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In other words, in this volume, heterogeneity prevails over any attempt to standardize women, oppression, and the modes of struggle. Hence, there is the need to cross and confront (ideas, perspectives, contexts), which aims not only at underlining the singularity of contexts (and thus of the emerging modes of women’s movements), but also, through the volume’s dialogic structure, at persuasively bypassing the pitfalls of universalism.Stereotypes also need to be discussed as they echo France’s Orientalist past: it is essential, as Haase-Dubosc writes, to ‘radically break up with this situation The volume comprises thirty articles written by South Asian researchers or activists at the heart of contemporary debates, and bears witness to the diversity of its fields of investigation: history (Uma Chakravarti on gender comprehension in ancient India; Menon and Bhasin on women’s abduction during Partition); culture (Susie Tharu and K. Pushpamala on sculpture); social science (Annie Namal on Dalit women; Madhu Kiswar and Ruth Lalita on dowry); politics (Flavia Agnes on secular women’s movements, Nivedita Menon on quotas); health (Veena Shatrugna on women and mental health; Mira Sadgopal on fertility); and environment and development (Vandana Shiva on eco-feminism; Mary E. The volume thus underlines what Haase-Dubosc and Meenakshi Lal (2006) claimed a few years later in their gripping article ‘De la postcolonie et des femmes’: the urge to deconstruct the Orientalist image of the docile and silent Third-World Woman’ and revalorize the discourses of and on women, the specificity of non-Western feminist movements, and the promotion of history and culture in the approach of such movements.
‘Decolonizing gender’, in Talpade Mohanty’s words, suggests accepting the diversity promoted by the author, but also implies ‘provincializing Europe’—bears witness to a growing interest in her work.
Underlying this interest, however, is the sensitive issue of how France perceives its colonial past and its protective reflex towards contemporary feminist thought, the French roots of which are encroached on by gender studies.
Mahasweta Devi’s superb story translated in this volume, ) attests to the appropriation of women’s discourses and voices, condemned like the story’s heroine to see their body exploited, both as mothers (or ‘breast-givers’) and as the metaphors of a nation that will never acknowledge them.
(1995): an ambitious investigation of the Thugs (bandits who strangled their victims) that questioned the representation of the Other in the colonial discourse.
uch has been written (Kiswar 1985, Chatterjee 1993, Sarkar 1999 & 2001) on the ambiguity linked to the evaluation of the social, familial, cultural, political, historical, and especially symbolic role of women in South Asia: how should one interpret Indian patriarchy when the familial and social subjugation of women stands in contrast to symbolic figures of veiled woman’ depicted as the victim of traditional barbarism?
And how should one understand the figure of the sacrificial female warrior who inhabits the Indian literary landscape along with the docile housewife embodied by Sita?Far from essencializing women’s writings, this ‘écriture blanche’ in Hélène Cixous’ words (1975), Tharu and Lalita underline the specificities of both gender and historical experience: literary expression has to be read as both gendered and historicized, and as Lamenting the absence of a social history of Partition (at least in 1993, when the article was first published), the authors highlight a striking paradox: the marginalization of women in the history of Partition does not demonstrate their central role, both symbolic and concrete, during the violence of Partition, notably embodied by the massive scale of abductions and subsequent aggressive recovery campaigns undertaken both by India and Pakistan.Could the abducted or forcibly recovered woman—this ‘permanent refugee’ or ‘skeleton’ in Amrita Pritam’s words—become a metaphor for women’s condition where marginalization is the norm, where speaking is not authorized?This dual relationship that links French academics with both feminism and its colonial history would appear to explain the belated interest for in issues of postcolonial feminism and the exigency compelling the ‘New French Thought’.This ambivalent relationship that links France with the ‘Third-World Woman’ and the cliché it continues to convey lies at the heart (or at least in the agenda) of two recent French essays on South Asian feminism: Danielle Haase-Dubosc In the first essay, the relationship between France and Indian feminism is justified by the conditions under which the volume was produced: an international conference on French, Indian, and Russian research on the ‘Woman issue’.The universalism and ethnocentrism of certain feminist discourses whose ‘adepts’, as Ann du Cille writes, ‘continue to see whiteness as so natural, normative and unproblematic that racial identity is a property only of the non-white’ (1996: 100), gave rise to a wave of questioning, which in turn led to renewed reflection on the arbitrary categorizations instituted by feminist discourses and extended the quest for specificity to an extra-European dimension.It thus promoted the systematic integration of cultural, geographical, and historical features in any discourse on women, on their representation, and on patriarchy. She criticizes the way Western feminist theory colonizes the heterogeneity of the experience of ‘Third-World women’, and urges for the deconstruction of the image erected by the discourses stemming from Western humanism.’ (1994 ), nonetheless raises a crucial question, which could suggest practical implications for Spivak’s convoluted line of questioning: is a history of women as , paves the way for an alternative (feminist) reading of history: ‘What is presented here is in the nature of an exploration, an attempt to communicate an experience of partition through those whose voices have hitherto been absent in any retelling of it: women who were destitute in one way or another by the event’ (1998: xi).‘Experience’, ‘voice’, ‘absence’, ‘retelling’, ‘destitution’: these are the keywords for a historiographical project aiming to give If the ‘history from below’ of subaltern studies aims at this rereading ‘against the grain’ of the colonial (and postcolonial) history of India by highlighting the ‘daily forms of resistance’, it suggests above all a ‘redefinition’ of the archive itself: wherever the traditional archive is insufficient (particularly concerning women’s history), recourse to ‘different’ sources—in which the ‘subaltern voice’ can be heard2—is necessary.The publication project in French is thus accompanied, as Haase-Dubosc writes, by a concomitant publication in India of a volume on French feminism.At the heart of Haase-Dubosc’s volume is the attempt to decolonize feminism, not only by examining the resemblance between the different movements and claims—whether French or Indian—but also, above all, by underlining the specificities (whether regional, historical, or cultural) that characterize these movements.