Against Purity: Rethinking Identity with Indian and Western by Irene Gedalof

By Irene Gedalof

This pioneering quantity opinions the paintings of 4 eminent western feminists - Rosi Bradiotti, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway and Luce Irigaray - and explores the connection among Indian and white western feminism. Pt. I. Indian issues. 1. ladies and group identities in Indian feminisms. 2. business enterprise, the self and the collective in Indian feminisms -- Pt. II. White Western feminisms and identification. three. Luce/loose connections: Luce Irigaray, sexual distinction, race and state. four. lady difficulty: Judith Butler and the destabilisation of sex/gender. five. 'All that counts is the going': Rosi Braidotti's nomadic topic. 6. Donna Haraway's promising monsters -- Pt. III. opposed to purity. 7. energy, id and impure areas. eight. Theorising girls in a postcolonial mode

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But, although Sarkar does not put it in these terms, because ‘Woman’ has to be the pure private space of home, and not just visit it as ‘Man’ does, women can never stand in the same relation to this ‘privatised’ public movement as its male participants and leaders do. Sarkar notes the tendency in nationalist literature to conceptualise home and women’s bodies as integrally linked, and as the one safe hiding-place for the national subject’s battered independence: Very often, an implicit continuum is postulated between the hidden, innermost private space, chastity, almost the sanctity of the vagina, [and] political independence at state level; as if, through a steady process of regression, this independent selfhood has been folded back from the public domain to the interior space of the household, and then further pushed back into the hidden depths of an inviolate, chaste, pure female body.

Sarkar notes how, in some of the recent literature of the Hindu right, motherhood is ‘emptied of its customary emotional and affective load and is vested with a notion of heroic political instrumentality’ (Sarkar 1995:188). Communal women leaders take up the same strain of heroic mothers willing their children to die for the Hindu nation, and the rank and file mothers of the communal movements are mobilised as pivotal ‘political creatures and agents’ in the right’s bid for hegemony at the level of everyday relations, personal habit and domestic ritual and practice (1995:189).

The first of these is the nationalist opposition to British colonial rule through the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. Women’s status and their participation in the proindependence struggle became key issues shaping the politics of the anti-colonialist period. But equally, contestations over definitions of the feminine, over the norms and ideals invested in ‘Woman’, and over the meanings to be read into women’s activities and feminised spheres of social life were to bear enormous symbolic weight in the emerging versions of the postcolonial Indian nation.

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