Skip to main content

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team 

The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps.
Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists.
Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works.

Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’

After the opening remarks, Dr Gita Chadha spoke in context of book referring to theme that any work in feminism is attributed to retrieve voices of women who are being marginalized and their works in sociology was not made visible and appreciated. She talked about the issue of women participation in sociology referring that many female students are being seen at the undergrad level of sociology but not in higher levels and the other issue that works on feminism are being associated as less intellectual and more of activism. She emphasized on how ‘Gender’ can be looked upon more conceptually and theoretically not just in works on feminism but in discipline of sociology.

Dr. Joseph M.T., Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’

Giving a brief summary of the Chapters in particular section, Prof Kamla Ganesh gives introduction about the book in the very first chapter and in chapter 2 she highlights the work of Prof Neera Desai : intersecting terrains of sociology, history and women’s studies tied up with egalitarian politics and gender equality followed by summarising a chapter on the work of C. Parvathamma being referred to as the sociology saga and highlighting her work on equality, polarization of castes, reservation and development of vulnerable groups. The next chapter maps the work of Prof Ratna Naidu : Critique of Parsonian action Theory, Ethnicity, secularism, communalism , contribution to urban studies.

Prof Kamla Ganesh, Former Professor and Head, Department of Sociology, University of Mumbai

She made the remark that the first woman in India entered sociology 50 years later and sociology study is much older than study of feminism. She commented on Prof Gita Chadha and Prof Joseph M.T. that their book engages with feminist sociology theoretically and methodologically using their tools of location and sexuality and it indulges us to think over the plurality in gender, feminism and sociology. She told importance of writing about women who entered sociology in pre-feminist era. Also, she talked about early women in sociology and significance of their works.
She brought up the point that issues faced by vulnerable groups are being focussed by early women in sociology in their works. She told about how the style of writing evolved with time and also focussed on the struggles faced by early women in sociology. She sums by saying that there are certain similarities and differences in works of early women in sociology. She informed that earlier there was no tokenism: all the eight early women sociologists were considered as pure sociologists and it started later when women studies and gender sensitization became established and women movement highlighted the invisibility of women in the public sphere. For later generation sociologists the works of these early women are highly significant.

Feedback by Prof Arvinder Ansari

Prof Arvinder Ansari, Director, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), and, Professor, Department of Sociology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi brought up the point that the works of early women in sociology by whose work they seem us to be feminist is of great significance and these women who do not consider themselves feminists actually seems to be feminists because the patriarchal voices they mentioned in their work.
Their writings are mostly based on their real-life experiences. She told us that all these eight biographies are examples of how women balance their personal and professional lives in these patriarchal society and all these women provide us how to see societal norms from a different perspective and they brought in a new domain of knowledge in sociology.

Intervention by Dr R. Indra (a contributor of chapter 3)

Being a student of Prof C. Parvathamma, Dr R. Indra brought up her memories with her. She emphasised on three things taught to her : (i) not to say ‘I don’t know’ (ii) not to say ‘I can’t do’ and (iii) She got angry when being said ‘I am scared’ . Also, she said that her professor encourages students to go and meet people and discuss with them. Often Prof Parvathamma was criticised because she didn’t encourage polarisation.

Prof. Ratna Naidu, Eminent Sociologist

She told us about her two experiences: came back in India in late 60’s , my mentor asked me why I am working on feminist issues and some years later I received a letter asking to speak on women’s issues, then mentioning that she didn’t do any such research on this topic but accepted and delievered the lecture and second time I was invited to write paper related to this topic . She said that roots of feminism are scared beliefs about women in religion. She is contented by the fact that today’s young women have more freedom and are at good position compared to women during her young age.

Remarks by Dr. Aparna Rayaprol

She emphasized that her generation has been benefitted from sacrifices of earlier women. She agrees that sociology has significantly contributed to works of women issues and casteism.
The last round of discussion on future of feminist sociology included remarks by Prof Kamla Ganesh as she questioned that do women sociologists really need to write alone on feminism. Lot of women sociologists wrote about other topics also but the women’s issues naturally come in between them. Among these eight there were some more famous only in their regions because they wrote in their regional languages and emphasized the importance of spousal support.
Remarks by other Prof participants gave significance to the works of earlier women as they said that “We are standing on the shoulders of giants”. Women face double struggle in every field. Closing remarks were given by Prof Vibhuti Patelas she summarised and talked about the work of earlier women.
The event was concluded with remarks by Dr Gita Chadha and Prof Arvinder Ansari who said that, “We need to bring these women issues and environment sociology in all fields of study and bring the work of these women in academic syllabus. We should promote works on indigenous studies by bringing them into the academic syllabus.”
---
Acknowledgement: Parisha Bhatia, Research intern at IMPRI; Manush Shah, Research intern at IMPRI

Comments

TRENDING

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Wedding of the century': What does Mukesh Ambani want to prove by such extravaganza?

By NS Venkataraman*  Mukesh  Ambani,   a renowned Indian industrialist who is said to be the richest person in India and  one of the richest persons in the world,   has just now conducted the wedding celebration of  his son in Mumbai,   with unheard level of lavishness in India.

'28% rise in sedition cases': Top global NGO alliance rates India's civil space 'repressed'

By Rajiv Shah Rating India's civic space as repressed , Civicus, a global civil society alliance, in its new report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on the state of civic space in the country has said that the use of sedition law against the Modi government’s critics continues. "Under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sedition cases have increased by 28 per cent with over 500 cases against more than 7,000 people", it says.

'Anti-poor stand': Even British wouldn't reduce Railways' sleeper and general coaches

By Anandi Pandey, Sandeep Pandey*  Probably even the British, who introduced railways in India, would not have done what the Bhartiya Janata Party government is doing. The number of Sleeper and General class coaches in various trains are surreptitiously and ominously disappearing accompanied by a simultaneous increase in Air Conditioned coaches. In the characteristic style of BJP government there was no discussion or debate on this move by the Indian Railways either in the Parliament or outside of it. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How embracing diversity enriched my life, brought profound sense of joy

By Mike Ghouse*  If you can shed the bias towards others, you'll love the connections with every human that God or his systems have created. This gives a sense of freedom and brings meaning and joy to life. Embracing and respecting how people dress, eat, and practice their beliefs becomes an enriching experience.

Banned Maoist party protests in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, claims support across globe

By Harsh Thakor*  Despite being a banned and designated as terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act since 2009, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is said to have successfully implemented a one-day bandh across Kolhan division in Jharkhand on July 10th, with repurcussions in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The bandh was called to protest against alleged police brutality in the Kolhan-Saranda region.

Post-poll mob lynching spree, bulldozer justice: NAPM seeks united resistance

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls "the horrific spree of mob lynchings across the country after the Lok Sabha election results", India's premier civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has called for "united resistance" against "hateful communal politics, mob lynching of religious minorities and caste-based oppression".

Hindutva economics? 12% decline in manufacturing enterprises, 22.5% fall in employment

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The messiah of Hindutva politics, Narendra Modi, assumed office as the Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014. He pledged to transform the Indian economy and deliver a developed nation with prosperous citizens. However, despite Modi's continued tenure as the Prime Minister, his ambitious electoral promises seem increasingly elusive.