Skip to main content

Reimagining sociology: feminist perspectives in memory of Sharmila Rege

By IMPRI Team 

To commemorate the memory of Sharmila Rege, the late distinguished Indian sociologist, author, and feminist scholar, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organised a book discussion on ‘Reimagining Sociology in India: Feminist Perspectives‘. The editors of the book, which focuses on the interconnectedness of sociology and feminism in India, Prof Gita Chadha, and Dr Joseph M. T. are professors for University of Mumbai’s Department of Sociology.
The discussion started with the chair, Prof Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, and Former Professor at TISS, Mumbai, outlining the history of feminist resurgence, leading to an introduction about Sharmila Rege and her contributions to the field, also highlighting the resilient nature of her work. After a brief introduction of the topic at hand, she welcomed the editors to the conference.
Prof Gita Chadha led by explaining the dedication for the book and its purpose of marking the beginning say of feminist sociology within their department, touching upon the issue of the pyramidical nature of sociology, with very few women being represented in higher departments of Sociology, as well as the marginalization and erasure of feminist contributions to the subject. She concluded by outlining how she views the changed in sociology of gender and how she hopes for it to develop: through a lens of intersectionality, by looking into queer movements and queer studies and their contribution, and lastly, integrating masculinity studies more deeply and starting a critical conversation about incorporating it within feminism.
Following was Dr. Joseph M. T’s presentation. He outlined the three sections of the book: reading and writing early women in sociology, pedagogies and mentoring, and substantive transformations: erasures, intersections, insertions. He then proceeded to discuss the content of the third section and the importance of the contributions by various scholars, which include the topics of non-consenting sexual intimacy, the issues of multiple genders, and the construction of masculinity, the sociology of environment in western India, the interface of psychiatry, with the lives of women diagnosed as mentally ill, and the experiences of women scientists in India.
The floor was then opened up to the panellists, starting with Dr Anagha Tambe, HOD and Assistant Professor at Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre. She spoke of relevant pedagogies and its intertwining with theoretical, both of which seem to be distinct to sociological imagination. She highlighted how the examination of practices and pedagogies of sociology has been crucial to the feminist sociology in the Indian context. Moreover, she talked about the second section of the book which has three autobiographical chapters focusing on mentor and mentee, teachers, and students respectively, and outlines the contents within each.
The following panellist was Prof Sanjay Srivastava, British Academy Global Professor, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, at SOAS University of London, who emphasise upon the attempts to pluralise sociology and feminism, giving the example of shopping malls. He outlined the relationship between women sociologists, sociology, and feminism, mentioning the constraint women sociologists have faced, and inferred the peculiar nature through which feminism comes to be a part of sociology in the Indian context.
He proceeded to highlight the importance of biographical sociology and knowledge, which sets apart the book from others covering similar subjects and expressed his favourable opinion for autobiographical sociology and the unfortunate lack of it. Finally, he spoke of the relationship between men and feminism in India and concludes by highlight how sociology as a subject is relatively more amenable to feminist thinking.
Proceeding this was Dr. Rukmini Sen, Dean and Professor at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University Delhi. Her chapter in the book aims to engage with the topic of consent, but also non-consent. It tries to not only look at sexual violence, but also age as important aspect and factor for defining consent. Furthermore, it brings into question the choice of choosing one’s sexual partner in the context of marriage, and the issues of consent surrounding it. The chapter refers to the Indian penal code to elaborate on the notion of consent and contract.
The purpose of the chapter was thus to question how the understanding of consent may be broadened by using feminist sociology in general, and more specifically through rethinking kinship, interrogation of law and its limits, and discussing intimacy and desire. Her contribution forms a continuing timeline of the concept of consent.
Dr Manisha Rao, Assistant Professor for the Department of Sociology, Mumbai University, continued the discussion by sharing her memories of Dr. Sharmila Rege, and the way she is remembered by academics, scholars, students, activists, and everyone who had interacted with her. Dr Rao painted a deeply human picture, speaking of Rege’s encouraging demeanour and warm nature. She spoke of many personal moments and events during their course of working together and her attentive friendship to everyone around her.
She also shared a number of pictures of the esteemed scholar, including those of her on department field trips, during welcome parties, and naturally, her working on her written drafts, amongst others. Dr Rao also shared birthday notes that she had received over the years, highlighting the personal and encouraging nature of their relationship.
Following was Dr Anurekha Chari Wagh, Assistant Professor for Department of Sociology, Savitribai Phule Pune University, began by highlighting her experience as a student with Dr. Rege. She talked about the circuits of knowledge production formed by the hierarchical power structure between students and teachers and how it led to her work on feminist mentoring and power dynamics and her focus on the same, despite its many challenges.
Furthermore, she mentioned how Rege’s intervention taught her that looking into subjectivities of various marginal groups within the classroom brings into concern immense vulnerability. She also spoke of viewing the person as political and the privilege associated with it. She highlighted how Sharmila Rege played a crucial role as an inspiration and an academic for her work.
The final speaker, Dr Pushpesh Kumar, Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad began by sharing fond memories of Dr. Sharmila Rege and his plans to carry forward her legacy. His work in the book focuses on Kothi Men in western India. He highlighted the importance of addressing the issues of marginal gender non-conforming people, especially those lower caste/class backgrounds, further drawing upon her work. He talks about the disownment and ostracization faced by Dalit gender queer people and their invisibility within mainstream debates, and the de-authentication they face by the government, as well as the Dalit community.
Feminist sociologists, he explains, hence play an important role for these groups as the former are responsible for question gender binaries and norms responsible for the suffering of the latter. He also explained the reasoning behind the title, reasoning that ‘Pink Money’ eludes to the double life the aforementioned groups are forced to lead.
The discussion ended with the speakers answering questioned put forth by the participants and a vote of thanks. The conference was not just academically intriguing but also inspirational as it took on a deeply humane aspect due to the remembrance of Sharmila Rege, and the fond memories and the feminist collective she has left behind. The discussion between the different panellists was personal, yet intellectually challenging and scholarly, speaking not just to their work and that of Sharmila Rege, but also to the development and importance of feminist sociology and its emerging dimensions and perspectives within the Indian context.
---
Acknowledgement: Kashish Gupta, Research intern at IMPRI

Comments

TRENDING

This activist played a monumental role in cases related to environmental issues

By Ekansh Agarwal, Pooja Agarwal, Shubham Tripathi, Sachin Uttarwar, Himani Rathod*  Rohit Prajapati is an environmentalist and has set up a voluntary organization named Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, which is a voluntary organization. Rohit calls his organization a people's movement that constantly raises voices against different environmental issues. Rohit believes that environmental problems are not only constrained to preventing pollution and proper disposal of wastes but should be seen holistically. He believes that social activists can never work in isolation and must work with the community to pressure the authorities to take corrective actions, and the only way to work with the community is to raise the issues that benefit the community at large. Hence, he also tries to raise the issue of social importance along with environmental issues. When asked what he thinks about the current norms and regulations of CPCB and SPCB, he said that the existing standards and regulations are

India needs to take care of geo-economics in order to address its security issues

By IMPRI Team  National security is indispensable for a country’s survival and growth. Although security has been a complex issue in human history, its complexity increases in the contemporary period because of technological developments, climate change and various other factors. The complexity of security has led to constant thinking and rethinking about the idea of security, its processes, and dynamics. Given the multiplicity of security challenges that India faces, it is important to investigate the nature and scope of these challenges. As part of its series, T he State of International Affairs- #Diplomacy Dialogue , #IMPRI Centre for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi , organized the IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk with Dr Arvind Gupta, on Emerging Dimensions of India’s National Security. The moderator for the event, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director at IMPRI, New Delhi began the discussion by mentioning the

Complaints of adverse impacts due to COVID vaccine should be settled efficiently

By Bharat Dogra  In recent weeks it has been proved beyond doubt that mass COVID vaccination among women and girls has led to a massive disruption of menstrual cycle and more particularly to excess bleeding among them. A scientific paper that has been widely cited in this context is titled ‘Invesigating trends in those who experience menstrual bleeding changes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination’. This paper authored by Katherine M.N.Lee et al was published in ‘Science Advances’ dated 15 July, 2022. According to this survey, as many as 42% of those with regular menstrual cycle bled more heavily than usual. Earlier in March another paper in the International journal of Women’s Health written by Nadia Muhaidat had reportd tht 66 per cent of women had experienced menstrual abnormalities after vaccination. In September 2021 the British Medical Journal had proposed that a link between excessive bleeding and COVID vaccination was plausible, adding that such complaints are being increasingly receive

Endless wait for pension for India's 60 million unorganized sector senior citizens

By Bharat Dogra  The most important support needed by elderly persons is for regular and adequate pensions. Only about 10 per cent of senior citizens in India have access to regular and reasonable pensions. They are mostly those who have served in the civil government, armed forces and related parts of the formal sector. For the remaining over 90 per cent of senior citizens, pensions either do not exist, or else are irregular, uncertain or extremely inadequate. The pensions for this unorganized sector are provided mainly by the National Social Assistance Program or NSAP (and to a lesser extent by some other programs). Out of the nearly 82 million elderly citizens in this informal sector, this scheme of the Union Government manages to reach just about 22 million people. Many eligible and selected persons have been denied pension due to insistence on Aadhar and biometric recognition, various irregularities and other factors. Thus around 60 million elderly people are still waiting to ge

World appreciates Bangladesh’s relative stability amidst global inflation, Ukraine war

By Samina Akhter*  Due to the Ukraine-Russia war after the corona epidemic, the whole world is suffering from economic recession. In various countries of the world, the value of currency is falling, inflation is increasing. One country after another is going bankrupt. At that time, Bangladesh is slowly taking steps to understand the situation. After overcoming the crisis, Sheikh Hasina's country is running on a positive trend of economy. And the media of different countries of the world are praising this. World media is talking about Sheikh Hasina and her country. According to a report of Thailand's Bangkok Post, Bangladesh will not have a crisis like Sri Lanka. According to a report of the Financial Times of India, the economy of Bangladesh is stable even in the global recession. On the other hand, the report of The Express Tribune of Pakistan said to Pakistanis, learn from Sheikh Hasina. He is the pride of Bangladesh. The highlights of these reports are as follows: The crisis

Do or die? August revolution and India's ruling class: hard facts as seen by Dr Lohia

By Prem Singh  "Here is a mantra, a short one, that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: 'Do or Die'. We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge." (Excerpt from Gandhiji's speech at the All-India Congress Committee meeting) Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia wrote a long letter to the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, on March 2, 1946. That letter is important and was appreciated by Gandhiji. The letter brings out the brutal and conspiratorial character of British imperialism. Lohia wrote that letter from jail. After playing an underground role for 21 months in the Quit India Movement, Lohia was arrested in Bombay on 10 May 1944. He was imprisoned first in Lahore F

Steve Otto strived to unite different trends of Communist camp, confronted dogmatism

By Harsh Thakor  One of my closest comrades Steve Otto, expired last week while sitting on the porch of his house. Some months ago, he lost his wife Cammy. He ran blogs ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Idiot Factor.’ I may not have personally met him but I don't have words to express my sense of loss at his demise and my gratitude for his support to my work. A writer who dipped his pen for service of the oppressed peoples. Few have ever been so supportive to me, giving such a platform to project my view. Such figures create avenues for young writers to blossom in the revolutionary movement. In hardest times, he helped me stand afloat. I deeply admire how he supported my writings on struggles in Punjab, Naxalbari, Maoism and progressive cultural activists, Hindi film actresses and actors, philosophers and swimming. Overall he was manifestation of the Marxist revolutionary as a spiritual being, revealing a subtle human touch. Steve portrayed why a Marxist or Maoist was creative. I recommend eve

GN Saibaba's book portrays how neo-fascism is penetrating India's parliamentary system

By Harsh Thakor  “Why Do You Fear Me So Much: Poems and Letters from Prison” by Professor G.N.Saibaba portrays the sheer inhumanity prevailing within prison walls in India, illustrating the barbaric jail practices. It is the best illustration of how genuine activists are falsely fabricated in India today ,with the judiciary virtually a tool or completely subservient to the ruling classes. The book portrays how neo-fascism is penetrating the parliamentary system at height unscaled, laws passed similar to colonial times. We get an insight into how spiritually the resolve of a political prisoner to combat fascism is further intensified within the confines of prison walls. The book illustrates the death defying courage of Professor Saibaba and his wife Vasantha Kumari in bearing the situation. It is the voice of all the oppressed people of India. A mascot for all revolutionary democrats confronting proto-fascism. Introduction In the Introduction Vasantha’s letter to Sai is published. H

Do we need this coal project in West Bengal, which displaces 21,000 people?

By Bharat Dogra  As the crisis of climate change has aggravated rapidly, there is a strong reason for being highly cautious about development of any new coal projects. Nevertheless, countries of the global south cannot entirely ban such development as they have to be concerned also about their crucial energy needs as well and of developing their own resources within the country for this. Countries of the global south have shown greater sense of responsibility than the developed and richest countries in this respect and they could have played an even more helpful role if the rich countries had kept to their earlier promises of generously helping the global south in this effort. Their promise of arranging a fund of 100 billion dollars a year for helping in this was a very modest effort which fell short of real needs, but the rich countries have been falling behind even in meeting this modest commitment of 100 billion dollars a year, which should be compared to the annual spending of 250

Wickremesinghe should know: Sri Lanka has nothing to gain by declaring support to China

By NS Venkataraman*  There appears to be a unanimous view in Sri Lanka and other countries that appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as President of Sri Lanka is the best decision that has happened in the present turbulent time in Sri Lanka. Ranil Wickremesinghe has served as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka six times and he has not completed full term even once and is not generally recognised as an exceptional administrator. However, he has been recognised as a reliable and decent and least controversial person by popular view and that is perhaps why governance of Sri Lanka has been handed over to him. Except a few professional demonstrators in Sri Lanka, the country is, by and large, willing to support him if he would take appropriate policy decisions and implement them in a pragmatic way. This is a good situation as far as it goes. Obviously, the priority for Ranil Wickremesinghe is to retrieve Sri Lankan economy from the present mess, which implies that he should ensure tha