Community, State and Gender: On Women’s Agency During Partition


Butalia, Urvashi. 1993. “Community, State and Gender: On Women’s Agency During Partition.” Economic and Political Weekly 28 (17): 12–24.

Author: Urvashi Butalia


For feminists, retrieving women's agency-just as retrieving women from history-has meant recovering strong, outspoken, powerful women who can then form part of the struggle for liberation. However, as explorations on the experiences of women during Partition show, it is difficult to arrive at general conclusions about women, history and their agential capacity. Women have often played out multiple and overlapping identities. An understanding of agency also needs to take into account notions of the moral order which is sought to be preserved when women act, as well as the mediation of the family, community, class and religion. The focus of this paper is on the related questions of women's agency and violence. It first looks at particular incidents that took place before Partition in Rawalpindi, in March 1947. The second section examines how the newly formed nation state dealt with the question of women after Partition and the third, through memoirs and personal accounts, the relationships between women who worked on behalf of the state with the state, and the women they worked with.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India, Pakistan

Year: 1993

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