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Inhabiting or Interrogating Faith

Against the growing literature on Muslim piety movements, this paper analyses the practices of faith among a young generation of educated middle-class Muslim women in Mumbai in the context of a liberalising economy, which offers them greater employment opportunities and draws them out of the ghettos to work and interact with people of different social and religious backgrounds. The paper shows that these women question and reason with their faith, while the earlier generation abides by a quieter piety. The findings are grounded in Mumbai’s specific history in which the riots of 1992–93 were a defining moment for Muslims. While focusing on everyday religiosity, it also connects with a larger canvas by arguing that piety movements, though located in society, are not unattached from the ways in which states may constitute secularity or define religious freedoms.

Women and Religiosity

The everyday life of the congregations of slave castes involved the active support of women, right from the mid-19th century when Dalit communities began to accept Christianity. Prayers in the family and in congregations were occasions in which women were substantially involved, wherein hymns/songs became powerful articulations of the critique of caste slavery and prayer was used as an effective tool to resist instances of caste oppression. However, relatively blurred gender hierarchies in the pre-Christian phase among the slave castes were transformed by the conscious intervention of the missionaries in favour of the secure family structure with an assertive male head.

Inter-caste Marriage and Shakta Myths of Karnataka

The annual jatras or fairs conducted for certain female deities like Maramma and Dyamavva in Karnataka include the ritual of buffalo sacrifice. There is an accompanying myth that explains this sacrifice as symbolising the punishment meted out to a Dalit boy who had married an upper-caste girl by concealing his caste identity. Karnataka is one of the states where love marriages provoke honour killings, where the Sangh Parivar—as part of its “love jihad” campaign—attacks inter-religious couples, and beats up meat-eaters. Do these jatra practices, rooted in ancient memories, still serve the purpose of protecting the sanctity of caste?In what way have new developments changed the traditional meanings associated with the mythand the practice?

Women and Customary Spiritual Authority

The Khonds of South India, categorised as a particularly vulnerable tribal group, uphold a unique religious institution called the pejjenis, where women are conferred the spiritual authority to perform critical religious and social ceremonies related to human and nature cycles, appeasement of the gods and spirits during calamities and conflict and conducting spiritual dialogue with the other worlds. This paper explores the spaces of egalitarianism among them and finds out what opportunities for gendered negotiations and authority for women within the sphere of the religions are nurtured within an overarching framework of patriarchy.

Sexuality in Iran

What can a study of transsexuality in Iran contribute to its broader global understanding? Some disaffiliation, if not actual animosity, is often assumed between science and religion, sometimes placed in relation to larger concepts such as “modernity” and “tradition.” But, developments in Iran over the past three decades reveal the coming together of science and religion; these have generated possibilities for living alternatively gendered and sexual lives. The implications of some of these developments are explored.

Muslim Women and the Challenge of Religion in Contemporary Mumbai

Two recent mobilisations of women in Mumbai expose the tension between Muslim patriarchies and women’s rights in contemporary Islam. The first case refers to a petition in the Bombay High Court filed by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan that challenged the prohibition of women in the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah. In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled against the governing trust of Haji Ali Dargah and restored women’s right to enter the inner sanctum. The second mobilisation was spearheaded by Sahiyo, a group of five women who started a public conversation around the practice of khafz or female genital cutting among Dawoodi Bohras. Their efforts brought attention to the violent control of female sexual pleasure in the name of religion and tradition. This paper argues that women’s critical voices from within the community challenge conservatism and redefine gendered selfhood within the religious realm.

Feminist Science Studies

Feminist science studies (FSS) is a field of study that is interdisciplinary. It draws upon the philosophy, historiography and sociology of science. 1 It also has to necessarily draw upon the practice of science itself. While social scientists might gain insights into the practice and culture of...

Towards a Narrative of Gender in the Biological Sciences

Using the metaphor of the leaky pipeline, this article looks at the relative absence of women in scientific disciplines. It explores, somewhat tentatively, the impact of the structure of institutions and prevalent practices to ask how patriarchal and male-centric notions influence primary assumptions in scientific work and in scientific culture.

Chronicles of a Queer Relationship with Science

This article traverses a journey of a person in science and feminism, highlighting a trajectory in which her relationship with science, its praxis, and its understanding, all transformed as her engagement with feminisms also evolved. The narrative highlights the change from a narrow understanding of science and a career within it, to the emerging multiple possibilities of being a person in science—a change made possible because the feminist lens shifts focus from the question of women in science to a feminist understanding of science. The process, hence, results in a slow inhabiting of the “outsider” in a reimagined landscape of the discipline.

Learning to Belong as an Indian Physicist

In this article, I map out my trajectory as a theoretical physicist, especially highlighting my experiences as a woman in a domain which is especially male-dominated, even more so than in other areas of science research. I reflect on the larger problems women in physics find themselves up against and which range from fewer numbers of women in these areas of science, to integration of women into peer groups, widely prevalent sexist attitudes in their workspaces, lack of support facilities like childcare, and sexual harassment in the workplace. In spite of more women finding jobs in physics in recent years, the attitudinal shifts required to make a genuine difference in the culture of research have not yet fallen into place. Issues of discrimination, whether due to gender, race or caste, prevalent in science have to do with institutional structures and the culture of research. However, the “hard” sciences like physics deal with immutable, objective knowledge, which is itself not marked by these human discriminants.

Mathematics to Mathematics Education

This autobiographical account seeks to achieve two aims. One, it seeks to place in the public sphere a personal experience of abuse, trauma and loss of self-esteem that the author suffered as a doctoral student in mathematics. It details the experiences that allowed her to go beyond the disciplinary confines to engage with feminist and caste politics. Two, it describes and problematises, even if in a limited way, how mathematics and science research institutions are organised and function, the dominant notions and beliefs that operate in these spaces, and their implication for the larger academic atmosphere in the country. It throws light on the pervasive notions of merit that operate in the science institutions, contributing to the exclusion of women and those from marginalised castes.

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