ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Risking Feminism?

Voices from the Classroom

This paper is a classroom ethnography that engages with urban, middle-class narratives on feminism by young women. For them, their feminism is often precarious because it places possible heterosexual romance at risk by marking them as apparently anti-men. Further, it tends to place them in antagonistic relationships with their families, compelling them to engage in various strategies of negotiation, subversion and rebellion. This paper examines their understanding of both possible heterosexual relationships and the complex negotiations with families. Reflecting on these narratives, it argues that young women feminists today are taking risks, asking difficult questions, critically evaluating their own location and subject positions in their engagement with a feminist politics and practice.

My earliest ideas on this subject were presented at the Gender and Curriculum Development National Workshop on Critical Pedagogies in Education at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in 2004 and later at the Precariously Yours: Gender, Class, and Urbanity in Contemporary Shanghai workshop in Shanghai. I am grateful for comments and encouragement from Mary John, Tejaswini Niranjana and Asha Achuthan during the fi rst workshop and Sheba Chhachhi, Melissa Butcher and Christiane Brosius during the second. Niranjana also commented on an earlier much less coherent version of this paper to its advantage. Devika Narayan was a research assistant on this project for three months and conducted some of the in-depth interviews. This paper is also in the nature of a grateful tribute to all my own feminist teachers, especially Jean D’Cunha and Maithreyi Krishnaraj, whose presence was central to my early excitement with feminist ideas and politics, and to my students, only a few of whom I have been able to mention in this paper.

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