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

Review of Women's StudiesSubscribe to Review of Women's Studies

Revitalising Dalit Feminism

This paper revisits the project of dalit feminism through the social spaces that structure the assertions of dalit women from the Mang and Mahar castes in Maharashtra. It attempts to expand the theoretical possibilities of dalit feminism through engaging with the conceptual categories of Karl Marx, Walter Mignolo and Oyeronke Oyewumi and repositions the contextual specificity of the social reproduction of dalit women's social location-based knowledge. Thus, it critically examines the leftist critiques that reduce dalit feminism to an extension of identity politics. It also questions the non-committal inclusive avatars of feminism that welcome the category of dalit feminism, as any other feminist claims without recognising the epistemic turn offered by dalit feminism.

Caste and Gender in a Mumbai Resettlement Site

This paper foregrounds specific experiences of urban dalit women affected by displacement, thereby underpinning the significance of caste, religion, identity and gender. Based on socio-anthropological research methods and extensive fieldwork carried out at a resettlement site in Mumbai it argues that "social factors" continue to play a significant role in cities. They play a pivotal role in experiences and negotiations of the traumatic processes of displacement and resettlement, often involving uprooting, erasure of memory, loss of livelihoods and kinship, and coming to terms with a compromised and limited social life. While this may be true of all affected populations equally, nevertheless, it is significant to recover nuanced voices of these experiences from the caste and gender perspective to understand the emerging complex spaces on the city's periphery and new forms of urban exclusion. A large number of women who are not networked to non-governmental organisations and/or civic authorities end up becoming the most marginalised and excluded category, deprived of rights and citizenry.

Dalit Women as Political Agents

Articulating dalit women's experiences by exposing the operations of history by which their struggles were co-opted, subsumed, misrepresented or sometimes erased by mainstream debates and tracing the survival strategies by which these women have held out against political suppression and social isolation become ucial in contemporary dalit feminist struggles in Kerala. This paper addresses a complex and vexed question that has been evolving and changing, especially in recent decades, namely, how to approach and understand the specificities of dlit women activists' experiences in the context of Kerala's politics and social ovements. This enquiry attempts to understand the apprehensions and conflicts within public life for dalit women in Kerala and to show how the "public" itself differs according to one's location.

The Mathammas

There has been hardly any scholarly engagement with patriarchal practices that link caste, gender and land relations in the case of dalits. The ways in which consideration of caste status or honour partake in patriarchy in the context of dispossessed and socially excluded communities may not be similar to the invocation of brahmanical patriarchal values. This paper attempts to capture the complexities involved in conceptualising the caste patriarchy among the dalits through their narratives and that of the upper castes, women social activists and the state on a ritual practice prevalent among the Arunthathiyars, a dalit sub-caste in rural Tamil Nadu - the dedication of Arunthathiyar girls and women to the goddess Mathamma.

The Concept of Honour

Having established the fact that "honour" is not gender-neutral, this contentious concept has been examined by feminist scholars in the light of unequal power relations, control over women's sexuality and lack of access to property and resources. This paper examines the manifestation of patriarchal and caste honour beyond the moment of choosing one's romantic or sexual partner. The daily codes of conduct as they operate in a rural setting are explored here through a gender-caste matrix. It argues that subordinated women can collectively challenge strictures of brahminical patriarchy, especially when our interventions address the intersectionality of caste and gender.

Cultural Gandhism

This article argues that Gandhian cultural nationalism is not just an ideology but an ideological consensus, and that it turns even opposing ideological positions like Marxism into variations of its own practices and certainties. It is the caste question that provides the ground for developing this ideological consensus, and it arises from the depoliticisation of untouchability in such a way that a dalit political subject becomes impossible to imagine. Telugu social reformers attempted to translate this logic into the cultural realm, especially through films. The paper critically analyses Gudavalli Ramabrahmam's popular Telugu social film, Malapilla, made in 1938. This film portrays untouchables in a negative light, and issues of inter-caste marriage and love constitute an important undercurrent of the narrative. Malapilla is the inaugural moment of popular cinema's investment in Gandhian nationalist politics and history.

Ruptures and Reproduction in Caste/Gender/Labour

This paper views labour, specifically gendered labour, through the lens of caste; and that which lies concealed within the relations of labour, despite its linkages with other social hierarchies, specifically caste relations. It throws light on the contributions of those who take on the burden of social reproduction, and whose labours continue to be devalued. It also addresses the relationship, if any, between stigma/the stigmatised body and the devaluation of labour. Finally, it locates a quest related to notions of autonomy and emancipation, which perhaps has led the mainstream women's movements to distance themselves from the burden that caste places on the lives and labours of women.

Muslim Women and Marriage Laws

This paper discusses the model nikahnama or equitable marriage contract and the ensuing debate around it. Created to bring about uniformity in procedures for Muslim marriages, the aim of the model nikahnama is to address the issue of Muslim women's entitlement within marriage, minimise disputes and facilitate their settlement. The paper locates a detailed exploration of the nikahnama initiative within the broader and historically shifting context of the debate on Muslim marriage laws.

Child Marriages and the Law

Child marriages are widely prevalent in India despite the promulgation of various laws. This paper examines the policy debates and legal framework on child marriage, and sets out to help identify the gaps and problems therein. It tries to understand the historical and sociolegal context within which the debates on child marriage are located and the various associated aspects like age of discretion, guardianship and elopement that play out in jurisprudence. It attempts to capture how these debates have furthered the movement against the practice of child marriage.

Runaway Marriages

The web version of this article corrects a few errors that appeared in the print edition. Legal opinion in some quarters refuses to acknowledge the irreversibility of the change brought about by the revolt against or defiance of age-old norms. This refusal is revealed in the negative opinions, especially of women who run away to marry out of their caste. The underlying beliefs in "equality of all" and "humanism", which seem to give a lot of these women the courage to break free of caste and marry the men of their choice, are not given any credence. This paper, based on fieldwork in Punjab, argues that such views are based less on fact and more on prejudice - the "seen-unseen" - letting a silent revolution go unnoticed.

Marriage, Language and Time

If marriage is posited as a temporal rupture, what is the nature of its "before" and "after"? Focusing the ethnographic gaze on this temporal shift in the course of fieldwork in a Delhi neighbourhood, this paper argues that marriage becomes an ontological site for the doing of life itself. Further, the time of after marriage is marked by the work of nibhaana in a multiplicity of enactments that go beyond English equivalents such as the observance of or abiding by norms. The centrality of nibhaana also suggests that the ethicisation of any relationship of two people would still be based on a grammar of dutiful observance, sacrifice, categorisations of fidelity, labour and openness to a life of contingent events. Although linked with resignation and a generalised negativity, in its complex demands, nibhaana calls for new terms of engagement across feminist writings to envision non-essentialist recordings of what being married entails.

Protecting Women or Endangering the Emigration Process

The paper discusses the case of emigrant women domestic workers from Kerala, a state which has had a long history of migration of workers in this segment. It draws attention to the critical failure of the social science scholarship to address the question of poor women migrants. It also provides an overview of state policy on migration and underlines its complicity in generating regulatory gaps. The paper engages with the gendering of citizenship and sovereignty through a comparison of the state policy on migrant women workers and the experience of three segments of this workforce - emigrant nurses, domestic workers and outmigrant fish processing workers. It then considers the question of agency in the context of women workers who are thrust into the position of breadwinners for their families and, finally, the question of responsible state intervention.

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