Presenting and Comparing early Marathi and German women's feminist writings (1866-1933): Some findings.

Open Access
Chindhade, Tejashri
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 08, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Prof Dr Daniel Purdy, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Prof Dr Daniel Purdy, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Thomas Oliver Beebee, Committee Member
  • Reiko Tachibana, Committee Member
  • Prof Dr Kumkum Chatterjee, Committee Member
  • Colonization
  • Post-colonial
  • German Literature
  • Marathi Literature
  • Feminism
  • Comparison
Abstract In this dissertation I present the feminist writings of four Marathi women writers/ activists Savitribai Phule’s “ Prose and Poetry”, Pandita Ramabai’s” The High Caste Hindu Woman”, Tarabai Shinde’s “Stri Purush Tualna”( A comparison between women and men) and Malatibai Bedekar’s “Kalyanche Nihshwas”( “The Sighs of the buds”) from the colonial period (1887-1933) and compare them with the feminist writings of four German feminists: Adelheid Popp’s “Jugend einer Arbeiterin”(Autobiography of a Working Woman), Louise Otto Peters’s “Das Recht der Frauen auf Erwerb”(The Right of women to earn a living..), Hedwig Dohm’s “Der Frauen Natur und Recht” (“Women’s Nature and Privilege”) and Irmgard Keun’s “Gilgi: Eine Von Uns”(Gilgi:one of us) (1886-1931), respectively. This will be done from the point of view of deconstructing stereotypical representations of Indian women as they appear in westocentric practices. I will also show through comparison that the differences between east and west in terms of gender and other factors related women’s oppression are not that vast, thus enabling and creating a bridge for a dialogue between the two cultures. The findings that emerge through the comparison will be of benefit to postcolonial scholars of German and feminism, who have engaged themselves with the problem of too generalized and stereotypical depictions of Indian women in Westocentric discourses and practices. Indian women often get ascribed with adjectives such as average, restrained, ignorant, dutiful, victimized, maternal, uneducated, tradition-bound, leaving out their other achievements in the areas of intellectual scholarship and feminist initiatives, on a local as well as a global scale. This kind of stereotyping, and generalization, lacking in historical and cultural variation, leads to further colonizing impulses and justifies the civilizing mission that came about with the beginning of the colonial period. It also affects the self-perception of Indian women and further affects the way laws, educational and institutional policies are shaped, locally and globally. It is therefore a necessary imperative to deconstruct stereotypical images and representations of Indian women as they appear in Westocentric discourses. The feminist endeavors of Savitribai Phule, Pandita Ramabai, Tarabai Shinde and Malatibai Bedekar provide and represent a more coherent and real picture of the images of Marathi (Indian) women in international discourses. Furthermore, if we look closely at what German feminists in the Western world were writing, in the same time period, we come across remarkable similarities in the writings of these feminists. I will examine these similarities on the basis of the attitude of these feminists towards patriarchy, the nation-state, means of resistance, choice of language and formal charatcteristics of the works. Moreover these similarities stand out in marked contrast to the ‘differences’ that have been the object of study of current and pre-colonial and colonial scholars of various disciplines. The precolonial and colonial German engagement with Indian culture showed that Indian culture ( especially women) appeared to them as different, exotic or as the ‘other’ of German culture. My study contributes to current debates by showing the similarities or the comparable elements, which further prove that there is scope for a dialogue and feminist alliances between the two cultures.