Face(t)s of Woman: Gender in the Indian Cultural Context
Guest Editor Subhash Chandra
Intersections an internationally reputed peer-reviewed E-Journal from Murdoch University, Australia, serves as an interactive forum for new research and teaching in the area of Gender Studies in the Asian region. Contributions are invited for the forthcoming Special Issue on India.
Conceptualisations of 'woman' in Indian cultural critiques have often ranged between woman as goddess and woman as fallen, to be worshipped or controlled, corporeally and epistemologically. But between the two ends of the spectrum, notions of women's identity have been shaped by intersections of religion, region, class, and caste that have not often been taken into consideration in conventional articulations of gender. Though in some parts of India, matrilineal systems prevail, in practice, patriarchy operates as the hegemonic force, governing gender relations. While the Hindu scriptural narratives and diverse mythologies eulogize woman, in praxis, she has generally been treated as man's Other—a necessary adjunct to male identity.
Literary representations of women have generally inscribed them within spatial and psychological thresholds. In some narratives, such as, Rabindranath Tagore's Ghare Baire (1916) (Home and the World in translation) and R.K. Narayan's The Dark Room (1938), women may cross the threshold but eventually return to it to maintain the traditional sanctity of familial space and relations. In the middle and late 1970s, however, gender became more problematised, and women's activism and the question of textual representation began to take centre stage. Since then, women's identity has been validated and at times even celebrated and feminist epistemology has been posited as an alternative to the androcentric paradigm.
However, both at the level of activism and representation, there has been a tendency to homogenize women's identity. Narratives are often framed within Western feminist constructs, ignoring vital socio-cultural-political imperatives peculiar to the Indian context. A largely exclusive focus on middle or upper-middle class urban women has provided impetus for a movement which seeks to recast women as agents and victims in established patterns of a derivative activism. The narratives with important exceptions in English and regional language literatures are produced by, for and mostly about urban, educated women and their angst. So is the critical response.
In this special issue, we would like to make interventions in the general critical climate in which women's identities are explored and articulated. We invite essays engaging in polemical discussions on gender, as it impinges on women's identities in the Indian cultural context, representation of women and women's issues in literature, arts, media, films as well as reviews of books on gender in India. Below is a list of suggested topics; it is by no means exhaustive:
The special issue also welcomes interviews with activists and feminists as well as reviews of books on women in India, published in 2006 or later.
Guest Editor of this special issue is Subhash Chandra of the Department of English at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, (University of Delhi), New Delhi (India).
The review process is double blind and each contribution will be reviewed by two referees. Please refer to the Intersections submissions website for information regarding the format of submissions.