Author: Anupama Roy
Publisher: Orient Longman
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8125027971
Citizenship is commonly seen as a momentum concept with a liberatory promise. Through successive historical periods, becoming a citizen has involved a gradual extension of the status to more and more persons and groups, a dismantling of existing structures of oppression and their replacement by more egalitarian and inclusive structures of membership. At the same time, however, the promise of equal membership in the political community masks the exclusionary frameworks that define citizenship. While looking at citizenship as potentially emancipatory, this work argues that in specific historical contexts, citizenship embodies a terrain of contest and conflict, where a multitude of social and ideological forces exist in unequal and conflicting relationships. The idea of citizenship, historically, has been constitutive of a series of exclusions, where by entire societies, for example, the colonized, or large sections of it-slaves, women, and immigrant workers-were considered inadequate for citizenship.
Adopting a historical-conceptual approach, this work examines, in particular, the gendering of citizenship. It argues that the language of citizenship that emerged in late colonial India in the context of resistance against colonial rule was grounded in a gendered notion of the national and political community. Indian nationalist ideologies of the period show how ideas of the India nation were overwhelmingly dependent on the constitution of the ideal-typical Indian woman and the idea of the domestic as an ideological, spatial, and temporal category, within and through which Indian womanhood came to be defined. A reading of instructive conduct manuals, which aimed at educating women in the norms of behaviour suitable for the home and the nation, shows how these manuals constituted women’s citizenship in terms radically different from the active citizenship of men. Women were embedded in the folds of family, kinship, and community bonds, and their relationship with the emergent polity was construed largely in terms of their duties to the sustenance of the family and home, which was construed as a microcosm of the nation.
The struggle by middle-class women for the right to vote shows how debates around women’s political rights were reflective more of masculinist camaraderie on notions of womanhood, and a delimitation of women’s proper place. The suffrage movement brought to the fore the difficulty of voicing women as a unified body, in a struggle for liberatory enhancement of heir rights. The dilemmas or the possibilities of voicing women as a unified category and lived experience can be seen all the more starkly in the emergent sociopolitical scenario of independent India, where religious communities have a degree of autonomy in deciding their personal matters through their own religious codes. Engaging with contemporary debates on citizenship that place themselves within the framework of multiculturalism and world citizenship, this work assets the need to redefine the notion of community by focusing on citizenship as a measure of activity and practice.