Histories of Transformation

Panel at the SANR Meeting 2021 chaired by Atreyee Sen.


27 May, 11:00-12:30

Shalini Attri, BPS Women’s University, Khanpur Kalan, Sonipat
Women Narratives and History: The Question of Nation and Anti-colonial Resistance

The geographical connectedness of the Asian subcontinent is a metaphor for identity and cultural nuances. South Asia, as a term describes the subcontinent that is indebted to emergence of three aspects- legacy of colonial rule, the growth of area studies and representation of South Asian intelligentsia. There has been investigation of colonial forms of knowledge and later on exploration of postcolonial knowledge exemplified the indigenous perspectives that brought to surface the alternate and new versions of history and therefore of representation. Literature became a universal and interdisciplinary category that delved into the essentialist readings of nationalism, identity, ethnicity, social constructs etc. The anti-colonial view looked back into the past thus articulating and challenging the representational process. Infact memory and orality plays an elusive role by digging into the past, following the archaeological method i.e. moving from present to past. The South Asian picture and multi-layered perspectives narrates through literary writings/folklores/orality/history. The present paper is based on the selected Indian women warriors/ nationalists Kittur Chennamma, Rani Velu Nachiyar, Rani Abbakka, Bibi Sahib Kaur and Lakshmibai. Are these women the mediating structures that extended the female space, national regeneration, reconstructed female intelligentsia and developed resistance towards colonialism? Or they are merely image constructs. How can these women act as identity indicators/pointers and macro-categories redefining and reinventing the question of nation, nationalism and a new normative model that may cause a paradigm shift in Indian feminist scholarly debates?

Nabhojeet Sen, Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, Rheinische Fredrich Universität, Bonn
Punishment, Labour and Society: Western India, 1720s-1800s

The paper looks at the various ways in which the entanglements of labour and punishment led to forms of dependencies and effected mobility of various sections of population in Western India during the eighteenth century. A lack of any systematic study of punishment and labour in early modern India has led to governance, authority and state in pre-colonial India seen as being comprised of harmonious and benevolent regimes with flexible modes of authority, relying more on persuasion and collaboration rather than coercion. instead, as I try to show, coercion and bondage were a fundamental feature of the Maratha state in Western India, seen in forms of enforced labour such as Raabta Mahar, Veth Begar and slavery. Here power had gradually shifted to the Peshwas, Brahmin ministers, who consolidated power gradually through novel judicial institutions such as Panchayat, chief justice or Nyaydheesh, Diwan and the Fadnis. These shifts signaled attempts at streamlining the judiciary and the judicial process, at least in bigger regions such as Pune. Punishment during this century was used on a wide variety of state and non-state actors including the peasants, labourers, village servants, slaves etc. Punitive measures such as imprisonment, convict labour, mutilation, enslavement, fines, corporal punishment, amongst others, was used to create dependency among servants, inscribe authority, tried to immobilize and prevent “poaching” of labourers, especially those in military, police caste. This was in a context where the Maratha state was engaged in almost perpetual warfare with neighboring kingdoms such as Hyderabad, Mysore as well as British and Portuguese and required constant cultivation of lands and revenue source. Through such a study of entanglements of punishment and labour, the paper seeks to bring further layer of complexity to debates of continuity/change and growth/stagnation in eighteenth century India.

Pradeep K. Choudhury, Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, JNU, New Delhi
Who Gets Access to Higher Education in India? Rethinking the Role of Household’s Capacity to Pay

Similar to the global trends, the higher education sector in India has seen a massive expansion during the seven decades following independence and particularly in recent decades from the early 1990s.While the expansion of higher education sector has helped the country to reach a stage of massification (which is to be celebrated), it is equally important to analyse and identify the winners and losers in the process of expansion. Inequalities in education and inequalities in higher education, in particular, are seen as too serious to ignore any more. The available studies on inequality to access higher education in India have largely examined the issue from gender and social category of the students; too little is done by examining income as a determining factor. In this context, this paper has been an attempt to unravel some specific inter-related dimensions of inequality in participation in higher education by the economic status of the households. Using NSSO surveys, conducted in 2007-08 and 2013-14, an attempt is made here to examine the income inequality and access to higher education in India. The analysis shows that inequality in access to higher education has increased substantially by the household’s economic status in the last seven years. Though the overall gender inequality has come down significantly, this is very high between the rich and the poor. The inequality in access to HE also varies considerably between rural and urban regions. The logit results lead us to conclude that rich income groups have a higher probability of attending higher education institutions than others. The difference in the probability of participation between men and women narrows down as one move from poorest to richest quintiles. Recent debates on higher education in India have raised a variety of interesting policy related issues and through this empirical study, the author has highlighted a few of them, particularly the interaction between income inequality and access to higher education, with the aim to facilitate a more informed policy discourse on this.