vol 26 - 2000

"What words of passage to that unlit place? What rites of sense?"

So Meena Alexander asks in her poem, "Rites of Sense," in this issue of Feminist Studies, which takes as its point of departure current studies of women and gender in India and the South Asian diaspora. Its essays link First and Third World studies concerning gender, women's bodies, reproduction, and sexuality with the tightly entwined themes of citizenship, community, and individual agency in the discourses of nationalism, postcolonialism, subaltern studies, and, of course, feminism. Alexander's poem continues, "Amma, I am dreaming myself into your body/It is the end of everything". . . . The narrator's exhausted mother seems an image of pathetic alterity, thwarted opportunity, and sacrificial love who has nonetheless enabled her globe-traveling daughter to "stitch my woman's breath/into the mute amazement of sentences."

As object of guilty love and subject of imperial appropriations, Mother India is a contested metaphor throughout this issue. She is the quiet strength of Hindu tradition upholding ancient practices weakened by colonial domination and the outraged mother of the child bride Phulmonee, whose death, "weltering in blood" after marital rape in 1890, spurred the controversy over the Age of Consent laws in colonial India and helped galvanize the Indian feminist movements whose legacy extends to the present.

Passages and displacements are central to the essays and creative works gathered here. This issue begins, suitably enough, in an airport in New Delhi, where a South Asian anthropologist, now based in the United States, is halted on her quest to study the mountain peoples of Ladakh by the intractable bureaucracies and exoticized inequalities of modern transport and tourism. In "Points of Departure: Feminist Locations and the Politics of Travel in India," Ravina Aggarwal reverses traditional anthropological method that privileges "localized dwelling over movement" and seeks to freeze native peoples in pristine timelessness. Instead, she deconstructs "this dichotomy between field and home" by plunging her reader into the temporary timelessness of the canceled flight and into the restless "bazaar" of the departure lounge "where products are transported, knowledge is traded, and landscapes and peoples are commoditized and consumed."


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Order this issue (print)

Ravina Aggarwal
"Point of Departure": Feminist Locations and
the Politics of Travel in India

Meena Alexander
Rites of Sense; Port Sudan (Poetry)

Paola Bacchetta
Reinterrogating Partition Violence: Voices of Women/Children/Dalits in India's Partition (Review Essay)

Ashwini Tambe
Colluding Patriarchies:
The Colonial Reform of Sexual Relations in India

Tanika Sarkar
A Prehistory of Rights:
The Age of Consent Debate in Colonial Bengal

Mrinalini Sinha
Refashioning Mother India: Feminism and Nationalism
in Late-Colonial India

U. Kalpagam
The Women's Movement in India Today—
New Agendas and Old Problems
(Review Essay)

Richa Nagar
Religion, Race, and the Debate over Mut'a in Dar Es Salaam

Raka Ray
Masculinity, Femininity, and Servitude:
Domestic Workers in Calcutta in the Late Twentieth Century

Sandra Gunning
Re-Crafting Contemporary Female Voices: The Revival of Quilt Making among Rural Hindu Women of Eastern India

Kamala Das
An Introduction; The Dance of the Eunuchs; The Freaks (Poetry)

Rosemary Marangoly George
Calling Kamala Das Queer: Rereading My Story

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