Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History by Meera Kosambi

Scholars without Borders
Meera Kosambi is a prominent Indian sociologist. She has done her PhD in sociology from the University of Stockholm and has authored several books and articles on urban sociology and woman's studies in India. She is the youngest daughter of a prominent Marxist historian and mathematician, D. D. Kosambi, and grand-daughter of Acharya Dharmananda Kosambi, prominent Buddhist Scholar and a Pāli language expert.

In her book "Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History" Kosambi states that 'The notion of the threshold, indicating the restricted periphery of the 'woman's place' in family and society, was firmly embedded in the psyche of nineteenth-century women in western India. Yet some remarkable and articulate women (who are the focus of this book) 'transgressed' patriarchal boundaries--crossing thresholds, literally and metaphorically--to make their mark in the public sphere. These Indian women created the 'first ripple feminism' of the region.

Nineteenth-century men also inbabit the book--social reformers and those who helped these women, as well as conservatives who opposed both the reformers and the progressive women. The central objective of Professor Kosambi's book is to interrogate official social history--which posits strong male reformers and passive women recipients--as well as retrieve and assess women's own pioneering contribution to their proto-feminist efforts.

The Introduction presents a conceptual framework of public/private spheres, attempts to retrieve women's subjectivity through their published narratives, and discusses questions of representation and 'voice'.

The ten essays that follow span a variety of topics--the politics of iconizing individual women, women's complex relationships to their homes and their bodies, women's exposure to education and nationalism, the nature of conjugality and 'consent', ideas of motherhood and widowhood.
Uniting all these themes is the effort to amplify women's voices and reconstruct their experiential worlds.

The book straddles the areas of Gender Studies, History, and Asian Studies while underscoring the resonance of these women's lives with those of other women across South Asia and the West. '

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