A Not So Banal Evil: Rokeya in Confrontation with Patriarchy
This essay addresses Rokeya Sakhawat Hossainâ€™s evaluation of the causes of womenâ€™s misfortunes in early twentieth century India even as it underscores her invaluable contributions to the improvement of womenâ€™s predicament in the public sphere. It shows how unnecessary vilification of activist women, in order to situate them within the limits of a prescriptive patriarchal vision, intensifies the difficulty of their work. Rokeyaâ€™s interrogation of such limits remains exemplary in a historical context in which gendered, binary ways of thinking were the norm. The essay also focuses on Rokeyaâ€™s strategy of combined exposure of patriarchal ills â€“ both through direct address in her non-fiction and through deployment of artistic tropes in her fiction. In this regard, it locates and analyses a â€œtrope of excessâ€ in her work, a trope that often operates together with more specific themes of illness, entombment and homelessness.
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