Printer Friendly

New Activist Subjects: The Changing Feminist Field of Kolkata, India.

THE NATIONWIDE PROTESTS in the wake of the brutal gang rape and murder of a twenty-three-year-old student in New Delhi in December 2012 have renewed debates about feminism in India. (1) While the near-unprecedented display of public outrage was for some a welcome sign that feminism is alive and well in an Indian context, for others it signaled the absence of a genuine women's movement that was able to give voice and direction to such public anguish. The latter sentiment has in fact long prevailed among women's rights activists observing the major transformations to feminist politics in the wake of India's globalization. Such activists have viewed these transitions as signaling the decline, if not the death, of the Indian women's movement (hereafter, IWM) in the face of the "coopting" forces of the state, the market, and the project of neoliberal development. (2) Discussions about Indian feminism in its current "third wave" are invariably motivated by generational narratives about the loss of the radical edge of the IWM. (3). Nostalgic narratives among older feminists continue in spite of contrary empirical evidence such as the largely spontaneous mass protests around the Delhi rape. (4)

Against the common narratives of loss, this essay considers some of the wider changes in feminist political mobilization in India through a situated consideration of its actors, especially its most recent entrants. (5) There are few studies on the contemporary phase of the IWM, and fewer still that explore the dynamics of this phase and the agency of its subjects through thick ethnographic examination. In what follows, activists' stories are employed to provide a situated sense of the subjects who inhabit and negotiate new feminist spaces as well as the discursive, if not inherited, ideas of feminism itself. Such new feminist spaces include queer feminist ones, which have been partly enabled by the activism of the IWM, not least through the large-scale mobilization around the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (the antisodomy law introduced by the British in 1860). (6) Indeed, as Mary John notes, at a time of increased "self-questioning about the future direction of feminist struggles [in India]," issues of sexuality "have forced fresh struggles, debates and controversies into the public domain." (7) Feminist politics and queer activism are both sites of the production of new activist subjects even as these spaces are informed by and are continuous with existing feminist and leftist political repertoires: they are not new in any straightforward sense.

I focus on the narratives of two young women that represent current trends of feminist mobilization in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the capital city of the eastern state of West Bengal. Both women are attached to ambivalent sites of feminist activism, namely, nongovernmental organizations (NGOS)--one works on women's sexual rights in Sappho for Equality and another on violence against women in Amader Prerana, or Our Inspiration. These organizations are expressive of a wider transformation in the field of feminist politics in West Bengal, which, in turn, illustrates national trends. Kolkata provides an interesting case study insofar as its feminist field has gone, in a dramatically short period of time, from being a largely homogenous one that was dominated by the left and leftist ideals (most represented in the Left Front government which ruled the state for thirty-four uninterrupted years) to a more fragmented and dispersed one. This shift is ascribable to the increasing presence and rise of NGOS that have come to represent the women's movement in the city, supplanting a strong tradition of party-affiliated and autonomous women's group that were informed by leftist values. As I detail in what follows, the greater availability of international funding with the opening up of the Indian economy has facilitated NGOization across the country--a shorthand for neoliberal processes of professionalization and managerialism, both important prerequisites for receiving and keeping funds. Similar transitions have occurred across the country at a more rapid rate than in communist West Bengal where the leading member of the government, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-the CPI(M)--was initially suspicious of foreign and multinational foundations, whether commercial or nonprofit. (8)

The activist stories speak of the wider changes to Kolkata's political field wrought by the economic reforms of the last two decades, especially in terms of the impact and significance of NGOS. Their real significance lies, however, in highlighting the subjective side of these transformations and how they have shaped the political sensibilities, desires, and agency of middle-class and working-class women in distinct ways.


For many commentators writing about contemporary feminist politics in India, the cooption of the IWM by the Indian state, antisecular right-wing and de-democratizing forces, and the discourses and practices of international development is, ironically, observable in its many successes. In an instance of what Janet Halley has termed "governance feminism," commentators note the unprecedented visibility afforded to women in government rhetoric and actual legal and institutional power. (10) Such transformations have not always worked in favor of women; for example, successful legal reform around violence against women has served to strengthen rather than subvert conservative and patriarchal ideologies. Indeed, the watershed decade of the 1990s--the decade of globalization, privatization, and the opening up of the Indian economy--has fundamentally transformed the terrain on which feminists wage their struggles as well as the nature and form of such struggles. While the spaces in which feminist activism can take place have enormously expanded, these are said to be costing the IWM its radical edge given their association with NGOization, particularly the widespread advocating of managerial and technical solutions to social issues. (12) The IWM is described as having "aged," given the lack of the visible public protest that marked early years (notwithstanding the recent protests in Delhi), as having undergone an institutionalization that means the greater dominance of professionalized women's groups over grassroots ones, and as having an emergent generational divide if not dispute. (13)

Recent writing on women's movements outside of India is beginning to emphasize the inadequacies of negative diagnoses and dismissals of contemporary feminist politics, especially in the rhetoric of cooption. Catherine Eschle and Bice Maiguscha take to task Nancy Fraser's critique of feminism's complicity in the neoliberal project via NGOization and identity politics. (14) They point to her lack of empirical engagement, which serves to idealize socialist feminism and also to undermine the range and vibrancy of feminist struggles against neoliberalism. Overtly pessimistic accounts of feminism's fragmentation, decline, and

even death preclude the hard task of empirically discerning and characterizing how the "logics of NGOisation impact upon the actual discourse and practices of feminist activists 'on the ground,'" as Jonathan Dean notes of the British context. (15) These critical ethnographies reveal NGOS to be highly hybrid, unstable, and gendered formations themselves. And as Victoria Bernal and Inderpal Grewal most recently summarize, "feminism is indeed normalized in some institutional forms, yet feminism remains contentious and is neither fully integrated into nor contained by institutional boundaries of NGOS or states." (16)


As Bernal and Grewal note, NGOS do not simply address or mobilize women; they also produce women as "victims, beneficiaries, or as people with potential capacity." (17) The neoliberal turn in development has meant the reshaping of the subjectivities of subaltern women in very specific ways. (18) Neoliberal developmentalism emphasizes women's economic inclusion and productivity not via state welfarism (as with state-led development) but through discourses of entrepreneurship and privatization that mobilize feminist technologies of "empowerment, self-esteem and self-help." (19) Poor rural women of the south--the "new subalterns"--are central to such neoliberal regimes as their individual agency, capacity, and enterprise are posited as resources that provide them with an advantage over other groups for success in the market. (20)

Setting aside the inflated sense of the term "neoliberal," some of these discussions presume that development produces only one type of subject and that it is only ever in service of the free-market economy. In Sumi Madhok and Shirin M. Rai's essay "Agency, Injury and Transgressive Politics in Neoliberal Times," Bhanwari Devi, a grassroots developmental worker or sathin and icon of the IWM, is presented as a subject whose agency is entirely exhausted by neoliberal developmentalism. (21) She is not envisioned as having a more complex and critical encounter with development and is disallowed the possibility of self-reflexivity: "the empowered sathin was not a reflexive subject." (22) If subaltern women are said to be rendered "docile bodies and subjectivities" by neoliberal development, urban metropolitan middle-class women are also presumed to encounter development in fixed ways. Even as there is little documentation of such women as employees in India's NGO sector, they are invariably associated with careerism and corporatism in the wake of the NGoization of feminism itself. For commentators in India and elsewhere in South Asia, the nine-to-five or career feminist, interpreted as an inevitable result of NGoization, represents the possibility of being able to practice feminism as a profession rather than as politics. (23) Again, in a mode that is globally resonant, such subjectivities are associated almost exclusively with younger women.

In her essay on Dalit women activists of South India, Kalpana Ram presents us with a very different reading of subaltern women's encounter with development under the auspices of local NGOS. (24) Subjectivity is seen here as a product of power relations, self-awareness, and transformation, manifest in a set of skills and orientations rather than a proclivity toward particular concerns or issues. Michel Foucault's theorizing of agency within power offers Ram a way out of the "binary dichotomy we have inherited, that of determinism and pure freedom" that seems to underlie readings of subaltern and metropolitan women as coopted neoliberal subjects. (25) That agency can be located in contexts antithetical to feminist ends has been most powerfully demonstrated in Saba Mahmood's ethnography of the Egyptian women's mosque movement. (26) Mahmood draws, like Ram, on the later Foucault to focus on those ethical practices and skills that constitute the subject and that cannot be read as liberatory or subjugating in advance. Indeed, the later Foucault who moved from a consideration of the passive subject of coercive power relations to "how the subject constitutes itself in an active fashion through practices of the self" provides a more enabling vision of (feminist) agency than one of unbridled freedom. (27) Foucault's practice of ethical self-fashioning is also mobilized in Naisargi Dave's attempt to make sense of queer activism in India as an inventive practice that is not focused on the liberation from power, "but on the imaginative labour of inventing heretofore unimaginable possibilities." Dave uses Foucault to understand (queer) activism as an ethical practice that creatively resists--even as it might end up reproducing--the logic and practice of existing norms ("normalization"). (28)

The stories that follow provide a glimpse into the ways in which gendered selves are being constituted through the new regimes of control and normalization that accompany India's globalization and, crucially, how they constitute themselves therein. The women under study critique and resist modes of normalization while fashioning themselves as active feminist agents through available discourses of development, social movements, and activism organized around everyday gender, class, and sexuality-based struggles. While owing their origin to the neoliberal moment, the organizations that they each represent provide the material and affective resources to facilitate new forms of recognition and subjectivity. Just as activist stories force us to take accounts of neoliberal subject-constitution seriously, they complicate purist conceptions of feminist politics that dismiss contemporary manifestations in advance. At the very least, they present a far messier picture than one of straightforward cooption or resistance.


Over the last two decades, feminist activism and women's mobilizations in Kolkata have transformed alongside changes in the political field in which they are located. "Political field" was the term used by Raka Ray in an influential ethnography of women's movements in post-independence India to describe how the larger political culture within which women's movements are situated determines their mode of organizing, the issues around which they mobilize, and activist identities. (29) In focusing on and uncovering points of commonality between autonomous women's groups and party-affiliated ones in Kolkata and Mumbai respectively, Ray's study reflects a political field that transforms in the 1980s with the ascendance of NGOS in the realm of nonparty formations.

Prominent city-based women's organizations are commonly termed "post-Beijing" referring to their institutionalization in the period following the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing. These organizations are involved in a range of activities, some more welfarist while others more political, functioning in the hybrid movement and NGO mode that Latin American feminists have noted. (30) Donor dependence is the key point of departure from the "autonomous" women's groups of an earlier period. Autonomous or nonfunded, politically unaffiliated, and volunteer-based women's groups have constituted the ideological core of the IWM since they first emerged in the late 1970s, even as they remained limited to the urban and middle-class face of the IWM. The emphasis on autonomy imparted a much-needed legitimacy to women's groups that came to be seen as independent political formations in their own right, distinct from the (primarily left-wing) political parties they had emerged from. In Kolkata, autonomous women's groups were formed in the aftermath of the radical left Naxalite movement that originated in the village of Naxalbari in northern West Bengal in 1967 as a Maoist-inspired armed class struggle led by dissidents of the CPI(M). The Naxalite movement exemplified the crisis in the Nehruvian state and inaugurated a range of new social movements across the country. Many of the women who joined one of the two notable autonomous women's groups in Kolkata, Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Mancha (Forum Against the Oppression of Women, hereafter Mancha), came from Naxal backgrounds, indicative of the radical leftist legacies of the IWM. (31) Today, such groups have nearly disappeared, with many transforming into NGOS due to the expansion of work and the need for financial support and institutional stability. In place of Kolkata's autonomous women's groups, a cluster of self-identified feminist NGOS, part of a joint platform called Maitree that was set up after the Beijing conference, represents its women's movement. Despite the prevalence of an NGO paradigm, discussions over the politics of funding are acrimonious, with autonomy being hailed as the yardstick for the measure of true feminist involvement. (32) And yet it is within the NGO paradigm that political change, unexpected and unpredictable, has come to Kolkata.

The real change in Kolkata's feminist field is in the area of sexuality, represented by an institutionalized LGBT movement (including India's first Pride walk in Kolkata in 1999) and by campaigning around the rights for Indian sex workers for a decade now. (33) NGOS and governmental practices around AIDS prevention have promoted the rights of sexual minorities in ways that older women's organizations, which tended to view the privileging of sexuality as "Western" and alien to an Indian context, never managed. The Kolkata-based lesbian organization Sappho for Equality, the only group of its kind in eastern India, embodies some of these significant shifts in a political field dominated by left-led concerns of work and literacy with fairly conservative views on women's sexuality. An organization that works exclusively for the rights of sexually marginalized women is also significant given the predominance of gay men in queer activism and in developmental interventions into sexual health. Like such sexual subalterns, the "new subalterns" of neoliberal developmentalism inhabit a post-economically liberalized India and owe their visibility to the political configurations that this has made possible, such as the greater availability of international funds. Subaltern women are key mediators of a grassroots approach to developmental work, either functioning as field workers in NGO-run projects or, in this essay, setting up their own social service organizations. (34) In both instances, they are interpellated by a model of social entrepreneurship in which all citizens, including the poor, are expected to provide creative solutions to the problems of poverty by making use of the opportunities opened up by the market and the global economy. (35)

The activist stories of the women I call Srimati and Sumana appear in this varied terrain and, while not wholly representative of contemporary Indian feminism, they provide significant insights into the forms of activism in which today's young women, both middle and working class, are involved. As a member of Sappho for Equality, Srimati is typical of a contemporary queer activist insofar as she is young, middle class, politicized, and in higher education, but she is unique in terms of her involvement with other women's groups and NGOS in the city. Working for the antiviolence group Amader Prerana, Sumana's agency has been formed and mobilized through the opportunities and constraints provided by the development sector, but she is no entrepreneurial citizen. The activist stories of these women uncover the tensions, constraints, and possibilities of a rapidly changing and uncertain political field in which political agency is at once embedded and transformative.

I met both women in the course of an ethnographic study of the politics of institutionalizing the IWM starting in 2008. I have met Srimati, together with other Sappho members, intermittently since then, and I have interviewed her several times with our conversations extending over coffee, email, and Facebook. I also met Sumana several times during this period, first through the Kolkata office of the international NGO ActionAid where she previously worked. When we first met, she was living in small rented flat in Kolkata with her husband, also a development worker, and their newborn child. She subsequently took up a job as a teacher and moved to the area where her organization works. My entry into this particular field was facilitated by my proficiency in Bangla and my familiarity with the city of Kolkata, my birthplace.


The origins of Sappho, a support group of sexual minority women, go back to Deepa Mehta's 1996 film about two female lovers, Fire, which has generally been recognized as transforming the public debate on sexuality in India by pushing lesbian issues into the limelight for the first time. While the controversy around the film saw lesbian-centered public protest for the first time, lesbian groups were in operation in the larger metropolises, such as in Delhi, from the mid-1980s. (36) Lesbian politics grew in close solidarity with the women's movement in spite of the fact that lesbians faced both silencing and hostility from the IWM. This was due to the latter's nationalist inheritance that interpreted lesbianism as inauthentic and "Western" and to a socialism that deemed sexuality as less urgent than other material concerns. (37) Sappho for Equality (SFE) emerged from Sappho in 2003 as a registered NGO and represents a shift from service-provision to issue-based activism. While Sappho continues to provide safe space for lesbian, bisexual, and female-to-male transpersons (transmen) and is only open to self-identified sexual minorities, SFE fulfills the founder members' belief in the need to garner and embrace the support of the wider (heterosexual) community in its struggle for sexual citizenship.

Sappho--invariably used as shorthand for both Sappho and SFE by those within and outside the organizations--is primarily comprised of young, middle-class, and lower-middle-class women with no prior (leftist or feminist) political experience. The Indian middle classes are a broad, expansive category that is more internally divided and heterogeneous today in an era of globalization. Class identity is determined not merely on the basis of income and material wealth, but on crucial cultural markers such as proficiency in English. In a West Bengal milieu, class is more complicated given the cultural hegemony of the bhadralok (literally, respectable) classes. Lesbian groups such as Sappho, while middle-class, are not elite, and many Sappho members are best described as nimno moddhobitto, or lower middle class, coming from families that lack material wealth and are not English speaking. Being bhadralok, however, still means a degree of privilege and respectability that is not afforded to other classes and especially not to the sexual minorities within them. (38)

Srimati, currently a postgraduate student in her early thirties, has been a member of SFE since 2005 and a part-time employee of the NGO. She is not a member of the support group, Sappho. Besides briefly working as a program coordinator, Srimati is often a spokesperson for SFE at public events, most recently receiving, on its behalf, an international award for queer visibility work in India. Her articulation of lesbianism in feminist terms bespeaks a political competence that is not shared by all SFE members: "I can't think of lesbianism outside of feminism. To me, feminism is a standpoint, it's a politics of equality of both genders, a decentralization of power not only for both genders but for genders and sexualities."

It turned out that Srimati had come to queer politics through an unusual route--via the call-center industry and Mancha, the longest-standing autonomous women's group in Kolkata (although it is no longer as active as it once was). She was introduced to Mancha through a friend's mother, where she, in turn, learned of the existence of Sappho. Both organizations were thus discovered through personal networks with little prior knowledge of their work or politics or, indeed, of her own political allegiances or identity. Srimati, by her own account and that of other Mancha members of the time, was the youngest person to join Mancha. One Mancha member attributed the inability of the group to attract younger women to a changing political field; from Naxalbari to sexuality, as she put it, with Mancha representing an earlier generation's attachment to radical visions of revolutionary change and Sappho providing a sense of identification for younger women.

Srimati's evaluation of her time spent at Mancha reproduces this generational narrative but disrupts it in key ways. Mancha, according to her, represents not only the history of women's struggles in Kolkata but also a longer, more illustrious history of oppositional struggles in West Bengal. This is a history that cannot be accessed through a post-1990s lesbian community: as Srimati says, "Sappho talks of the '90s in the same way that Mancha talks of '60s. Mancha talks of a time before my birth." Against a global construal of young women as refusing to inherit feminist legacies, her narrative underscores the pedagogic value of cross-generational exchange. (39) Coming from a "nonpolitical management" background (something that she repeatedly emphasized), the need for wider belonging cannot be underestimated.

For Srimati, much of the significance of Mancha lies in the temporal moment that it occupies; one that precedes the current NGOization of feminist politics: "Given that Mancha is not an NGO, it's in a decision-making space." She is not, however, blind to the pitfalls of working in an autonomous mode, especially as Mancha has failed to flourish. But NGOS do not provide a viable alternative because, she says, "movements cannot be made of NGOS--they have their own agendas." Between the poles of movement and NGO, Srimati says she found SFE: "Sappho [for Equality] gave me the answer that you can take funds and do activist or movement-based work." Srimati describes SFE as being reactive (intervening in crises) and proactive (in providing services), formalized and fluid, and in being an NGO and an activist platform and not an "NGO NGO." She herself embodies a hybrid political identity in having started out as a volunteer in the organization, then becoming a member of staff, and then returning to volunteer work. Such hybridity is not unknown among the young women who inhabit the feminist field in India today and who combine activism with paid developmental work. (40) Yet, Srimati is at pains to distinguish herself from the career feminist: "[A senior member of Sappho] told me from the start to join as staff. I didn't. It didn't mean that I didn't want to come here or wasn't involved ... but I wanted to stay a volunteer because this is my passion. I want to keep my professional life apart."

Young people like Srimati who claim to be looking for something different from consumer capitalism and careerism experience the political field as being saturated by developmental initiatives and NGOS that have edged out older/other ways of imagining or actualizing political change. In the face of the generational lack of politicization on university campuses and in strong social movements, they are left with politically ambivalent positions to take up, in which passion, profession, money, and love are all closely bound up together. They are all too aware that the new spaces for camaraderie and affective activism that they are creating risk being coopted by the logic of transnational developmental and also by a wider consumerist culture in which queerness is commodified and corporatized (which is partly why Sappho refrains from participating in the city's annual Pride march). Activism can, in other words, be experienced in normalizing ways insofar as individuals come to express or enact their activist selves within an increasingly limited repertoire--in terms of professionalized, market-driven, commercially viable, and ultimately conformist identities. In evoking older, autonomous legacies of the IWM, Srimati attempts to resist normalization of this sort and to develop a new, potentially non-normalizing mode of enacting the activist self.


The greatest challenge to normative conceptions of Indian feminism and its practice has come from queer struggles that have, in unmooring gender from biological sex, questioned the very subject of feminist politics. (41) Srimati first encountered the question of "what or who is a woman?" in Sappho: "This really shook me, and this is a very big difference between the quote-unquote mainstream women's movement, and what we are doing here at Sappho." Looking back, she feels she left Mancha for practical reasons of work pressure, but also owing to the lack of discussion around sexuality, together with being "a bit uncomfortable" with the women-only organizational politics at Mancha. Exemplary of the wider IWM, the singular focus of Mancha was on women's violence and victimization, leaving little by way of articulating sexual subjectivity, let alone homosexuality. In Srimati's words: "Mancha doesn't talk about sexuality. There is little scope to talk about gender outside of violence, and sexuality is not talked about at all (in the women's movement in general). Sappho has therefore been a great platform for me to talk about my own sexuality, at least talk about sexuality, if not my own ... we are not taught how to talk about sexuality. I started thinking about sexuality after coming to Sappho ... my own body, my sexuality."

It would seem, especially from these words, that Srimati's identification with and attachment to Sappho--and not Mancha--can be rooted in her sexual identity, in her interpellation by lesbian identity therein. However such an explanation is complicated by the fact that Srimati is not a member of Sappho, the support group. This is unusual given the closeness of her ties with the organization, which transcends the bounds of friendship and is described by her as "family." "Srimati is in fact explicit that her sexual orientation had little to do with her leaving Mancha and joining SFE. She says she went to SFE "without knowing [her] orientation" and only later discovered that she was "queer." Explaining why she was not a member of Sappho, Srimati said that at this point, she had obtained all that she needed by way of "emotional support" and did not feel the need to join Sappho.

Politically, however, Srimati explains her nonmembership in Sappho in terms of a discomfort with the exclusionary effects of identity politics, which she first experienced in Mancha. In a long tradition of feminist organizing in India, men were not allowed to participate even if they were friends of the group and/or feminists. Such an exclusionary move leads Srimati to ask, "if we can't educate the male then what's the point? ... And then what or who is a woman?" In raising the question of "who or what is a woman?" Srimati questions the idea of essence that underlies much feminist and lesbian and gay activism, including that of Sappho and SFE.

In instituting a division between social and political spaces, Sappho embodies two common strands of the queer movement in India--one that links sexuality to identity and one that attempts to break this very association. (42) The support group is, after all, rooted in an identity politics framework where individuals are afforded entry--and solace--on the basis of being a lesbian, bisexual, or female-to-male transperson. Women who do not identify as one of these categories or choose not to identify at all are excluded, as are all men. The support group embodies an identitarian and essentialist logic: it is, as Akshay Khanna says in a critique that recalls Foucault's influential theorization of sexual categorization, "about the naming of oneself, recognizing oneself within certain terms, 'identifying' oneself." (43) In contrast, the creation of activist platforms such as SFE (or the Delhi-based PRISM that Khanna refers to) enables resistance to heteronormativity in an intersectional mode. (44) By virtue of the fact that SFE is open to all--it is, in Srimati's words, "identity-neutral" and not "identity-based"--it creates a collective ownership of sexuality as not simply affecting homosexuals "with no apparent implications for 'other' people," but as affecting "all of us regardless of our sexual orientation." (45) The existence of a platform that includes queer and nonqueer people also blurs the boundaries of who belongs and who is the appropriate subject of a queer politics. (46)

While critiquing a politics centered on the essentializing of identities, Srimati understands the pragmatic need for an identity-based support group as a strategic essentialism. She echoes the founder members' rationale when she explains the need for a safe space where sexual-minority women can meet others "like them" and where this identification can form the basis of solidarity and community. (47) But for herself, she says she prefers to remain in the "blurred area" of SFE since she does not identify as lesbian ("I am not only attracted to women"), bisexual ("I am not only attracted to two genders"), or as a transperson ("I am comfortable with my identity as a woman"). She identifies, she says, with the issue and not the identity. "Queer" is her preferred term of identification as a way of suggesting to others that she is not heterosexual but not "LBT" either. Queer for her--as with the queer movement in India today--is not understood or employed as an identity category but as a philosophy and a way of life that stems from a challenge to heteronormativity. The refusal to name herself in categories of sexual identification resonates with her refusal to do so in religious and caste terms as well, as evident in her response to a written questionnaire I provided asking for basic demographic details.

In not conforming to prescribed (sexual, caste, and religious) identities, Srimati's activism around Sappho could be termed in a Foucauldian vein as a "struggle against subjection." Foucault sees such struggles as being key to the contemporary moment in which power works through the categorization and subjection of individuals: "It is a form of power which makes individuals subjects." (48) Such struggles require us "to refuse what we are," to resist the logic of subjection, and to engage in critical desubjectification, which is not, Amy Allen explains, to reject the subject altogether but to reconceptualize and promote new forms of subjectivity. (49) While Sappho might reinforce normative gender/sexual identities in the forced divide between Sappho and SFE, it also enables the formation of new forms of subjectivity around female pleasure, intimacy, and desire. Sappho, Srimati says, was the only space in the city to talk about sexuality as a young girl who came of age as India rapidly globalized.

The struggle against subjection occurs in a moment of rapid social transformation, in part due to economic liberalization and globalization. Young middle-class women like Srimati embody some of these wider changes in their own personal biography, the gendered implications and effects of which are not straightforward. The brief experience of working "like a horse in a call center" in Delhi, her first job post-graduation, is an important marker of selfhood, especially of her turn to progressive politics. She points to the gendered contradictions of call-center culture--how the call-center industry is seen to have increased women's mobility at the same time as being emblematic of patriarchal surveillance and protection of women's bodies--and to the economic inequalities inherent to this kind of global economy. (50) She says,
    what really haunted me was the way in which land was sold to
   shopping malls and corporations--acres after acres were sold and
   those who worked on the land became drivers of call center owners
   and ran illegal tea stalls. And they had an unusually revengeful
   attitude towards women who worked at call centers.... One night a
   cab driver came to drop me and asked me what you do there? I said I
   talked on the phone. He said he was a graduate, "will they let
   work upstairs?" But I knew they would not give him a job because
   couldn't speak English. 

In the context of a globalized terrain which is at once empowering and constraining, young middle-class women like Srimati experience the normalizing effects of imposed gender and also sexual and class identities in service of the production of a distinctively global Indian sensibility. In recreating herself from a call center worker to a feminist queer activist who is looking at a career in academia, Srimati resists such normalization. This transformation has not been, as might be all too readily assumed, facilitated by class privilege given that Srimati has had to financially support herself from a young age following the loss of both her parents. Her act of critical self-creation has been facilitated by the class-caste sensitive queer politics of Sappho. As an organization, it emphasizes economic independence as the crux around which the realization of sexual freedom lies. This linking of the sexual with the economic not only fuses what is generally kept apart but is also deeply resonant of a Bengali leftist feminism that privileges economic self-reliance as the route to women's emancipation.

Srimati's story suggests that while a majority of Sappho members might have entered the organization because they identified as being a lesbian, others found belonging in the mere possibility of resisting modes of normalization. This includes the norms and expectations of heteropatriarchy and of class privilege in a global consumer context. Notwithstanding the setting up of new norms in the name of queer freedom, Sappho seems to offer an important avenue for transforming the self by responding to the full range of urban, middle-class, metropolitan women's gendered experiences and the institutional and social practices that inform them.


Sumana, in her mid-thirties, would describe herself as a women's rights activist who comes from the grassroots (trinamool), having grown up in the district of South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, where her organization, Amader Prerana, currently operates. In 2004, she initiated what has today become a registered charity that uses physical activity in sports and techniques of self-defense to counter violence against women. Sumana is one of two women in West Bengal who is trained in Wenlido, a form of feminist self-defense geared toward building women's physical strength as well as promoting consciousness-raising through challenging ingrained stereotypes and assumptions about women's bodies.

A poor rural woman, Sumana is someone who has grown with the advantages of Kolkata's development sector. The latter emerges in her narrative as a large, expansive, and heterogeneous terrain interacting with other fields such as social movements, urban metropolitan women's groups, and the state. Much like other feminist subjects constituted in a development context, feminist political subjectivity is a product of multiple forces including personal victimization, the history of women's mobilizations around violence, and a more mainstream developmental discourse that focuses on empowerment and rights. The organization that she fostered is, in turn, a hybrid--a registered charity, indirectly funded by some developmental aid (in the form of individual fellowships), and drawing on a pool of voluntary workers.

Like Srimati, Sumana moved in a short period of time from being an outsider in Kolkata's feminist field, with few forms of cultural and social capital at her disposal, to being an insider. She came to Kolkata in 2001, and by 2002 she was fully employed by ActionAid, working in their regional office in Kolkata. Already by then she had worked part time for various organizations:
    I got into the National Federation of Women for a very small salary.
   Cleaning, filing, making cha
 [tea].... In doing this work, I had
   the opportunity to meet people; I learned a lot (I got the job
because I
   was "eight pass" [had completed eighth grade at school]). I
started to
   maintain case files. That's where I first heard the word
"NGO." I started
   feeling very good about this work. I did a lot of work in order to

She joined women's groups such as Maitree and Mancha besides undertaking a series of training, including Wenlido. In encountering Kolkata's feminist field, existing identities were made sense of and new ones were crafted:
    I can now say this much more clearly, I can scream and say that a
man is
   touching me. I couldn't say these words before, would only feel
the pain.
   But this courage to say it has come through Wenlido training, through
   meeting other women who are associated with nari andolan
   movement].... I've got to know about such a broad situation,
that one can
   study it. 

Seven women eventually came together to form Amader Prerana, indicative of what Kalpana Ram calls the "collective effervescence of organised action" or its ability to affect others and to be affected by others. (53) Not surprisingly, several of these poor women with basic literacy levels were themselves victims of battery and gender-based discrimination at the hands of husbands and family members. The origin of Amader Prerana was also rooted in the politics of NGOization, in a realization among the women that the support provided by ActionAid, or any other NGO, would be temporally and materially limited. They thus recognized the need to be a self-sustaining entity: "While doing the work, I did have some questions--I would think project work is a barrier. There is no continuity after the project is over." Today, Amader Prerana runs on the back of volunteers, poor and marginalized women who are difficult to retain. When asked about its future plans, Sumana reflects on the inevitability of Amader Prerana becoming an NGO:
    We are not progressing thinking we will be a NGO. The organization
) was created so as to help women who have problems in
   their lives.... Now I see that those who have been working for a
   their families are telling them to stop. How will I retain these
   who are now mixed with the work? I think we need some money to


Organized activism brings with it new forms of mobility. (54) The training that Sumana imparts, Wenlido (Women's Path of Strength), is its most obvious instantiation. It aims not only to build up women's actual physical capacity through sports (women are traditionally withheld from sports at a very young age in rural West Bengal in preparation for running the household) and techniques of self-defense, but also to alter women's self-image through consciousness-raising. Sumana tells me how, unlike routine forms of gender training, her organization uses sports and play (khelar jholer) to help women become sachetan, or conscious, of the patriarchal politics of violence, particularly domestic violence, which is on the rise in West Bengal and harder for women to recognize and name. The empowering effects of such techniques are observable in little gestures such as women's greater sense of mobility--Sumana especially enjoys how women forget that they have maathaye kapor (are veiled) while playing sports--and in the kind of questioning around gender norms and patriarchal power that the training as a whole is intended to prompt. Sumana says of the training:
    A woman can completely transform in these three days of
   in her body language, her thinking. I'm not saying she
doesn't compromise
   or rejects patriarchy
 [in English] but after that, she can take
   many decisions with respect to her life. She can at least say that
now I
   don't want to get married, I don't feel like getting
married and won't.
   She can know this much--that if she doesn't want to get married
no one
   can force her. I've seen through this training that many women
are able
   to stop being forced into marriage. 

The key to such training seems to be the transformation of the self, carried out on the self by the self. Through a series of technologies or practices--focused on the body--the individual is able to seize the self as an object of concern, reflection, and transformation, as Foucault notes, "the individual constitutes and recognizes himself [sic] qua subject." (55) For the woman who has only ever been the object of another person's control, such practices can provide the resources to resist the constitution of subjectivity according to gendered norms.

Sumana speaks of "little changes," not revolutionary transformations: "You can see little changes like the girl who didn't speak can now speak, can now talk about her rights. Isn't this a change? Not a measurable change ... [but] little changes that are tied up with life." Agency, she seems to say, is perfectly possible within power. The agency she ascribes to the women she works with is a mundane one, rooted in the seemingly basic ability to make choices for oneself, without force, freely. Even for the female subject who cannot actualize her choices, the consciousness of choice and of freedom is where resistance lies. When I ask her about feminism, she says,
    I value those feminists who never came down on the street or
   in major protests but those who fought in every aspect of their
   lives--those who look at the world even through the ghomta
   [veil].... Given that I come from the grassroots, I think that these
   little changes are huge changes. Those women who wear sankha pola
   [conch shell bangles worn by married Bengali women] and can think
   their husbands are not their life but a part [of their lives]--I
   that's a huge change. Some friends don't wear anything but
in their
   lives, they accept patriarchy. 

Sumana paints a particular picture of the self. This is a gendered self that is embedded in, even outwardly constrained by, social and cultural norms but is still capable of agency understood as the capacity for critical self-reflection and transformation. For Sumana, resistance can take place under the ghomta and in conjunction with an embrace of markers of patriarchy. It does not have to be located in a space outside of power, in overtly feminist gestures of relinquishing all markers of marriage, for instance, which is rarely possible for most women. Even as the freedom of a woman might be terribly constrained by conventional marital structures, resistance might lie in the ability to question their underlying norms and think of oneself in a transformed manner: to think, as Sumana says, of one's husband as a part of but not the entirety of one's life.

Sumana's own life is testament to the possibility of such creative self-constitution via the work on the self by the self. At the most obvious level, such technologies of the self can be seen in the feminist vocabulary that she adopts in criticizing patriarchies at home and in the world. Much more significant are the subtle ways of resisting gendered normalization in everyday practices of dress, for instance. Sumana tells me how she wears sankha sindoor (bangles and vermillion that are ritual markers of marriage for Bengali women) as a "uniform" to gain wider acceptance among rural women, even as she rejects the patriarchal logic behind such symbolism and does not wear it in her natal or in-laws' home. There is an element of critical self-awareness, even creativity, in the manner in which the subaltern subject is able to stand back from the symbols she uses, manipulating their meaning for political efficacy. The ability to dress in a particular way while at home with her husband in the city and in an entirely different way in the village where societal codes dictate the terms of inclusion is where Sumana might locate her agency.


Sumana's relatively short experience of activism has made it obvious to her that it is resource and capital dependent. (56) The idea of activism as a labor of love is meaningless in concrete material terms:
    The work I am doing on being paid, it's my duty and I am
obliged to do it
   but when I do it without money, I don't feel obliged, I do it
out of love
   [ami bhalobeshe kori
], and I can chose to discontinue if I can't
   do it--this is an open world [eta khola duniya
]. But I won't put
   any kind of work down. Because one needs money. If I don't earn
   livelihood, then I can't even think about free work--this is the

In emphasizing the material determinants of paid and volunteer work, Sumana articulates a class critique of an elite metropolitan feminism that would have political work disembedded from the market. She is equally critical of the NGO sector's reliance on poorly paid community women and men for fulfilling its developmental ambitions at a subsidized cost, calling it "a business." By pointing to the gap between what NGOS obtain from donors and what their employees are paid, Sumana does more than challenge the corrupt practices of a particular NGO. She questions the conventional rationalities of neoliberal development that privilege the organization's sustenance over the welfare of its clients. Instead, she envisions running an ethical organization that poor women take collective ownership of but is not presumptive of their time or commitment. Sumana is not looking to professionalize activism, and she is not offering economic empowerment in exchange. At the very least, there is a serious recognition of the material determinants of political involvement, of political autonomy as being reliant on political economy.

If development relies on subaltern women fashioning themselves as particular (entrepreneurial) subjects, it can also inform identities that refuse to succumb to such disciplinary ends. Sumana is able to fashion herself in critical awareness and even rejection of certain norms. She does not, however, reject development per se and exhibit her real agency in real resistance, conceived as occurring entirely outside of the parameters of power in some pure unmediated autonomous space. On the contrary, she negotiates the norms and expectations of both organized activism and developmentalism from within "to create ways of being and interacting that are non-normalising." (57) She recognizes, for instance, the need for some degree of professionalism in the face of the inability to sequester activism to one domain. Even though development work is no longer her chakri (job), Sumana makes clear that certain boundaries between kaaj (work) and life need to be instituted: "I love my work but would go mad with only it--just as I would go mad with only the household. I am a human being made of all these parts, not just made of kaaj, even though it's in many parts of my life."


I began this essay by noting how feminist-inspired developmentalism is increasingly associated with the shaping of certain subjects and the remaking of society in conjunction with the political and economic imperatives of neoliberalism. I also noted, drawing on counter critiques, that such arguments rest on purist conceptions of feminist politics, of "authentic radicalism" as being marked by a distance from power. (58) For J. K. Gibson-Graham, such a stance effectively renders the world incontestable. They turn to Foucault for "a project of ethical self-transformation or a micropolitics of (re)subjectivation." (59)

What makes Foucault appealing for the political visions of the likes of Gibson-Graham is that his questioning of social norms does not assume some pure space outside of power on which the rhetoric of cooption relies. Critique and resistance take place within the locus of power relations. They are immanent. For Margaret McLaren, the fact that resistance is possible even in situations of domination bodes well for social change. (60) It bodes well for feminists trying to carve out spaces of resistance and agency within dominant frameworks of capitalism, neoliberalism, and development rather than advocate their wholesale rejection as bad for women. A second implication of Foucault's thesis on power and agency is that relations of power are always potentially changeable because they are exercised on free subjects. The subject can, within certain limits, rework the very same power relations and norms to which it is subject. Forms of power can thus subject individuals to forms of domination but simultaneously enable agency via critical and creative technologies of the self.

Holding together a dual perspective on technologies of domination and those of the self brings a new perspective to bear on neoliberal development. It challenges the idea that such developmentalism produces only one subject who is always and only an effect of power relations; a docile, pliant, and coopted subject from above. Instead, it opens up the possibility of ethnographically and conceptually mapping those technologies of the self that point toward the constitution of different, critical, and transformative subjectivities. The new subalterns that are products of transnational gender and development discourses can, to this extent, be viewed as constituted and creative subjects who may not only utilize discursive resources for different ends but can also resist their disciplinary strategies and normalizing effects.

In both Srimati and Sumana, resistance and agency accrues from the capacity for critical reflection and self-transformation. Through the resources of feminist and queer consciousness-raising, both reflect upon and consciously resist the constitution of the self via technologies of domination that are to do not only with gender and sexual power relations but also with the problematic of the neoliberal moment. Straddling a shared universe of NGOS and urban metropolitan women's groups has enabled Sumana, for instance, to articulate a class critique of an elite feminism--and a queer one, as articulated by Srimati--that not only remains attached to romanticized notions of voluntarism but inadvertently provides a legitimizing rationale for exploitative NGO practice. The feminist queer activism of Srimati likewise emanates from the daily struggles against the regulatory force of gender and (hetero) sexuality as informed by a global neoliberal order. While such activism might be enabled by the privileges of class, it is directed against capital in negotiating the requirements of the new economy in middle-class consumer citizenship or in professionalized developmental practice.

The activism of Sumana and Srimati can be characterized as struggles against subjection or ones of desubjectification. In the subaltern feminist activism of Sumana, critical desubjectification takes place in everyday practices of refusing to submit to patriarchal power, which might take place in minute shifts of consciousness; the "rearrangement of desire" that Gayatri Spivak speaks of. (61) Her activism remains embedded in, rather than standing outside of, structures of power by being anti-institutional or antidevelopment, or in rejecting, outright, societal markers of femininity and marriage. Srimati's deep sense of attachment to Sappho, which is not reducible, I have argued, to sexual identity politics or to generational explanations of young women's turn to lesbian politics, can also be considered a struggle of desubjectification. Her activism around sexual identity constitutes the locus of critical self-creation and not along the axes of gender and sexuality alone. Sappho becomes in her narrative a home where "I got to know myself," where her sense of self went from someone who came from a management background to an aspiring academic-activist.

Both Srimati and Sumana's narratives complicate generationally motivated assessments of young women's (de)politicization as constituting a temporal rupture from preexisting forms of struggle. One way to mute ideas of the newness of the political present is to consider the historically hybrid nature of feminist struggles in India that have never emerged autonomously or authentically "in their own right," that is, outside of the complex histories of colonialism and nationalism. (62) The political subjectivities of the young women considered here are constituted by competing forces: the history of urban metropolitan women's struggles, trans/national ideologies of neoliberal development, and local power relations. Being a product of these hybrid histories has meant an ability to creatively appropriate their discursive force for feminist ends while reinventing "the stock of skills and orientations" that are a product of a long history of Indian feminist struggles. (63) The newness of the activist present lies, then, not in being a radical break from the past but in making salient the hybrid legacies through which women have always practiced freedom.


Various versions of this essay were presented at the Rethinking Activism conference at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, October 2010; the Annual Conference of the British Association of South Asian Studies, University of Southampton, April 2011; the biannual conference of the Feminist and Women's Studies Conference, Brunei University, July 2011; the South Asia Centre departmental seminar, University of Edinburgh, October 2011; the 40th Annual South Asia Conference, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 2011; and at the departmental seminar of the Delhi School of Economics, December 2011. Thanks to organizers of and audiences at these forums, especially Dilip Menon, Karin Kapadia, Patricia Jeffrey, Raka Ray, Stephen Legg, Deepak Mehta, and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan for encouragement and critical insights. In addition, my thanks to the anonymous reviewers at Feminist Studies and the editorial collective for helping me shape up the essay further.

(1.) For two recent views on this highly publicized gang rape, see Poulami Roychowdhury, ""The Delhi Gang Rape': The Making of International Causes," Feminist Studies 39, no. 1 (2013); and Debolina Dutta and Oishik Sircar, "India's Winter of Discontent: Some Feminist Dilemmas in the Wake of a Rape," Feminist Studies 39, no. 1 (2013).

(2.) While "feminism" is a contested term in India with many women and activists rejecting the label and its (negative) associations with Westernization and elitism, "IWM" has been employed as an analytical category to indicate "a sum of campaigns and issues of importance to women." Samita Sen,

(3.) "Towards a Feminist Politics? The Indian Women's Movement in Historical

Perspective" in The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender and Social Inequalities in India, ed. Karin Kapadia (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 2002). For an early exploration and defense of the use of "feminism" in the Indian context, see Nandita Shah and Nandita Gandhi, The Issues at Stake: Theory and Practice in the Contemporary Women's Movement in India (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1992).

(3.) The wave metaphor has frequently been used in the Indian context, with Rajeswari Sunder Rajan delineating three "waves" that constitute the IWM as such: the immediate post-independence period of the 1950s and 1960s, during which time there was little organized activity in the face of a liberal faith in the institutions of the state; followed by the activism by the new autonomous women's groups in the 1970s and 1980s; and the current period of consolidation and retrospection. See Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, The Scandal of the State: Women, Law and Citizenship in India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).

(4.) See Srila Roy, "Melancholic Politics and the Politics of Melancholia: The Indian Women's Movement," Feminist Theory 10, no. 3 (2009), 341-574.

(5.) See Clare Hemmings, Why Stories Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

(6.) In a major setback to LGBT struggles in India, on December 12, 2013, the Indian Supreme Court upheld India's antisodomy law (Section 377), thereby revoking the initial success the campaign had achieved when the section was declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Delhi on July 2, 2009.

(7.) Mary John, "Feminist Perspectives on Marriage and Family: A Historical View," from "Symposium on Marriage, Family and Community: A Feminist Dialogue," Economic and Political Weekly 40, no. 8 (2005): 712-15.

(8.) Raka Ray, Fields of Protest: Women's Movements in India (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1999), 58.

(9.) See, for instance, Susie Tharu and Tejaswini Niranjana, "Problems for a Contemporary Theory of Gender," Social Scientist 22, nos. 3-4 (1994); and Kalyani Menon-Sen, "The Problem," from "Towards Equality: A Symposium on Women, Feminism and Women's Movements," Seminar (September 2001), available online at the%20problem.htm.

(10.) Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, Hila Shamir, and Thomas Chantal, "From the International to the Local in Feminist Legal Responses to Rape, Prostitution/Sex Work, and Sex Trafficking: Four Studies in Contemporary Governance Feminism," Harvard Journal of Law and Gender 29, no. 2 (2006): 335-423

(11.) Nivedita Menon, Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004).

(12.) On NGOization and its impact on women's movement within and beyond the context of India, see these important ethnographies: Sangtin Writers and Richa Nagar, eds., Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism through Seven Lives in India (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006); Aradhana Sharma, Logics of Empowerment: Development, Gender, and Governance in Neoliberal India (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 2008); Shubhra Sharma, "Neoliberalization" as Betrayal: State, Feminism, and a Women's Education Program in India (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Lamia Karim, Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011); Elora Halim Chowdhury, Transnationalism Reversed: Women Organising Against Gendered Violence in Bangladesh (Albany: University of New York Press, 2011); and Sumi Madhok Rethinking Agency: Developmentalism, Gender and Rights (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2013). For a recent representative volume on this topic which includes some of these writers, see Victoria Bernal and Inderpal Grewal, eds., Theorizing NGOS: States, Feminisms, and Neoliberalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014).

(13.) Mary John, "Women's Studies: Legacies and Futures," in Between Tradition, Counter Tradition and Heresy: Contributions in Honour of Vina Mazumdar, ed. Lotika Sarkar, Kumud Sharma, and Leela Kasturi (Noida Area, India: Rainbow, 2002); Menon, Recovering Subversion; Sunder Rajan, The Scandal of the State.

(14.) Catherine Eschle and Bice Maiguashca, "Feminism in/against Globalised Neoliberalism: Rethinking Feminism, the Left and Transformative Politics," presentation for 2nd European Conference on Politics and Gender, Central European University, Budapest, January 13-15, 2011; Nancy Fraser, "Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History," New Left Review 56 (March-April 2009).

(15.) Jonathan Dean, Rethinking Contemporary Feminist Politics (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), 25.

(16.) Bernal and Grewal, Theorizing NGOS, 303.

(17.) Ibid., 306.

(18.) Sumi Madholc, "Rights Talk and the Feminist Movement in India," in Women's Movements in Asia: Feminisms and Transnational Activism, ed. Mina Roces and Louise Edwards, (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2010).

(19.) Barbara Cruikshank, "Revolutions Within: Self-Government and Self-Esteem," in Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-liberalism and Rationalities of Government, Andrew Barry Thomas Osborne, and Nikolas Rose, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

(20.) Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "The New Subaltern: A Silent Interview," in Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial, ed. Vinayak Chaturvedi (New York: Verso, 2000); see, for instance, Katharine Rankin, "Governing Development: Neoliberalism, Microcredit, and Rational Economic Woman," Economy and Society 30, no. 1 (2001): 18-37.

(21.) Sumi Madhok and Shirin Rai, "Agency, Injury and Transgressive Politics in Neoliberal Times," Signs 37, no. 3 (2012): 645-69- See, however, Madhok, Rethinking Agency.

(22.) Madhok and Rai, "Agency, Injury and Transgressive Politics," 654.

(23.) Malathi de Alwis, "Interrogating the 'Political': Feminist Peace Activism in Sri Lanka," Feminist Review 91 (2009): 81-93; Menon, Recovering Subversion.

(24.) Kalpana Ram, "A New Consciousness Must Come': Affectivity and Movement in Tamil Dalit Women's Activist Engagement with Cosmopolitan Modernity," in Anthropology and Cosmopolitanism: Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives, ed. Pnina Werbner (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2008).

(25.) Ibid., 149.

(26.) Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

(27.) Michel Foucault, "The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom," in The Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984: Volume 1, Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: New Press, 1997), 291.

(28.) Naisargi Dave, Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 8.

(29.) Ray, Fields of Protest.

(30.) Sonia Alvarez, "Advocating Feminism: Latin American Feminist NGO 'Boom,'" Schomburg-Moreno lecture, Mount Holyoke College, March 2, 1998,; Donna Murdock, "That Stubborn 'Doing Good?' Question: Ethical/Epistemological Concerns in the Study of NGOS," Ethnos 68, no. 4 (2003): 507-32.

(31.) On the history of Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Mancha, see Maitreyi Chatterjee, "The Feminist Movement in West Bengal: From the 1980s to 1990s," in Faces of the Feminine in Ancient, Medieval and Modern India, ed. Mandrakanta Bose (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); and Soma Marik and Mira Roy, The Left Front Regime: Our Experiences (Vadodara, India: Documentation and Study Centre for Action, 2006). For a gendered history of the Naxalbari revolt, see Srila Roy, Remembering Revolution: Gender, Violence and Subjectivity in India's Naxalbari Movement (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012).

(32.) See Srila Roy, "Politics, Passion and Professionalisation in Contemporary Indian Feminism," Sociology 45, no. 4 (2011): 587-602.

(33.) Aniruddha Dutta, "Claiming Citizenship, Contesting Civility: The Institutional LGBT Movement and the Regulation of Gender/ Sexual Dissidence in

West Bengal, India," Jindal Global Law Review 4, no. 1 (August 2012): 110-41; Prabha Kotiswaran, Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor: Sex Work and the Law in India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

(34.) Femida Handy, Meenaz Kassam, Suzanne Feeney, and Bhagyashree Ranade, eds., Grassroots ngos by Women for Women: The Driving Force of Development in India (New Delhi: Sage, 2006).

(35.) Sangeeta Kamat, "NGOS and the New Democracy: The False Saviors of International Development," Harvard International Review 25, no. 1 (2003).

(36.) On the development of lesbian politics in India, see A. R. Basu, "Lesbianism in Kolkata," Sappho for Equality Research Papers, series no. 1 (Kolkata: Sappho, 2006); Asha Achuthan, Ranjita Biswas, and Anup Kumar Dhar, Lesbian Standpoint (Kolkata: Sanhati, 2007); Paola Bacchetta, "Rescaling Transnational 'Queerdom': 1980s Lesbian and 'Lesbian' Identitary-Positionalities in Delhi," Antipode 34, no. 5 (2002), 947-73; and Dave, Queer Activism in India.

(37.) Chayanika Shah, "The Roads That E/merged: Feminist Activism and Queer Understanding," in Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India, ed. Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan (New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2005). See also Nivedita Menon, introduction to Sexualities, ed. Nivedita Menon (New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2007), xiii-lx. See also Nivedita Menon, "Outing Heteronormativity: Nation, Citizen, Feminist Disruptions," in Sexualities.

(38.) See Dutta, "Claiming Citizenship, Contesting Civility"; see also Aniruddha Dutta, "An Epistemology of Collusion: Hijras, Kothis and the Historical (Dis)continuity of Gender/Sexual Identities in Eastern India," Gender and History 24, no. 3 (2012): 825-49.

(39.) See Lisa Adkins, "Passing on Feminism: From Consciousness to Reflexivity?' European Journal of Women's Studies 11, no. 4 (2004): 427-44.

(40.) See Roy, "Politics, Passion and Professionalisation.'

(41.) Narrain and Bhan, introduction to Because I Have a Voice; Menon, "Outing Heteronormativity."

(42.) See Alok Gupta, "Englishpur ki Kothi: Class Dynamics in the Queer Movement in India," in Because I Have a Voice.

(43.) Akshay Khanna, "Beyond 'Sexuality' (?)" in Because I Have a Voice, 101.

(44.) Naisargi Dave, "To Render Real the Imagined: An Ethnographic History of Lesbian Community in India," Signs 35, no. 3 (Spring 2010): 595-619.

(45.) Khanna, "Beyond 'Sexuality' (?)", 100; Narrain and Bhan, Because I Have a Voice, 4.

(46.) Menon, "Outing Heteronormativity," 22.

(47.) See Dave, Queer Activism in India.

(48.) Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), quoted in Amy Allen, The Politics of Our Selves: Power, Autonomy, and Gender in Contemporary Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press 2008), 59

(49.) Allen, The Politics of Our Selves, 60.

(50.) Reena Patel, "Working the Night Shift: Gender and the Global Economy," ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 5, no. 1 (2006): 9-27.

(51.) See Smitha Radhakrishnan, Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

(52.) Radhakrishnan, Appropriately Indian-, Sharma, Logics of Empowerment; Kim Berry, "Developing Women: The Traffic in Ideas about Women and Their Needs in Kangra, India," in Regional Modernities: The Cultural Politics of Development in India, ed. K. Sivaramakrishnan and Arun Agrawal (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003).

(53.) Ram, "A New Consciousness Must Come," 151.

(54.) Ibid., 152.

(55.) Michael Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure, trans. R. Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 6.

(56.) Nick Crossley, "From Reproduction to Transformation: Social Movement Fields and the Radical Habitus," Theory, Culture and Society 20, no. 6 (2003): 61.

(57.) Margaret A. McLaren, "Foucault and Feminism: Power, Resistance, Freedom," Feminism and the Final Foucault, ed. Dianna Taylor and Karen Vintges (University of Illinois Press, 2004), 224.

(58.) J. K. Gibson-Graham, A Postcapitalist Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2006), 6.

(59.) Ibid., xxv, (emphasis in original).

(60.) McLaren, "Foucault and Feminism," 224.

(61.) Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Righting Wrongs," The South Atlantic Quarterly 103, nos. 2/3 (2004): 523-81.

(62.) Mary E. John, "Reframing Globalisation: Perspectives from the Women's Movement," Economic and Political Weekly 44, no. 10 (2009): 47-48.

(63.) Ram, "A New Consciousness Must Come."
COPYRIGHT 2014 Feminist Studies, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Roy, Srila
Publication:Feminist Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Sep 22, 2014
Previous Article:Piecing Together a World in Which We Can Dwell Again: The Art of Imelda Cajipe Endaya.
Next Article:Moonrise.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters