South Asian Women in the Diaspora

South Asian Women in the Diaspora

South Asian Women in the Diaspora

South Asian Women in the Diaspora


South Asian women have frequently been conceptualized in colonial, academic and postcolonial studies, but their very categorization is deeply problematic. This book, informed by theory and enriched by in-depth fieldwork, overturns these unhelpful categorizations and alongside broader issues of self and nation assesses how South Asian identities are 'performed'. What are the blind spots and erasures in existing studies of both race and gender? In what ways do South Asian women struggle with Orientalist constructions? How do South Asian women engage with 'indo-chic?' What dilemmas face the South Asian female scholar?With a combination of the most recent feminist perspectives on gender and the South Asian diaspora, questions of knowledge, power, space, body, aesthetics and politics are made central to this book. Building upon a range of experiences and reflecting on the actual conditions of the production of knowledge, South Asian Women in the Disapora represents a challenging contribution to any consideration of gender, race, culture and power.


Spaces of agency exist for black people, wherein we can both interrogate the gaze of the Other but also look back, and at one another, naming what we see (hooks 1991: 199).

This collection looks back at the ways in which the figure of the South Asian woman has been seen and seeks new ways of looking ‘at one another’ without having to resort to the simplicity of good and bad images. It names the complexity of what it sees from a space that is alert to the objectifying tendencies of so much knowledge on the Other, while recognizing that it is neither pure nor totally separated from its viewing position. We begin in this introduction by situating the chapters that make up this volume, within histories of academic knowledge.

The Arrival of Difference within Academia

Two types of change in relation to the teaching of and research into ‘race’ and ethnicity are fairly evident from a quick overview of the academy today in comparison to that of twenty years ago. First, bodies of thought have been widened and new perspectives and terminologies have challenged essentialist and pathologizing thinking. Most institutions have at the very least introduced optional modules on ‘race’ and ethnicity, and a few have even placed this field of study within the compulsory aspects of their curriculum. Research agendas have also been stretched to accommodate questions of ‘race’ and ethnicity. While it is still no doubt de rigeur for these issues to be ignored in the conduct of day-to-day scholarship, nevertheless funding is now available for scholars who do . . .

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