History 259: Women in South Asia Spring 2008: Professor Parna Sengupta

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HISTORY 259: Women in South Asia

Spring 2008: Professor Parna Sengupta
email: psengupt@carleton.edu; Office Phone: 646-4207; Office: 203A Leighton

Office Hours: Wednesday, 3-4; Thursday, 2-3:30 and by appointment


  1. Women Writing in India (eds.) Susie Tharu and K. Lalita

  2. Borders and Boundaries by Menon and Bhasin

  3. Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

Articles on Reserve in Library

A number of the readings will be found on e-reserve. Our password is hist. I will expect you to read and bring the readings to class. A few readings are uploaded onto Moodle.

Class Objectives:
This seminar focuses on exploring gender as a category of analysis in the context of South Asia and considers how and why gender enriches our understanding of historical processes. This is not a survey course but I will put on reserve Women in Modern India by Geraldine Forbes, which will help those who have no background in Indian history. In the course, we will use historical and theoretical writing in conjunction with primary sources to consider the complex relationship between gender, race, religion, caste and the study of colonialism and nationalism. The course is concerned, in part, to make women the subjects and not just the objects of history. Although we will adopt a largely chronological orientation, this course also emphasizes thematic issues, particularly the colonial and nationalist periods (the nineteenth and twentieth centuries).
Course Requirements:

Attendance Policy: You are allowed two unexcused absences. After this, your absences will affect your participation grade (after all, how can you participate if you are not present). I will, of course, make allowances for illness or any other kind of emergency
Participation: 25%

This is a combination of a lecture and discussion course, but with an emphasis on discussion. Participation will be based on the following:

Depending on your group number (G1 or G2), you will be responsible for posting on Moodle on that particular day. I will expect you to write one short paragraph using the following guidelines:

Primary source: What is the purpose of the source, how might we use it as a historical document. What does it tell us and what does it not tell us. Consider the context in which it was written etc. You do not need to answer all of these questions; they are simply prompts to help you think about the source + One discussion question

Secondary Source: Explain in your own words the author’s thesis and assess it. Consider her/ his methodology, sources, etc.+ One discussion question.

This will be due by 11 a.m. on the morning of class. These are mandatory but ungraded. You are required to do 8 out of 10 assignments.

Class Participation—this includes speaking and listening. This is a required assignment, and although people have different levels of comfort in speaking in class, it is crucial that you make every effort to do so. If you are uncomfortable speaking in class, please come and speak to me during office hours.
Papers 1-3: 4-6 pages, 25% each—75%
Paper One: You have a choice for this paper:

Primary Source Analysis: One of our major texts is Women Writing in India which is a collection of writings by women. This paper asks you to choose at least two of the writings and write a thesis driven paper using these as your main material. Questions to consider are how these writers address questions of gender and colonialism, reform, religion, caste, nationalism, etc. To help with this assignment, please look at the short document describing how to write a primary source analysis on the history department’s website.
Secondary Source Analysis: This paper asks you to write about at least two secondary source readings from the course. Again, this should be a thesis driven paper in which you integrate the arguments of at least two different authors. Again, topics include gender and colonialism, gender and race, gender and nationalism, etc.
Paper Two: This paper asks you to consider how Borders and Boundaries fits into the history that we have been studying in this class. How do the themes of nationalism, colonialism, religion, culture, help us understand the histories of partition Menon and Bhashin relate in this book.

Paper Three: This paper asks you to analyze the novel The Clear Light of Day. I will give you a separate assignment sheet on this paper.

Paper Policy:

Late Papers: Each day that a paper is late, 2/3 of a full grade are deducted (A-B). I am happy to give extensions but you must ask two days before the assignment is due.

Special Arrangements: Please let me know as soon as possible if you have any disabilities or medical conditions that might affect your learning. We will make the necessary arrangements and accommodations.

* = on e-reserve

Week 1: 3/31-4/4
Monday: Introduction--
Wednesday: Culture as a category of history

Readings'>Readings: Uma Narayan, “Essence of Culture and a Sense of History: A Feminist

Critique of Cultural Essence”* Please write a one-paragraph synopsis of the argument.

Friday: Doing gender history

Reading: Joan Scott, “Gender as a Category of History,” Gender and the Politics of

History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), pp. 28-50.* Please write a one paragraph synopsis of the argument.
Week 2: 4/7-4/11
Monday: The “Great” (Normative) Tradition

Reading: Synopsis of the Ramayana: http://www.bl.uk/learning/cult/inside/corner/ramayana/synopsis.html

Sally Goldman, “The Voice of Sita in Valmiki’s Sundarakanda,MOODLE, G1

Wednesday: Using women’s writing as history: Buddhist and bhakti traditions

Reading: Women Writing in India, pp. 1-17, 65-70 (Therigatha), 90-102 (Mirabai) G2
Friday: The Little Tradition: Sufism and Hinduism

Reading: Tony Stewart, Peerless Pirs and Fearless Females, 3-50.* G1
Week 3: 4/14-4/18
Monday: Understanding early empire through gender

Reading: Durba Ghosh, “Household Crimes and the Colonial Order,” in Modern Asian

Studies 38, 3 (2004)*G2 MOODLE
Wednesday: Colonialism and the Civilizing Mission

Readings: Lata Mani, “Contentious Traditions: The debate on sati”* G1 MOODLE
Friday: Colonialism and Reform

Readings: Women, 145-154 and 190-214 G2
Week 4: 4/21-4/25
Monday: Company to Raj

Readings: Catherine Hall, “Competing Masculinities,” in White, Male and Middle-Class, pp.257-295* G1

Wednesday: Feminism and imperialism

Readings: “The White Woman’s Burden,” by Antoinette Burton*G2
Friday: Film TBA

Reading: Paper #1 Due
Week 5: 4/28-5/2
Monday: Muslim Women and Reform

Readings: Faisal Devji, “Gender and the Politics of. Space: the movement for women's

reform, 1857-1900.” And “Introduction,” Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi’s Bihishti Zewar* G1

Wednesday: The space of Muslim reform

Readings: “Chapter 7,” Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi’s Bihishti Zewar* G2
Friday: Queering History

Readings: Suparna Bhaskaran, “The politics of penetration: section 377 of the Indian penal code,” in Queering India* G1
Week 6: 5/5-5/9
Monday: Mid-term Break
Wednesday: Patriarchy and Dissent

Readings: Women, 190-202, 221-235, 243-255, 340-352 G2
Friday: Orthodox Hinduism and women’s rights

Reading: Tanika Sarkar, “A Prehistory of Rights? The Age of Consent Debates in Colonial Bengal”*G1
Week 7: 5/12-5/16
Monday: Gender and Partition

Reading: Borders and Boundaries, pp. 1-64 G2
Wednesday: Gender, caste and religious identity

Reading: Borders and Boundaries, pp.65-129 G1
Friday: Post-Partition South Asia

Reading: Each group should read their assigned chapter + “Belonging” Do not post for this meeting, come to class ready to present your chapter to the other groups.

“A Community of Widows,” G1

“Picking up the pieces,” G2

Week 8: 5/19-5/23
Monday: Film: Kamla and Raji

Reading: Paper #2 Due;

Wednesday: Feminism and the caste question

Reading: Selection from Anupama Rao, Gender & Caste: Issues in Contemporary Indian Feminism* G1
Friday: Feminist writing in India

Reading: Choose one volume from the Indian feminist journal, Manushi (in the library). Be prepared to talk to the class about the contents of the journal (you don’t have to read every article but have a sense of the major themes, etc.)

Week 9: 5/26-5/30
Monday: The transition to independence

Reading: Clear Light of Day, chaps. 1- half of chap. 2 G2
Wednesday: The post-colonial novel

Reading: Clear Light of Day, half of chap. 2-chap. 3 G1

Friday: The post-colonial novel, begin Bhaji on the Beach

Reading: Clear Light of Day, chaps. 4 to end
Week 10: 6/2-6/4
Monday: Finish Bhaji on the Beach

Reading: Jigna Desai, “Homesickness and Motion Sickness: Embodied Migratory Subjectivities in Gurdiner Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach,”*
Wednesday: Final Class—wrap up
Final Paper Due: Monday, June 9 by NOON in my box in the history department

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