I spent all of last week trying to look for primary sources. It was a bit of a hassle because some of the most important sources aren’t accessible to undergraduate students. However, I was able to look into some other essential ones such as old newspapers, speeches and British parliament papers. The important task now is to discern the important elements from the sources and corroborate it with my other research which has been drawn from secondary literature. It is way harder than I anticipated. I had dealt with primary sources before but it was assigned by the tutor and I knew exactly where and how to use it. Last week wasn’t really productive in terms of progress- at this point, I feel a bit stuck since I have done most of my research and I don’t how to put it all together. With the aid of the essay question I have always managed to structure my essays- but for this one, I am confused about what is relevant and what is not.  

As I see some of the most prominent Indian academics being forced to resign from their positions at Indian universities for criticizing the government, I feel nervous and disillusioned. It makes me wonder what kind of an academic culture will I return to. The reason why I am bringing this up here is to discuss Maitrayee Chaudhuri’s article that highlighted the importance of Indian academia in correcting the narrative of the post-structuralists scholars in the west. Chaudhuri points that in the past few decades, non-western scholars in western institutions have had an amplified voice within the academic discourse. The post-colonial studies departments in western universities have flourished over the past years. However, she discusses “what post-colonial theory fails to recognize is that what counts as ‘marginal’ in relation to the west has often be central to the foundational in the non-west[1]” (p.20) She later on elaborated on this by discussing the complexity of the Indian feminism and the unique set of problems faced by Indian women. Such concepts have often been ignored by Indian academics in the west.  While discussing the relation of women and imperialism they often overlook the nuances of intersectionality based on caste. Her allegation has been that departments of ‘subaltern studies’ situated in the west erased the history of lower-caste women. They only focused on the racial and gender dynamic while blaming everything on the epistemic violence of the west.  As Tanika Sarakar has also mentioned before, one of the shortcomings of the ‘Siadian magic’ has been of overlooking the hegemonic structures that existed in India. While studying about the suffragists, and looking into the primary sources, one of the major things I noticed was the lack of mention of Dalit women. Almost like their voices didn’t exist. Because non-western academics start using the same conceptual framework that is used in west, they ended up writing a western history of the subaltern that was bereft of any analysis on power structures within the colonized societies. While analysing racial relations is important, it is equally important to keep in mind the inequality that persisted within India which had started long before the colonizers entered, and exists till today. This made me realise the importance of having a thriving Academia in India which can produce work on topics like imperialism which post-colonial studies have failed to produce despite having so much more funding and academic freedom. In today’s India it seems like there is not enough freedom to produce work that could challenge Hindu Brahmanical patriarchy which western academia has has also failed to address.  Transnational history of imperialism and feminism is extremely complex and layered- it is important to keep in mind the ills of imperialism while it is equally important to study how the inequalities that existed in India also reflected on an international level.

[1] Chaudhuri, Maitrayee. (2019). Feminism in India: The Tale and its Telling.

Indian Academia and Transnational History of Feminism