Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance, and Autobiography in South Asia

Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance, and Autobiography in South Asia

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Many consider the autobiography to be a Western genre that represents the self as fully autonomous. The contributors to Speaking of the Self challenge this presumption by examining a wide range of women's autobiographical writing from South Asia. Expanding the definition of what kinds of writing can be considered autobiographical, the contributors analyze everything from poetry, songs, mystical experiences, and diaries to prose, fiction, architecture, and religious treatises. The authors they study are just as diverse: a Mughal princess, an eighteenth-century courtesan from Hyderabad, a nineteenth-century Muslim prostitute in Punjab, a housewife in colonial Bengal, a Muslim Gandhian devotee of Krishna, several female Indian and Pakistani novelists, and two male actors who worked as female impersonators. The contributors find that in these autobiographies the authors construct their gendered selves in relational terms. Throughout, they show how autobiographical writing—in whatever form it takes—provides the means toward more fully understanding the historical, social, and cultural milieu in which the author performs herself and creates her subjectivity.

Contributors: Asiya Alam, Afshan Bokhari, Uma Chakravarti, Kathryn Hansen, Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, Anshu Malhotra, Ritu Menon, Shubhra Ray, Shweta Sachdeva Jha, Sylvia Vatuk

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822374978
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 10/23/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 328
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Anshu Malhotra is Associate Professor of History at the University of Delhi and the author of Gender, Caste, and Religious Identities: Restructuring Class in Colonial Punjab.

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley is Reader in International History at the University of Sheffield and author of Muslim Women, Reform and Princely Patronage: Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam of Bhopal.  

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction. Gender, Performance, and Autobiography in South Asia / Anshu Malhotra and Siobhan Lambert-Hurley  1

Part I. Negotiating Autobiography: Between Assertion and Subversion

1. A Passion for Reading: The Role of Early Twentieth-Century Urdu Novels in the Construction of an Individual Female Identity in 1930s Hyderabad / Sylvia Vatuk  33

2. Pentimento: The Self beneath the Surface / Ritu Menon  56

3. Interrupted Stories: The Self-Narratives of Nazr Sajjad Hyder / Asiya Alam  72

4. Kailashabashini Debi's Janaika Grihabadhur Diary: A Women "Constructing" Her "Self" in Nineteenth-Century Bengal? / Shudhra Ray  95

Part II. Forms and Modes of Self-Fashioning

5. Betrayal, Anger, and Loss: Women Write the Partition in Pakistan / Uma Chakravarti  121

6. Tawa'if as Poet and Patron: Rethinking Women's Self-Representation / Shweta Sachdeva Jha  141

7. Masculine Modes of Female Subjectivity: The Case of Jahanara Begam / Afshan Bokhari  165

Part III. Destabilizing the Normative: The Heterogeneous Self

8. Performing a Persona: Reading Piro's Kafis / Anshu Malhotra  205

9. The Heart of a Gopi: Raihana Tyabji's Bhakti Devotionalism as Self-Representation / Siobhan Lambert-Hurley  230

10. Performing Gender and Faith in Indian Theater Autobiographies / Kathryn Hansen  255

Select Bibliography  281

Contributors  301

Index  305

What People are Saying About This

The Indian Princes and their States - Barbara Ramusack

"With sophisticated, crisply written, and well-documented essays, Speaking of the Self makes a distinctive and significant contribution to several fields, including comparative autobiography, women's studies, and South Asian history. A tour de force, the editors' introduction is a major statement on autobiographical writing, and the essays, like the introduction, are accessible to a wide audience. Speaking of the Self broadens the genres of what should be considered under the broad umbrella of autobiography with cogent analysis."

Classes of Ladies of Cloistered Spaces - Marilyn Booth

"In analyzing material from South Asia, across contexts and time periods, Speaking of the Self is a novel contribution to the flourishing field of autobiography studies. The contributors present material little known to Anglophone audiences that will stimulate thinking by specialists who have heretofore been mostly focused on 'Western' texts and contexts."

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