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Fields of Protest: Women’s Movements in India

Raka Ray
Volume: 8
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Fields of Protest
    Book Description:

    The women’s movement in India has a long and rich history in which millions of women live, work, and struggle to survive in order to remake their family, home, and social lives. Using an innovative and comparative perspective, Ray offers a unique look at Indian activist women and adds a new dimension to the study of women’s movements on a global level.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8905-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Political Parties and Women’s Organizations in India
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 Women’s Movements and Political Fields
    (pp. 1-21)

    A pivotal scene in the recent controversial Indian filmBandit Queenshows the protagonist, a lower-caste young woman, being repeatedly and gruesomely raped. A few scenes later, now the acknowledged queen of the bandits and driven to avenge the hideous crimes committed against her, she is seen leading raids on villages, plundering and looting the rich. She returns to the scene of her victimization and, with the help of her enthusiastic band of robbers, rounds up and kills many of the men in the village who had so savagely wronged her.

    Bandit Queenis based loosely on the life of...

  6. Chapter 2 From Lived Experiences to Political Action
    (pp. 22-44)

    One Saturday, in the midst of my fieldwork in India, I attended a monthly meeting at the Women’s Centre in Bombay, coordinated by Lata, one of the Centre’s full-time workers. At this meeting were various women who had received help from the Centre: Meena, a middle-class woman, who said she had known little about the injustices of the world until she got married; Mariamma, who sells flowers at Dadar train station and whose husband had tried to burn her; and Sita, whose husband, deciding that education was making his wife uppity, delivered to her an ultimatum on the day of...

  7. Chapter 3 Calcutta: A Hegemonic Political Field
    (pp. 45-62)

    Writing against the versions of Calcutta offered to tourists by theLonely Planet Guide, John Hutnyk describes an alternative tour popular among backpacking young travelers from the West. This tour includes, among other things, “a visit to the College Street bookshops near Calcutta University, possible participation in a Communist rally, coffee in the India Coffee House, lunch at a small Bengali food co-op, curiosity shops, various film houses, dance halls and cultural venues.” The tour also includes a view of the statue of Lenin, which “overlooks one of the busiest intersections of the city” (Hutnyk, 1996:133). This is certainly an...

  8. Chapter 4 Negotiating a Homogeneous Political Culture
    (pp. 63-83)

    Embedded as they are in particular fields, social movement organizations find themselves constantly negotiating with the state, other organizations, and their potential constituents in struggles to keep issues alive and to resolve them in the best possible manner. Chapter 3 foregrounded the interaction between the political culture and the distribution of power in Calcutta’s political field. In this chapter and the next, I draw out the implications of the configuration of that field for two types of groups—the powerful PBGMS and the subordinate Sachetana—and for the activists within them. Here we have two organizations, created within a year...

  9. Chapter 5 Domination and Subordination in Calcutta
    (pp. 84-101)

    To many observers it remains surprising: the Communist dominated Left Front government in West Bengal has remained in power for almost two decades now. It has stood the test of numerous national, provincial and local elections. It has seemingly remained largely unaffected by the ever increasing churning in Indian politics.

    So begins an article inEconomic and Political Weekly, arguably India’s best progressive academic journal.¹ It goes on to document the “reasonable” success of thepanchayat(local government) system in West Bengal, highlighting the extent to which women and the poor have been brought in from the margins. The article...

  10. Chapter 6 Bombay: A Fragmented Political Field
    (pp. 102-120)

    ANational Geographicarticle on Bombay is filled with photographs of extremes—beggars at the window of a luxury car, squatters near mansions, and poor people cooking their meager fare on the street underneath huge billboards of glamorous women from “Bollywood,” Bombay’s Hollywood (McCarry, 1995). Photography that revels in such lurid contrasts is standard fare in Western imagery of the third world. What is interesting about this article is the range of people interviewed—actors and actresses, slum dwellers, fashion designers, scavengers, newspaper editors, Roman Catholic priests, and the editor of India’s only publication for gays and lesbians. As I...

  11. Chapter 7 Coexistence in a Heterogeneous Political Culture
    (pp. 121-139)

    To a great extent, Calcutta’s political establishment and protest field share a common political culture. That is, they share, to a great extent, beliefs about who and what is legitimately political. Given Bombay’s political culture—its heterogeneity, its fluidity, its openness to a variety of influences—dominant and subordinate groups relate to each other in ways that would be inconceivable in Calcutta. There are viable movement subcultures in Bombay that can create and define themselves in contradistinction to the dominant political culture, and thus there is more contestation and conflict about the boundaries of the political. In this chapter, I...

  12. Chapter 8 Domination and Subordination in Bombay
    (pp. 140-158)

    The organizations that form the focus of my study in Bombay differ from those in Calcutta in fundamental ways. These differences are due partly to the nature of the dominant and subordinate organizations, but mostly to the type of field within which they are embedded. The dominant PBGMS in Calcutta is affiliated to a political party that governs the state. Therefore, in the state of West Bengal, at least, the PBGMS is an insider and enjoys the benefits of any organization favored by the state. The PBGMS is, then, a dominant organization in a hegemonic field, and its dominance is...

  13. Chapter 9 Identity, Autonomy, the State, and Women’s Movements
    (pp. 159-168)

    Third world women’s movements, when not ignored or dismissed outright as derivative phenomena or products of collective hysteria (as they are in Iran and much of the Islamic world), have often suffered from the erratic critique and analysis not only by first world scholars and activists, but in some cases by participant analysts as well. Other times they have been taken less than seriously as the inevitable and homogeneous outcomes of modernization and development, or have been romanticized and idealized by well-meaning sympathizers and supporters (for example, in revolutionary Cuba, Nicaragua, and South Africa). In this book I have tried...

  14. Methodological Appendixes
    (pp. 169-178)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 179-190)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-210)
  17. Index
    (pp. 211-218)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-219)