Working women, re-working space: Representations of women's workplaces in contemporary Indian writing in English

Karen Renee Remedios, Purdue University

Abstract

This project examines representations of the sites of Indian women's labor in the writings of Shashi Deshpande, Githa Hariharan, Anita Nair and Brinda Charry, in order to demonstrate the complex interplay of gender, class, and caste tensions within these spaces. I argue that the systemic physical and psychical violence encountered by working women at the hands of employers, co-workers and the police is a manifestation of a combination of local patriarchal and colonial ideologies that unequivocally place the woman in the house. Moreover, I argue that despite the abuse and discrimination encountered by working women, these representations suggest that workplaces retain the potential to serve as sites of feminist resistance. Chapter 1 offers an historical overview of the socio-political situation in India and outlines the major theoretical frameworks applied in the dissertation. Chapter 2 examines representations of the house as a site of labor and suggests that breaking up domestic space may be the only way to secure unconditional freedom for women. Chapter 3 considers depictions of the school and the hospital and argues that these spaces must be dissociated from the domestic setting in order for female teachers, doctors, and nurses to achieve autonomy in the workplace. Through representations of the government office and a garage-turned-legal-office, Chapter 4 establishes that non-traditional work spaces may be safer and more productive for women. Chapter 5 explores representations of a Brahmin residential community, public and private transportation, and red-light areas to show how despite the uneasy relation between women and the street, the street retains the potential to be a space of unity among women, and of resistance against common oppressions. ^

Degree

Ph.D.

Advisors

Aparajita Sagar, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature, Asian|Women's Studies

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