaps with more studies documenting the daily lives of labouring women we might be able to write an account of the making of the working class from a woman centred point of view. However, history is changing so rapidly in the new era of globalisation that the working class may be transformed beyond recognition even before we can write their history!

Among the more significant researches in writing an account of women’s labour within an historical frame is the issue of domestic labour. This has been a central issue in feminism resulting in a considerable body of scholarship, in the west as well as the third world. Its relationship to capitalism has been repeatedly stressed in western feminist scholarship. In India studies have analysed domestic labour in its relationship to caste, class, widowhood, hierarchies within the household, and the capacity of households to buy domestic services. At the conceptual level, the relationship of domestic labour to
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the labour market and the proliferation of the sexual division of labour in waged work, even as it might appear to be outside the realm of market, has also been highlighted. The fact that ‘domestic labour exists within a system of non-dissoluble, non-contractual marriage permeated by ideologies of service and nurture has meant that domestic labour and domestic ideologies not only co-exist but are also jointly reproduced even in a rapidly changing economic and social system’ has also been pointed out by Sangari.

Earlier on in this paper it has been suggested that feminist scholarship has had to be innovative in its use of sources as well as in their reading of them. One of the recent works that has been extremely successful in such an approach has used a range of sources including conventional sources such as statistics and government reports, but has balanced these off by folk literature, proverbs and fieldwork to locate women’s perception of their own lives. The framework of the political economy of gender used by Prem Chowdhry has yielded an important study of the everyday experiences of labouring women of a peasant caste over a hundred year period.

The use of oral history by feminist historians to explicitly critique the inadequacies and biases of official and mainstream/malestream and elitist histories has been extremely significant in the field of partition history. Here women have been the pioneers in writing an alternative history written from the point of view of the marginalised: women, children, and dalits. They have raised crucial questions about the ideologies of the state in the context of notions of community, and honour in the recovery and rehabilitation of ‘abducted’ women and the doubled dimensions of violence experienced by women first at the hands of men, and then at the hands of a patriarchal state which denied women agency as it sought to align boundaries with communities. It is significant that feminist scholarship has provided a systematic critique of nationalism at the very moment of the birth of a new nation. Far from a recognition of their pioneering work even their critique of nationalism and of the post-colonial Indian state is yet to be taken seriously by mainstream historians. This is perhaps an outcome of the territoriality of mainstream/malestream historians entrenched in the academy, with personal stakes in retaining their hold on historical writing. Further, in my view, these are part of an agenda of once more marginalising, or even erasing, women’s pioneering of a new field, thereby claiming both originality and monopoly over theory. Given the backlash against feminist scholars in terms of appointments to Universities at the highest level, currently underway, the political dimensions of such marginalisations need to be seriously noted.

The issue of women’s agency is part of a larger set of issues in feminist scholarship and it is at the moment often being simplified. The desire to write a different kind of history has led feminist scholars to explore the histories of resistance by women, individually and collectively, and also their use of strategies such as subversion and manipulation of men’s power over women. While it is important to document acts of resistance, subversion and manipulation, it is somewhat simplistic to celebrate all instances of ‘subversion’ and
‘manipulation’; these may certainly be examples of women’s agency but particular instances of subversion such as the strategies used by the tawaifs of Lucknow cannot be regarded as subversive as they work within, and therefore reinforce, patriarchal ideologies. It is useful to bear in mind the political consequences of actions as well as of theoretical formulations especially in the context of feminist writing in India, which owes its originary impulse to a political agenda, as pointed out earlier. Recent writings have tried to provide a perspective for exploring women’s agency. The dialectical relationship between structure and agency requires examining and it may be useful to look at structure and agency as processes that pre-suppose each other: there is also a need to bear in mind that social systems set limits and put pressures upon human action. Agency does not exist within a vacuum as women have come to understand.


17.6 SUMMARY

The preceding sections of this paper have tried to outline some of the issues in writing history from a gender sensitive standpoint and mark some of the major conceptual advances within the field of women’s history. There are huge areas that still need to be explored such as the histories of dalit women and many issues are under theorised, an example being the relationship between caste and gender. There is an urgent need for a rigorous outlining of the structures in which women’s oppression is located. In this context I consider it important for feminist scholars to be wide-ranging in their research and not restrict themselves to theoretical approaches that may dominate academies in particular locations. I would even argue that it is necessary for feminist scholars to resist the tendency to take over their agendas by currently fashionable theories such as post-modernism. Its use in the Indian context has tended to valorise pre-colonial society, as well as the ‘community’ and the ‘family’ as pre-modern indigenous institutions which have remained outside the realm of colonial power and are therefore ‘authentic’. It may be noted that we have a long tradition of examining the community and family in women’s scholarship. The direction of these early works has been overtaken by works that are restricted to the modern pre-modern paradigm. The new focus is also almost entirely on culture. Scholars using the post-modernist framework appear to be antagonistic to any project that is engaged in locating the structures that are the sources of the oppression of women. Perhaps the focus on ‘women’s culture’ enables some of these scholars to highlight the happy spaces for women in the family and obliterate everything else. But for those who experience, or are sensitive to the workings of multiple forms of patriarchies it is crucial to understand social and economic processes and the hierarchical institutions that have put systems of oppression into place. For feminist scholars an unqualified or uncontextualised concentration on culture as an autonomous realm, or discussions of agency without a look at its relationship to structure, will be disastrous. It will push us back, not take us forward in theorising patriarchies and the complex ways in which they work in India.

17.7 EXERCISES

1) Discuss the various features of feminist historiography.

2) What is the relationship between women’s movement and gender-sensitive history?

3) Why have women been generally absent in the traditional historiography?

17.8 SUGGESTED READINGS

Kumkum Sangari and Uma Chakravarti eds. From Myths to Markets: Essays on
Gender (Shimla, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1999).

Uma Chakravarti, Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai
(Delhi, Kali For Women, 1998).

Uma Chakravarti, ‘Beyond the Altekarian Paradigm: Towards a New Understanding of Gender Relations in Early India’, Social Scientist, 16(8), August, 1988.

Kumari Jayawardena and Malathi de Alwiss, Embodied Violence: Communalising
Women’s Sexuality in South Asia (Delhi, Kali for Women, 1996).

Aloka Parasher, ‘Women in Nationalist Historiography: The Case of Altekar,’ in Leela Kasturi and Vina Majumdar (ed.), Women in Indian Nationalism (Delhi, Vikas Publishing House, 1994).
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Vijaya Ramaswamy, ’Aspects of Women and Work in Early South India,’ Indian
Economic and Social History Review, January-March, 1989;
Vijaya Ramaswamy Divinity and Deviance (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1994). Vijaya Ramaswamy Walking Naked: Women, Society, Spirituality in South India
(Shimla, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, !997).
Janaki Nair, Women and Law in Colonial India (Delhi, Kali For Women,1996). Rosalind O’Hanlon, A Comparison Between Men and Women: Tarabai Shinde and
the Critique of Gender Relations in Colonial India (Delhi, Oxford University Press,
1994).

Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid (ed.), Recasting Women : Essays in Colonial History
( Delhi, Kali for Women, 1989).























































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