Monday, February 3

Language, literature, education and community: The Bengali Muslim woman in the early twentieth century

This was a fascinating article even if it left me a bit befuddled. What was the hypothesis and how did they manage to come to their conclusions? I quote the synopsis.

 The issue of women's empowerment has a long history. This article intends to trace the issue of women's empowerment in the area that now forms contemporary Bangladesh. In this regard, we have delved into the early part of the twentieth century to look into women's writing in numerous journals that were beginning to be published in that era. Looking into Muslim-edited journals, we look into how issues of women's education, writing and the place of women in society were being debated. In this process, we have laid special emphasis on women's writing, using the examples that we have cited as part of a new form of women's voices. What we discover about women's empowerment in this process is that it is a fraught issue, and there is no clear-cut or direct path that can be easily delineated. Early twentieth-century anti-colonial nation-making processes were indeed complex, and in the Bengal region, veered between emphasizing a Bengali as well as a Muslim identity. It is interesting to see how issues of language and the position of women coalesce to form a very exciting arena for researchers.Concentrating on literary writings by women in the early part of the twentieth century, this research is an effort to look into the construction of the modern Bengali Muslim woman, and the connections that can be drawn between the formation of this identity and the emergence of a notion of a Bengali nation. In broad outline, we will be debating the main contours of this nation — based as it is on religious, community and linguistic affiliations. Identity — both at the individual, or community/national level, remained, and remains fluid, as its various dimensions are foregrounded at different times. The nation is also being envisaged as an appendage to modernity, hence the lines that defined modernity at this point are also shifting, and the grounds that the envisaged modern nation occupies are continuously reformed and reconstituted.

foregrounded? eh?

But very interesting to learn about Bengali women writers at the beginning of the last century. Fascinating flowering of their own identity. The authors also navigate and bring out fascinating differences between the urban and rural, muslim and hindu, urdu and bengali speaking and the mixtures thereof.

An interesting paper but curiously left me unsatisfied. I would have liked the authors to have delved deeper into the mix and seen how the Bengali woman emerged, comparing the Hindu and Muslim woman, rather than taking a uni-dimensional perspective because I do believe that there would be a firmer and broader identity with the Bengali bit rather than the religious bit. Still some good references…

No comments: