Reclaiming Secularism? Reading Women and Religion in Contemporary Hindu India

The CUNY Graduate Center
Postcolonial Studies Group Colloquium Series 2010-2011

Rajeswari Sunder Rajan

New York University

Reclaiming Secularism?

Reading Women and Religion in Contemporary Hindu India

Postcolonial feminist thinking on the subject of women and religion has until recently tended solely to draw attention to and deplore the ways in which traditional religious doctrines and patriarchal religious communities have regulated or oppressed women. This has especially been the case in India where the dominant feminist position has been characterized as broadly left-liberal, and where religion is concerned secular-reformist in orientation. A more radical emphasis has however begun to emerge in the thinking on this issue especially in feminist scholarship in the disciplinary fields of religion and anthropology, with a pronounced emphasis on women’s agency as religious subjects. This agency, although never denied, has now begun to demand new explanatory frames. My paper will examine the implications of Hindu (specifically, Brahmin) women’s subjectivity within the problematic of caste. I shall address the representation of the Brahmin widow in two modern Indian literary texts, and highlight the questions they raise for the politics of caste as well as female agency.

September 24th at 2 p.m.
CUNY Graduate Center, Room 5409

All are welcome.

Rajeswari Sunder Rajan is Global Distinguished Professor at New York University, in the Department of English. She has taught at the University of Oxford and in Delhi. Her publications include Real and Imagined Women: Gender, Culture and Postcolonialism (Routledge, 1993) and Scandal of the State: Women, Law and Citizenship in Postcolonial India (Duke University Press, 2003). Her co-authored essay, ‘Shahbano’, which first appeared in Signs (1989), has been widely anthologized. Her most recent work is The Crisis of Secularism in India, jointly edited with Anuradha Needham (Duke University Press, 2006). She is currently completing a book on the Indian novel in English after Midnight’s Children.

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