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Reclaiming the Nation

Reclaiming the Nation: Muslim Women and the law in India

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Reclaiming the Nation
    Book Description:

    Living in pluralist India has had critical consequences for Muslim women who are expected to follow a determined and strict code of conduct. The impact of this contradiction is most evident in the continuing denial of gender equality within the family, as state regulation of gender roles in the private sphere ultimately affects the status of women in the public sphere.Reclaiming the Nationexamines the relationship between gender and nation in post-colonial India through the lens of marginalized Muslim women.

    Drawing on feminist legal theory, postcolonial feminist theory, and critical race theory, Vrinda Narain explores the idea of citizenship as a potential vehicle for the emancipation of Muslim women. Citizenship, Narain argues, opens the possibility for Indian women to reclaim a sense of selfhood free from imposed identities. In promoting the hybridity of culture and the modernity of tradition, Narain shows how oppositional categories such as public versus private, Muslim versus feminist, and Western versus Indian have been used to deny women equal rights.

    A timely account of the struggle for liberation within a restrictive religious framework,Reclaiming the Nationis an insightful look at gender, nationhood, and the power of self-determination.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8896-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: Situating Indian Muslim Women
    (pp. 3-33)

    In India, the location of Muslim women at the intersection of gender, community, and nation exposes the inclusions and exclusions of postcolonial nationalist ideology, the mendacity of equal citizenship, and the inherent dangers of a forced identity based on primordial, essentialist definitions.

    Despite formal constitutional guarantees of equality, Muslim women’s lives within the family are regulated and structured by explicitly discriminatory laws.¹ The legal regulation of women is central to the negotiations between community and nation to establish the boundaries of the group and the scope of state authority to regulate religion. Family and religion, through personal law, are emphasized...

  5. 2 Feminism, Nationalism, and Colonialism
    (pp. 34-79)

    During the years preceding India’s independence from British rule in 1947, the women’s question and the question of national freedom, were inextricably intertwined, in a manner that led to promises being made regarding the reform of the status of women and a guarantee of fundamental rights to equality and freedom from discrimination in theConstitution of India. However, despite participation in the nationalist movement, which women leaders hoped would result in an acceptance of the principle of gender equality upon independence, women did not gain equal rights within the family in the post-colonial state. Sixty years after independence, women continue...

  6. 3 The Post-Colonial Predicament: Muslim Women and the Law
    (pp. 80-132)

    The post-colonial Indian state sought to establish a society free from distinctions of caste, religion, and gender. Yet it retained religion, through personal law, as a defining status in an individual’s relationship to the state.¹ This seeming contradiction has to be understood in the context of India’s partition along religious lines and the anxiety of the post-colonial state to retain Muslim loyalty to its secular, nationalist ideology by safeguarding Muslim group rights. This contradictory embrace of a composite national identity with an ascriptive religious identity, from which there can be no exit, has had critical consequences for Muslim women, to...

  7. 4 Reclaiming the Nation
    (pp. 133-194)

    In their construction as citizens of independent India, women have been treated as less than equal in the domain of family and community. The post-colonial state has constructed women not as equal citizens, but rather, simultaneously, as gendered citizens and as citizens with a prior religious/cultural identity. The notion of women’s citizenship rights has been filtered through the lenses of gender and cultural essentialism, negating constitutional guarantees of equality for women. Such a construction of citizenship underscores the conduct of the state in reinforcing women’s political and social personas as being primarily gendered and differentiated according to religious identity, focusing...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-206)
  9. Index
    (pp. 207-213)