The Shaping of the ‘Political’: A Gendered Intellectual History of Ideas in Modern India (1880s–1940s)

In: Journal of the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists
Priyanka Jha Department of Political Science, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), A-91, New Teachers Flats, Jodhpur Colony, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 221005, India

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The world has often borne witness to the great Indian traditions – from the ancient scriptures to Gandhian moral and ethical philosophy – that have played a pivotal role in the global ‘political’ tradition of thinking. For centuries, Indian women have explicated, contributed to, and influenced this tradition. This strand has been a significant interlocutor in debates on concerns and values central to the human condition. However, given that women are the gendered subaltern, the centrality and attention that this line of thinking should have received or evoked as a ‘political tradition’ has been either scant or relegated to the margins in relation to other ideational trajectories. Women’s political thought has been meticulously and systematically relegated to the margins and reduced to a mere call for ‘social reform’. Subsequently, very few Indian women have been engaged as political thinkers or philosophers in India up to the present. However, this deficit is not peculiar to post-colonial societies like India but has global resonance and follows a universal trajectory. Thus, this paper locates the gendered political intellectual tradition of modern India by engaging with women thinkers’ works and their political ideas to subvert the biased, male-centric canon.

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