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Colonial India and women's history

Colonial India: Why women? Why gender?


How it is that this work rose to prominence at a particular place and time?

Feminism and history-writing

Subaltern studies as history-writing (gender v class as categories of analysis)

Some broad trends: the “woman question” in India and the problem of the “modern”

1. Women and the British in India: pre- and post-1857 2. Women and colonialism

Projects of civilizing/ improvement/ reform tended to turn on the status of women (Utilitarians, Mill, Wollstonecraft)

--colonial actors: missionaries, the colonial state/EIC

--objects of reform under c19 colonialism: sati, women’s health (obstetrics & purdah), child (girl) marriage, widow remarriage female infanticide, education of girls and women

Colonial legislation:

Abolition of Sati (1829)

Hindu Widow Remarriage Act (1856)

Age of Consent Act (1891)

3. Women and social reform/ women and nationalism

A few figures (bhadralok alert):

Rammohan Roy (1772-1833), figure of the “Bengal Renaissance”, advocated the abolition of sati

Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891), women’s education and remarriage of widows

Gained momentum by the close of the nineteenth century

Tanika Sarkar: revivalist nationalist vs reformist nationalists

Partha Chatterjee’s “nationalist resolution”: inner/outer (sphere-ism)

But: “Woman” who is the object of reform is generally Hindu and upper-caste; tradition (women as emblematic) v modernity (what then?)

4. Women who aren’t in the nation (marginal groups; adivasis, dalits, etc)

But not women as a subaltern group.

5. Towards next lecture: Indian women and global feminism 6. Towards next term: Women and development