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Gender and the Agrarian Landscape

Paramjit S. Judge

By U. Kalpagam and Jaya Arunachalam
Rawat Publications, Jaipur, pp. xii + 284, Rs. 650.00


Examination of the rural women of India implicates lot of things the foremost among which is that we are covering an overwhelming majority of women in the country. We are moving away from the metropolitan shining face of the woman which is creating hegemonic discourse on defining femininity, feminism and making an attempt at reorienting the male gaze through articulation and assertion. All these issues do not dominate and primarily concern the rural-agrarian landscape. Issues that concern a large number of rural women are water, food and work. Over and above these issues is the matter of land rights around which patriarchy has been built. Villages are more idealized in literature and impressionistic than they really are. A village is a repository of the caste system in its crudest sense of the term. People do not cover the caste-based discrimination under the garb of ideology. That is why Ambedkar told his followers to leave the villages and live in cities. Only Gandhi in the 1940s tried to imagine village as a possible social space where all evils would disappear. Despite the fast growing cities, there is no real dent in the size of India’s rural population. The volume under review takes cognizance of rural women and development in India. Twelve articles included in the volume take stock of different dimensions of women’s life in the villages of the country. Most of the contributors are well-known women social scientists in their own fields and the contributions cover most of the regions of India. The editors have given an impressive introduction to the volume touching upon all issues covered in various articles. These are: access to resources, food security, livelihood security, micro-credit challenges, violence and rural women’s freedom, and challenges of empowerment. Imagining the village without land is impossible and thus landownership is the foremost component of the definition of the village. K. Sardamoni has taken up the issue of right to land, food and food production in the context of Kerala in the first article of the volume. She has pointed out how among certain matrilineal families women enjoyed rights over land and food production, which began to erode after the powerful impact of British rule when the new land system was introduced in Kerala. Over a period of time, the women in Kerala lost the privilege of having land rights. Towards the end of the article, Saradamoni ...

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