Feminist Theory and the Aesthetics Within
A Perspective from South Asia
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This book re-examines feminist theory by looking at South Asian aesthetic conventions drawn from iconography, philosophy, Indo-Islamic mystic folk traditions and poetics. It discusses alternate fluid representations of gender and intersectional identities and interrelationships in some dominant as well as non-elite Indic aesthetic traditions. The book explores pre-Vedic sculptural and Indus terracotta iconographies; the classical aesthetic philosophy of rasa; mystic folk poetry of Bhakti and Sufi movements, and ghazal and Urdu poetics, to understand the political dimension of feminist theory in India as well as its implications for trans-continental feminist aesthetics across South Asia and the west. By interlinking pre-historic, classical, medieval, pre-modern and contemporary aesthetic and literary traditions of South Asia through a gendered perspective, the book bridges a major gap in feminist theory.
An interdisciplinary work, this book will be useful for scholars and researchers of feminist theory, women’s studies, gender studies, art and aesthetics, philosophy, literature, cultural studies, queer studies, sexuality studies, political studies, sociology and South Asian studies.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Feminist Theory and the Aesthetic Re-Turn
Chapter 2: Sculpting Gender and Sexuality by the Indus
Chapter 3: Rasa: In Dialogue with Feminist Aesthetics
Chapter 4: The Errant Feminine of Bhakti and Sufi Aesthetics
Chapter 5: “Speaking with Women”: The Promise of the Pre-Modern Urdu Ghazal
Chapter 6: Traveling with the Ghazal: A Transnational Feminist Aesthetic
Chapter 7: Turning Back Towards the Future: Feminist Conversations with South Asian Art
Anu Aneja serves as Area Advisor, ‘Gender and Education’ for the digital edition of Oxford Bibliographies. She has taught in the School of Gender and Development Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University, where she served as Director, and worked at Ohio Wesleyan University where she was the recipient of the Rebecca Brown Professor of Literature award. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Penn State University and a Bachelor’s in French from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her current research interests are in the areas of transnational feminist theory and aesthetics, in particular their inventive crossings across South Asia and the west. Other areas of interest include contemporary French, francophone and Indian literatures, feminist perspectives on mothering, and feminist pedagogy. She is the co-author (with Shubhangi Vaidya) of Embodying Motherhood: Perspectives from Contemporary India (2016). Her edited collections include a comprehensive anthology, Women’s and Gender Studies in India: Crossings (2019) that maps the contemporary contours of the field, and an edited volume on Gender & Distance Education: Indian and International Contexts (2019). She has also published a Hindustani translation of Hélène Cixous’ French play L’Indiade our l’Inde de leurs rêves. Her research articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and edited anthologies.
‘This is an intellectually stimulating and theoretically sophisticated book generating new directions in feminist analysis and in the field of Women and Gender Studies. It is an amalgamation of aesthetic theory with more recent transdisciplinary approaches from Women and Gender Studies to explore and reimagine feminist aesthetics and gender binaries through diverse art forms including clay sculpture from the Indus valley, rasa theory, and the ‘rekhta’ ghazal. Theoretically rich and complex, the book promises to be an important document in the way it connects diverse and seemingly disparate fields. Its marshalling of arguments shows a vast range of reading, a sure grasp of diverse disciplines and the ability and articulation to bring it all together to develop a coherent and convincing narrative.’
Meenakshi Malhotra, Associate Professor of English, Hansraj College, University of Delhi; Editorial Board Member, Borderless; Member of Department Research Committee of School of Gender and Development Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University; and Member of Board of Studies for English, SRM University, Sonepat, India