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Speaking of the Self: Gender, Performance, and Autobiography in South Asia
Published by Duke University Press
The contributors to Speaking of the Self interrogate the varied ways in which a diverse group of mostly female writers from South Asia-from a seventeenth-century Mughal princess to twentieth century Pakistani novelists-construct and articulate their subjectivity through their autobiographical memoirs, poetry, novels, and diaries.
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
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
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.
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