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Enabling Decolonised Feminist Critiques

Empire, Media and the Autonomous Woman:A Feminist Critique of Postcolonial Thought by Esha Niyogi De (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2011; pp xxvii + 246, Rs 745.

A host of popular as well as scholarly discourses today endorse some or the other version of liberalism. Even as most of us are caught quite unescapably in the spectrum of tradition and modernity, judging and being judged, what we are primarily debating it seems, is simply, our version of liberalism. And it would not be wrong to say that liberalism in numerous discourses today is seen as a kind of autonomy. It is in this context that the book under review draws our attention to indigenous works (literature) located in the colonial period and cultural works (dance-drama, films) produced by activist-thinkers in the postcolonial period that recast the limitations of liberalism. In doing this, the book allows us a brief glimpse into the psyche of precolonial India and helps us understand colonial India – as an active player – even when under the empire’s influence. Through the latter, it widens the scope for a critique of postcolonial and feminist theory, challenging postcolonial theories that cast the colonised as hopelessly conquered. The preface provides the theoretical context and the introduction enables a good understanding of the chapters. The book is divided into two parts and has five chapters including the conclusion.

De begins by telling us that the book began thus:

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