ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Feminist Vocabularies in Time and Space

Perspectives from India

This paper situates the trajectories of feminism and women's rights in a history of thought spanning the 19th century to the present. It offers an alternate mode of engagement with the perceived problem of the dependency of the "East" on "Western" epistemologies and theories. Allowing for power-laden relationships between places and peoples, it argues that attention should focus on the modes in which concepts are made to work and provide insight, rather than on their "purity" in relation to an ascribed point of origin. This is demonstrated through the three epistemes that have broadly characterised the "women's question" in a comparative frame - the colonial, the national and the post-national. Feminism in India is thus mobilised for generating conceptual frames that are good to think with, whether within the nation or beyond.

I would like to thank the organisers of the 18th Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecture, especially the director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies Shimla, Chetan Singh, for permission to reproduce a slightly revised version of the lecture (delivered in January 2014 in Thiruvananthapuram) in this journal. An earlier version is forthcoming in the volume Made in Circulation: Social Sciences on a World Scale ed. Wiebke Keim (Ashgate Press).

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