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Keeping the Debate Alive

Anuradha Chenoy

Edited by Raka Ray
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2012, pp. 573, Rs.1295.00


As libraries in most universities in India are in decline, books unavailable and institutes out of reach, there is a fear that many of the most incisive and important articles written by scholars get lost to the new generation of scholarship. Oxford University Press and their editors like Raka Ray thus serve a most important purpose in choosing and re-publishing texts by scholars and analysts from diverse backgrounds that keep alive these debates as well as record the analysis and narratives of important social scientists, in this case of feminist scholars/activists. Ray in her comprehensive introduction combines the telling of the history of the Indian women’s movement and its challenge to the male dominated narrative of Indian political history. Her choice to uncover the relationship of politics to the academic study of gender are studies that have three characteristics: they are marked by the imbrications with specific political exigencies; are deeply inter-sectional and are studies that are at the fore-front of critiques of Eurocentrism and understand the impact of globalization. With this trope, Ray takes up a wide range of themes from law, sexuality, caste, religion, masculinity, labour and many others and chooses from them some of the stellar essays written by feminists, making this a choice selection. Of course many of these essays are old, have been reviewed earlier, and cited in numerable times. But they are relevant and prescient in their argument. For example, the essays on laws and commentaries around this during colonial and postcolonial times by Flavia Agnes, Uma Chakravarti, Janaki Nair, Nivedita Menon, Kalpana Kannabiran all deconstruct the nature of colonial governance structures through legal mechanisms and how this continuity is established in the post colonial law that form the basis of these states that carry the masculinist, casteist, dominantly (Hindu) ideas that passed through colonial and feudal formations. They show that the Indian State and its idea still has deeply embedded structures of patriarchy and other oppressions despite all its illusions as a liberal, democratic, plural, secular system. That these characteristics are more relevant for the dominant classes and gender and those who do not wish to change the status quo of their relation and existence with the nation. Though each of these authors examines different aspects, Flavia looks at economic rights of married women and Nivedita at the political and legal debates around heteronormativity, Uma and Janaki on legal foundations and ...

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