21H.575J | Fall 2006 | Undergraduate

Women in South Asia from 1800 to Present


This section features the required texts for the course and a list of readings by session. Readings should be completed before the start of each class session, and students should be prepared for discussion.

Required Texts

Forbes, Geraldine H. Women in Modern India. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780521268127.

Sangari, Kumkum, and Sudesh Vaid, eds. Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780813515809.

Shinde, Tarabai. A Comparison Between Women and Men: Tarabai Shinde and the Critique of Gender Relations in Colonial India. OUP India; New Ed edition (February 3, 2000). ISBN: 9780195647365.

Devi, Jyotirmmayi. The River Churning: A Partition Novel. Translated from the original Bengali by Enakshi Chatterjee. New Delhi, India: Kali for Women, 1995. ISBN: 9788185107691.

Readings by Session

1. Introduction: Studying women in cross cultural perspective
1 Writing South Asian women’s history

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourse.” In Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Edited by Chandra Talpade Mohany, Ann Russo, and Lourdes Torres. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,1991. ISBN: 9780253206329.

Scott, Joan. “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.” American Historical Review 91, no. 5 (December 1986): 1053-1075.

Film: Dadi’s Family. Produced by James MacDonald, Rina Gill, and Michael Camerini, 1981.

Begin reading a contemporary South Asian newspaper. Please see related resources for a listing of online newspapers.

2 India: The historical and social context
3 Library tour
2. Prescriptive literature and gendered roles
4 Women as mothers, daughters, and daughters in law

Selections from The Laws of Manu. Translated by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and Brian K. Smith. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1991. ISBN: 9780140445404.

Selections from Gulbadan, Humayunama: Memoir of a Mughal Princess.

Musallam, B. F. Sex and Society in Islam: Birth Control before the Nineteenth Century. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 10-38. ISBN: 9780521248747.

Roy, Kumkum. “Unraveling the Kamasutra.” In A Question of Silence: Sexual Economies in Modern India. Edited by Janaki Nair and Mary E. John. London, UK: Zed Books, 2001, pp. 52-76. ISBN: 9781856498920.

Kozlowski, Gregory C. “Private Lives and Public Piety: Women and the Practice of Islam in Mughal India.” In Women in Medieval Islamic World. Edited by Gavin Hambly. Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed edition (February 15, 1998). ISBN: 9780312210571.

Talbot, Cynthia. “Rudrama-devi, the Female King: Gender and Political Authority in Medieval India.” In Syllables of Sky: Studies in South Indian civilization. Edited by David Dean Shulman and Velceru Narayanaravu. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 391-430. ISBN: 9780195635492.

Film: Wedding of the Goddess, 1976.

Begin Reading A Comparison Between Men and Women. Please see study materials for discussion questions related to this reading.

5 Wives, courtesans and concubines
6 Divinities and devotees
3. Defining Indian women in the 19th century
7 Defining women: Social reforms

Selections from Bentinck’s Minute on the Suppression of Sati, 1829.

Selections from the writings of Raja Rammohan Roy.

Selections from Sarasyati, Pandita Ramabai. The High Caste Hindu Woman. New York, NY: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2007. ISBN: 9781430492382.

Mani, Lata. “Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India.” In Recasting Women, pp. 88-126.

Sarkar, Tanika. “Rhetoric Against the Age of Consent.” Economic and Political Weekly (September 4, 1993): 1869-1878.

Minault, Gail. “Schools for Wives.” In Secluded Scholars: Women’s Education and Muslim Social Reform in Colonial India. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 215-266. ISBN: 9780195641905.

Women in Modern India. Chapters 1 and 2.

8 Comparison between men and women in the 19th century
9 Reforms in education and religion
10 Gender and law in colonial India
4. Becoming “mothers” of the nation
11 The good wife and mother

Hossein, Rokeya Shakhawat. “Sultana’s Dream.” In Sultana’s Dream: A Feminist Utopia and Selections from The Secluded Ones. Edited and translated by Roushan Jahan. Reprint ed. New York, NY: Feminist Press, 1988. ISBN: 9780935312836.

Chatterjee, Partha. “The Nationalist Resolution of the Women’s Question.” In Recasting Women, pp. 233-53.

Chakravarti, Uma. “Whatever Happened to the Vedic Dasi? Orientalism, Nationalism and Script for the Past.” In Recasting Women.

Amin, Sonia N. “Childhood and Role Models in the Andar Mahal: Muslim Women in the Private Sphere in Colonial Bengal.” In Embodied Violence: Communalizing Women’s Sexuality in South Asia. Edited by Kumari Jayawardena and Malathi de Alwis. London, UK: Zed Books, 1996, pp. 71-88. ISBN: 9781856494489.

Banerjee, Nirmala. “Working Women in Colonial Bengal: Modernization and Marginalization.” In Recasting Women.

Women in Modern India. Chapters 3 and 6.

Film: Home and the World. Directed by Satyajit Ray, 1984.

Begin Reading The River Churning.

12 Inside out: Andarmahal, Harem and political participation
13 Women’s work and working women
5. Empowering women: Gandhi, birth control and the franchise
14 Gandhi and women

Selections from Mayo, Katherine. Mother India. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780472067152. Please see study materials for discussion questions related to this reading.

Kishwar, Madhu. “Women and Gandhi.” Economic and Political Weekly 5 and 12 (October 1985): 1691-1702 and 1753-1758.

Ramusack, Barbara N. “Embattled Advocates: The Debate over Birth Control in India, 1920-1940.” Journal of Women’s History 1, no. 2 (1989): 34-64.

Women in Modern India. Chapters 4 and 5.

15 Birth control and public health
16 Organizations and activism in colonial India
6. Identities and social realities in post-1947 South Asia
17 Partitioned nations, partitioned bodies

Select stories from Manto, Sa’ādat Hasan. Kingdom’s End and Other Stories. Translated by Khalid Hasan. New York, NY: Verso, 1988. ISBN: 9780860911838.

Select stories from Sidhwa, Bapsi. ed. City of Sin and Splendour: Writings on Lahore. New Delhi, India: Penguin Global, 2006. ISBN: 9780143031666.

Butalia, Urvashi, “Muslims and Hindus, Men and Women: Communal Stereotypes and the Partition of India.” In Women and the Hindu Right. Edited by Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia. New Delhi, India: Kali for Women, 1995, pp. 58-81. ISBN: 9788185107660.

Oldenburg, Veena Talwar. “Writing Lives, Underwriting Silences: Understanding Dowry Death in Contemporary India.” In Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 175-226. ISBN: 9780195150711.

Menon, Nivedita. “Elusive Woman: Feminism and Women’s Reservation Bill.” Economic and Political Weekly (October 28, 2000): 3835-3844.

Women in Modern India. Chapter 7.

18 Campaigns against dowry, rape and sati
19 Personal law vs. uniform civil code
7. Women and their nations
20 Era of women leader

Anderson, Nancy Fix. “Benazir Bhutto and Dynastic Politics: Her Father’s Daughter, Her People’s Sister.” In Women as National Leaders. Edited by Michael A. Genovese. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1992, pp. 41-69. ISBN: 9780803943384.

Khan, Nighat Said. “Up against the state: The women’s movement in Pakistan and its implications for the global women’s movement.” (PDF)
Available from the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

Basu, Amrita. “Feminism Inverted: The Real Women and Gendered Imagery of Hindu Nationalism.” Bulletin for Concerned Asian Scholars 25, no. 4 (1992): 25-36.

D’Costa, Bina. “Coming to Terms with the Past in Bangladesh: Naming Women’s Truths.” In Feminist Politics, Activism and Vision: Local and Global Challenges. Edited by Luciana Ricciutelli, Angela R. Miles, and Margaret McFadden. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Zed Books, 2005, pp. 227-247. ISBN: 9781842773512. (Also available as: Feminist Politics, Activism and Vision: Local and Global Challenges as published by Zed Books. ISBN: 9781842773512.)

Chowdhury, Prem. “Lustful Women, Elusive Lovers: Identifying Males as Objects of Female Desire.” In Re-Searching Indian Women. Edited by Vijaya Ramaswamy. New Delhi, India: Manohar, 2003, pp. 175-208. ISBN: 9788173044960.

Film: Father, Son and Holy War. Directed by Anand Patwardhan, 1994.

21 Dangerous liaisons: Religious fundamentalisms
22 Iconic representations: Sexuality and gender in popular culture
8. Tracking progress: South Asian women in the 21st century
23 Student presentations

Banerjee, Nirmala. “Whatever Happened to the Dreams of Modernity? The Nehruvian Era and Women’s Position.” EPW (April 1998): WS 2-7.

Kumar, Radha. “From Chipko to Sati: The Contemporary Indian Women’s Movement.” In The Challenge of Local Feminisms. Edited by Amrita Basu. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995, pp. 58-86.

Jahan, Roushan. “Men in Seclusion, Women in Public: Rokeya’s Dream and Women’s Struggles in Bangladesh.” Chapter 8 in Women in Modern India. Edited by Basu. pp. 87-109.

Film: When Women Unite: The Story of an Uprising. Directed by Shabnam Virmani, 2003. (Women’s Anti-Arrack Struggle in India). Read an article about the film from the online newspaper The Hindu.

24 Contemporary debates on feminism
25 Globalization and South Asian women
26 Conclusions

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2006