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FEMINISM AND CULTURAL STUDIES IN ASIA

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Tejaswini Niranjana (1958-) is an Indian professor , cultural theorist , and translator. Her areas of interest include cultural studies and gender studies. She has extensively written on cultural theories that included the oft neglected music as well. In "Musicophilia and Mumbai", she talks about how Mumbai became a hub of Hindustani music. Currently, she is a professor at Cente for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore. The author tries to map the presence of feminism and cultural studies in Asia in this essay. Her primary argument is that feminism is comparably selectively used in India. Instead of this, the terms like Women’s Question or Women’s Movement have been extensively used here. Tejaswini Niranjana begins the article treating feminism as an intellectual – political project. In the 1970s, two interruptions took place in the British cultural studies. These rather broke into cultural studies as per the words of Stuart Hall. According to him, feminism restructured cultural studies. As a result, new questions emerged which were thought to have been finished with cultural studies.
Tejaswini talks about how the scenario seems to be different from that of the British. The Third World has to confront the question of “culture” here. This is pretty much in opposition to the modernity apparently. Then again, culture in modernity seems to be outside modernity too. The difference is, in the west the opposition is between women and culture whereas in countries like India, the women are part of everything related to culture.
In the non-West, feminism and nationalism share a close relationship. Tejaswini Niranjana quotes Kumari Jayawardene here in order to support her suggestion. The so called nationalism in the non-West is inclusive of culture as well. The implicit accusation is that, feminism is comparatively modern, hence it will be against the culture. In the Indian context, women are treated to be emblematic: women and tradition, women and national culture and so on. The distinctions of gender came into being as the new patriarchies started appearing.
Tejaswini then talks about the panel discussions she attended on feminisms. In December 2000 in Fukuoka, the discussions centred around the status of women in Communist China where gender division was getting narrow. The cases in Bangladesh and Taiwan were discussed too. The significant idea of the discussion was the relation of women to the state.
The Feminisms in Asia Conference conducted in Bangalore in October 2001 saw discussions on women’s engagement with civil war, feminism and religious identities, cultural minorities, queer citizenship, and women and the law. In another workshop conducted in Bangalore in December 2001, they tried to assess the political and theoretical grounds on which they stood.
There happened the critique of globalisation, challenges to hegemonic nationalist formations and so on.
The meeting in Seoul brought some pressing issues into the mainstream. One among them was, different people confront different issues in different regions of Asia. Along with this, new subjectivities came up. as seen in the sex workers’ movement in South Korea.
Bringing the feminist issues into an inter-Asia cultural studies frame has:
1. Foregrounded the culture question women in Asia undertake.
2. Opened up the issue of colonial modernity / Asian modernities.
3. Initiated Investigation into the problems of translation in relation to the formation of the vocabularies of social criticism.
4. Urged to rethink the political: Are there investments in the political?
Does resignifying of politics mean a decline of interest in the political?
Since the feminists do participate in the debates around the globe regarding culture and related ideas, it is no wonder that feminism has entered the cultural studies.
Tejaswini Niranjana then talks about the Indian scenario of feminism. She deals with it especially in relation to the cultural studies courses. Because of the emergence of Women’s Studies in India, many interdisciplinary courses started appearing in abundance which changed the cultural studies discipline totally. Towards the next part of the essay, we see the author listing out some of the best academicians and thinkers of the Indian feminist movement. Moving on to her experiences in classrooms as a faculty of cultural/feminist studies, she tells that though teaching this was an exciting thing, it was not the same always. The author has experiences where the students at first felt discomfort while confronting the stark reality of what cultural studies in fact meant. There were female students who obviously benefited from feminism but unfortunately didn’t want to carry it further.
There were students who would say that they had done “too much feminism” , which simply translates to that they have attended too many workshops and seminars so that they have grasped the feminist ideological vocabulary.
What vexes the author is the lack of a complex, multi-layered multilinguistic history of contemporary feminism. Tejaswini Niranjana concludes the essay on a positive note that calls for attention to newer challenges. One such area that attracts the author is Pornography. She asks how are women implicated in the work of censorship. She advocates the need for expanding the focus towards cultural studies and film studies with the objective of finding the answer to feminist research questions.


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Keywords:feminism, cultural, studies, tejaswini, niranjana, indian, professor, theorist, translator, interest, include, gender, extensively, written, theories, included,
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