South Asian Feminist Movements: A Story through a Personal Poster Collection
Public Lecture by Uma Chakravarti
October 22nd at 7 pm – LC-28
Over the years many feminists and democratic rights activists have designed, created, or circulated posters to carry the messages of campaigns and movements that they have been part of. At the end of each campaign these visual and written documents have ended up in places as varied as under the mattress of a bed, or in tin trunks, or rolled up like maps and placed in a holder–a basket or a tin. Ultimately they have disintegrated, a sad testimony to the times and the political activities of their reluctant archivers. In the lifetime of the archivers they exist as markers of events, places, people, having meaning for them but only inside their heads. For others that history is lost.
My own journey as an activist of sorts is linked to my personal collection of posters which I just archived by ‘happenstance': they were with me because I could not bring myself to throw them away or add them to the ‘raddi’ pile which went to the buyers of old newspapers. I had some sentimental attachment to them and each time I carried them from one house to another as we moved, and were dusted to be rolled up once more they would bring a rush of memories as images scrambled across the minds eye and the moment of the making of the poster would return, all inside my head. But they are more than mere memories: they are a testimony of their times and of mine: an inextricably intermeshed archive of the personal and the political. Perhaps I can tell a history through it especially to the next generation of ‘activists’ who would not find such a history in books or in record rooms, at least not at the moment.
Uma Chakravarti Biography
Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian, teacher, democratic rights’ activist, and theorist of caste. Now an independent scholar, she taught history at Miranda House, Delhi University for more than 30 years. Prof Chakravarti has published 7 books and more than 50 papers including Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens, (2004) and Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai in which she has contextualised gender issues within the larger framework of caste contestations, class formation and legal changes. She has been involved in the women’s movement for more than 40 years; as an activist, Prof. Chakravarti has also been part of collaborative academic and democratic interventions on community strife and the complicity of the state in violence against particular segments of society. She is also a filmmaker; her film, ‘A Quiet Little Entry,’ documents the life of an unknown woman on the fringes of the national movement.