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Women and Gender Series: Gender and political representation: Women in the Indian parliament

Wednesday 7 February, 2007 (5-6 pm)

Professor Shirin Rai, Department of Politics and International Relations, Warwick

Women MPs in India are in leadership positions by the virtue of the fact that they are elected members of parliament. And yet, within the political system they often don’t see themselves as leaders but followers of party leaders. Even more startling is the fact that many MPs do not describe what they do as politics at all. Rather, they define their work as ‘social service’ – helping the poor and the needy, helping the janata or the people. Based on interviews with 20 women MPs over a period of one year, In this exploratory paper I outline these narratives of politics and leadership and suggest that women’s precarious position within parliament, party politics and on the borders of the public and the private generates this vocabulary of service, which is seen as an appropriate characterisation of women’s public work. I reflect upon whether their subjectivities are crafted to present themselves on a continuum which takes them from their hearths and homes to the homes of others who need their help – the discourse of service within the home continues to define their work outside it and whether because of this that their articulations of leadership qualities also reflect a ‘modesty’ of ambition?

The seminar will be held in the Ramphal Building, Rm. 3.25.

Everyone welcome.