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Course1104: Culture-Gender in InterAsia: Work, Sexuality, Religion

Dates: March 26th-31st; 10 am -5 pm

Course Assistants: Maithreyi Mulupuru, Judith Nazareth Garg, Teena Antony, Nitya Vasudevan; 


This course has taken shape within an inter-Asia context in the belief that our present moment poses a series of new questions to the previous articulation of gender-culture issues that has now entered into feminist commonsense.

The antithetical relationship between modernity and culture produced by nationalist discourse in the non-Western world has implied the linking of women with the cultural and the authentic. Feminisms in Asia were first aligned with and then critical of nationalism; while they raised the question of culture, they also tended to see it as antithetical to modernity of which feminism was a part. Therefore, in order to ask the culture question in all its complexity - so that it becomes part of the investigation of our modernity rather than lying outside of it - there has to be a re-complication of the ways in which gender perspectives deal with culture.

The course will ask what valency the existing conceptual legacies have as we are confronted with unprecedented changes in the way gender is being thematised across the social domain. We have selected three aspects of that domain – work, sexuality, religion/custom – through which to explore the new analytical frameworks feminists across Asia are putting forward.

Revisiting and rethinking the relationship between the concepts Gender and Culture might show how to reconfigure both our theory and our politics, and give us a new basis for knowledge production by opening up new objects of enquiry and new terrains of investigation.

Course format: The course will run for 5 days, 10 am to 5 pm. Mornings will be devoted to instructor presentations and discussion of required readings. Afternoons will be for group activities and question sessions. Face-to-face instruction will be supplemented by online work on the CSCS Moodle platform. All course readings are available on this platform, and students will get their login details on enrolment. Below is an indicative list from which the readings will be finalised. Required as distinct from Recommended Readings will be announced a month before the course begins.


Day 1 - Course Framework

Introduction to the course

Setting the agenda



Tejaswini Niranjana, “Why culture matters: rethinking the language of feminist politics”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 11:2, 2010, 229-235

Mary E. John, “Feminism in India and the West”, Cultural Dynamics, Vol. 10, Issue 2, 197-209

Mary E. John and Tejaswini Niranjana. "Mirror Politics: Fire, Hindutva and Indian Culture" Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 1:2 (Dossier on Fire)

Sisters in Islam, “Letters to the Editor: The Domestic Violence Act and Conflict of Jurisdiction”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 3:3, 2002, 475-478


Day 2 – Work


Areas of interest:

Globalisation and the “feminisation” of workplaces

Sexuality and the workplace – the inter-Asia experience

Sex work



Cho Haejoang, “'You are entrapped in an imaginary well': the formation of subjectivity within compressed development - a feminist critique of modernity and Korean culture”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 1:1,  49-69 

Aihwa Ong, “The Gender and Labour Politics of Postmodernity”, Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 20 (1991), pp. 279-309 

Lisa Rofel, Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China After Socialism, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999

Ku Yu-ling, Our Stories: Migration and Labour in Taiwan, SIRD, Malaysia 2011 

Firdous Azim, “Feminist Struggles in Bangladesh”, Feminist Review, No. 80, Reflections on 25 Years (2005), pp. 194-197 

Govind Kelkar, “The Feminization of Agriculture in Asia: Implications for Women's Agency and Productivity”,, Nov 8, 2011, (film)

Wuo Young-ie, "HOMEless: a case-study of private-public inversion and the temporal-spatial exclusion faced by migrant-domestic workers" Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 11:3

Josephine Ho, “From Anti-Trafficking to Social Discipline: Or, The Changing Role of ‘Women’s’ NGOs in Taiwan,” in Kamala Kempadoo, Jyoti Sanghera, and Bandana Pattanaik (ed.), Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work, and Human Rights, Paradigm, Boulder, 2005

Ding Naifei,  “Stigma of sex and sex work”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 7:2

Kim Hyun Mee, “Work, nation and hypermasculinity: the 'woman' question in the economic miracle and crisis in South Korea”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2:1, 53-68


Day 3 – Sexuality 


Areas of interest:

Asian perspectives on sex work

Fiction and the redemptive power of female sexuality in a socially unequal situation

Chick-lit and the modern woman: new representations of sexuality

Internet subjectivities



Nalini Jameela, The Autobiography of a Sex Worker, J. Devika (trans.), Westland Books, New Delhi, 2007

Tani Barlow, “Buying In: Advertising and the Sexy Modern Girl Icon in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s”, in Tani Barlow et al (eds.), The Modern Girl around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, Duke University Press, 2008 

Susanna (film)

Menon, Bindu. “Identification, Desire, Otherness: Susanna and its Public.” Deep Focus (Jan-May 2005): 61-70 

Kim Soyoung, “The birth of the local feminist sphere in the global era: ‘trans-cinema' and Yosongjang”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 4:1, 10-24

Kim Hyun Mee, “Feminization of the 2002 World Cup and women's fandom”, Hong Sung Hee (trans.), Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 5:1, 53-68

Dossier with material on chick-lit, the Pink Chaddi Campaign, Slutwalks etc from reportage

Shohini Ghosh, Tales of the Night Fairies (film)

Paromita Vohra, Unlimited Girls (film)



Day 4 – Religion / Custom


Areas of interest

Personal law

Community, customary practices and women

Religion and masculinity

Quotas for Women



Pratiksha Baxi, Shirin M. Rai, Shaheen Sardar Ali, “Legacies of Common Law: 'Crimes of Honour' in India and Pakistan”, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 7, The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis (2006), pp. 1239-1253

Aihwa Ong, “State versus Islam: Malay Families, Women's Bodies, and the Body Politic in Malaysia”, American Ethnologist, Vol. 17, No. 2 (May, 1990), pp. 258-276

Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2005

Madhu Kishwar, “Women and Politics: Beyond Quotas”, Economic and Political Weekly October 26 1996, p. 2867

Mary John, “Alternate Modernities? Reservations and Women's Movement in 20th Century” Economic and Political Weekly, Oct 21-Nov 3 2000, pp. 3822-29

Anand Patwardhan, Father, Son, Holy War (film) 

Paromita Vohra, Morality TV and the Loving Jehad (film)



Day 5 – Consolidation and Discussion of What Next


Course1104: Culture-Gender in InterAsia: Work, Sexuality, Religion

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