The overwhelming image of Indian women during the colonial period has been of passivity, of a sex ‘silenced’ doubly, first by nationalist discourses and second by the more recent postcolonial turn in academic writing. However, as the current volume suggests, it is quite possible, both theoretically and with evidence, to offer a contrary picture – that of resistance.
For some time now, scholars have been working on the theme of dissent and struggle among women in both contemporary patriarchal structures and gendering discourses. But the focus so far has been on the educated and the outstanding – either female public figures or close relatives of important male personalities. This rather limits the perspective.
The attempt in the present volume is to unearth a narrative of deeper and perhaps more enduring subterranean resistance offered by less extraordinary women in their daily lives.
Substantial evidence exists to support the contention: some from unconventional sources such as women’s songs, photographs, and embroidery, but equally from legal records, memoirs, and published work.
This book is, however, as much about the nature of power as it is about women. Inspired by both subaltern and gender studies, it tries to highlight the complex ways in which power operates within oppressive structures, making any simple valorization – and for that matter, theorization – of gendered resistance difficult if not impossible.
Anindita Ghosh is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Power in Print: Popular Puublishing and the Politics of Language and Culture in a Colonial Society, 1778–1905 (2006).
Contributors: Geraldine Forbes, Tanika Sarkar, Clare Anderson, Anindita Ghosh, Nita Verma Prasad, Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, Padma Anagol.