En-Gendering India

Woman and Nation in Colonial and Postcolonial Narratives

En-Gendering India

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: Published: June 2000

Author: Sangeeta Ray

Asian Studies > South Asia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

En-Gendering India offers an innovative interpretation of the role that gender played in defining the Indian state during both the colonial and postcolonial eras. Focusing on both British and Indian literary texts—primarily novels—produced between 1857 and 1947, Sangeeta Ray examines representations of "native" Indian women and shows how these representations were deployed to advance notions of Indian self-rule as well as to defend British imperialism.
Through her readings of works by writers including Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Rabindranath Tagore, Harriet Martineau, Flora Annie Steel, Anita Desai, and Bapsi Sidhaa, Ray demonstrates that Indian women were presented as upper class and Hindu, an idealization that paradoxically served the needs of both colonial and nationalist discourses. The Indian nation’s goal of self-rule was expected to enable women’s full participation in private and public life. On the other hand, British colonial officials rendered themselves the protectors of passive Indian women against their “savage” male countrymen. Ray shows how the native woman thus became a symbol for both an incipient Indian nation and a fading British Empire. In addition, she reveals how the figure of the upper-class Hindu woman created divisions with the nationalist movement itself by underscoring caste, communal, and religious differences within the newly emerging state. As such, Ray’s study has important implications for discussions about nationalism, particularly those that address the concepts of identity and nationalism.
Building on recent scholarship in feminism and postcolonial studies, En-Gendering India will be of interest to scholars in those fields as well as to specialists in nationalism and nation-building and in Victorian, colonial, and postcolonial literature and culture.


En-gendering India is a useful contribution to the discussions of gender and nationalism in the Indian context.” — Yumna Siddiqi , Symploke

"[A] fine, nuanced intervention into what has become an established body of scholarship on woman and nation. . . . [A] lucidly written and cogently argued analysis of the figure of the 'native' Indian woman as she struggles for an identity so indelibly-and so curiously-linked to the making of a nation from amid the growing debris of imperialism at the turn of the nineteenth century in India."

— Brinda Bose , interventions

"[B]oth timely and important. . . . [W]ill be useful to students in the field, and the book as a whole will be of interest to scholars engaging the ongoing debates on nation and narration."

— Ania Loomba , MLQ

"En-Gendering India is a timely and theoretically rigorous contribution to scholarship on gender and nationalism. . . . As the first monograph to examine literature exclusively in terms of gender and nation in India, it's an ambitious and densely written text which manages to weave historical, literary and feminist studies together in an insightful and profound way." — Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Politics and Culture

"This book will be widely read. . . . [E]xcellent." — Frank F. Conlon , Journal of Asian and African Studies

"Turning . . . to Sangeeta Ray’s En-Gendering India I felt myself slowly rejuvenated. . . . [R]ewarding. . . ."

— Laura Moss , Canadian Literature

En-Gendering India is a lucid and intelligent study of the play of gender and sexuality in Indian nationalism. Sangeeta Ray cautions against the perception that Hindu nationalism is no longer relevant in an era of globalization and migration, arguing that it has simply entered a more expansive phase. This is an important and timely book.” — Jennifer Sharpe, University of California, Los Angeles

"A significant contribution to postcolonial and feminist studies. Ray’s scholarship is rigorous and persuasive, combining theoretical depth and erudition with original and nuanced textual analysis and interpretation." — Rajagopolan Radhakrishnan, University of Massachusetts


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sangeeta Ray, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Asian American Certificate Program at the University of Maryland, is coeditor of Blackwell Companion to Postcolonial Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top


1. Gender and Nation: Woman Warriors in Chatterjee’s Devi Chaudhurani and Anandamath

2. Woman as “Suttee”: The Construction of India in Three Victorian Narratives

3. Woman as Nation and a Nation of Women: Tagore’s The Home and the World and Hosain’s Sultana’s Dream

4. New Woman, New Nations: Writing the Partition in Desai’s Clear Light of Day and Sidhwa’s Cracking India



Works Cited

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2490-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2453-9
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