Educating Women, (Not) Serving the Nation: The Interface of Feminism and Nationalism in the Works of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932) wrote at a transitional time in the history of India. It was a time when Indian society was fast changing under the leadership of a new patriarchy, formed by the English-educated middle class. The emerging middle Â class also led the anti-colonial nationalist movement. It is, therefore, important to read Â Rokeya not only in terms of how she approached patriarchy but also in terms of its then newer manifestation in the form of nationalism. In her early works, Rokeya Â appears to merge the national and woman question, regarding the liberation of the Indian women as part and parcel of the larger venture of national emancipation. The feminist agenda is actually conceptualised within a wider framework of nationalism. But midway in her writing and activist career, a shift seems to have taken place in relation to her engagement with the feminist agenda she has long been fighting to implement. For reasons elaborated in the main body of the present essay, she now came to consider the interests of Indian women as meriting independent treatment, initiating in the process a delinking of the two projects: feminist and nationalist. The separation of the two programmes finally enables her, I argue, to critique Indian nationalism in her later works.Â
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