"Inside the Womb: Reading the "Home" in the Short Stories by Contemporary Women Writers of Manipur"

PhD defended at: 

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Author: 

Leisangthem Gitarani Devi

Defended: 

2016

This thesis examines the imagining and imaging of the "home" by contemporary women writers in Manipur (India). Within this structure I examine the workings of patriarchy and the hierarchies implicit within it. I argue that relationships between various individuals and institutions are not on equitable terms but rather one that emulates the patriarchal relationship of the dominated and the oppressor. However, I locate certain ruptures in these oppressive relationships. This thesis also brings out narratives of resistance and redefining one’s subject position. I draw on the discourses on home, gender-politics, patriarchy, gender and conflict, women’s collective and agency to support my arguments.

The first chapter introduces the subject of my thesis and the larger theoretical framework within which my arguments are placed. In the second chapter, I give a gendered reading of the relationships among the triad of the insurgents, the state armed forces, and the civilians. I establish that in the face of the "boot power, butt power, and bullet power" of the state armed forces, the civilians are not only feminized but also dehumanized. In the third chapter, I discuss narratives of oppression and resistance within the family and the community. I assert that in the face of excruciating poverty, claims for individuality are luxury some women can ill afford. In the fourth chapter, I examine the nature of “agency” of women’s collectives like the Meira Paibi, the women's group in Manipur. I argue how by framing a paradigm of chase femininity, local women's group and the insurgent groups in Manipur are framing a chaste Meitei nation.The central proposition of this thesis is that home is porous. It allows intrusion of violent elements, be it in the form of the aggressive insurgents or the debilitating state-violence, or even communal gaze or community-reinforced patriarchal ideologies. My thesis also discursively establishes that Meitei women’s writing is not only a womb but also in womb. They conceive the being "home" and yet the being is infantile in its existence and agency. Last but not the least, I establish that women collectives are not necessarily feminist.

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