Call for chapter proposals (With a strong publishing interest from Lexington Books, USA)
Traditionally, men have had more access than woman to Indian public spaces, especially the cities, roads, and streets. Not surprisingly, then, the presence of women in patriarchal public spaces such as roads poses a threat to traditional spatial associations of the home and the woman that in turn are significant in the construction of Indian femininity. More important, women on Indian roads have felt threatened and experienced numerous and unbelievable instances of violence, some of which in the recent past have been globally and vocally condemned. Curiously, if narratives of traveling, self-sufficient women and their outdoor experiences remain scarce, what is rarer are theoretical and critical discourses surrounding and analyzing women’s predicaments on the road. Stressing this, academicians such as Manish Madan and Mahesh K. Nalla in their study tilted “Sexual Harassment in Public Spaces: Examining Gender Differences in Perceived Seriousness and Victimization” (2016) note that while a considerable amount of research has been done on domestic violence in India, which mostly occurs indoors in private spaces, “the treatment of women in the public sphere, particularly with regard to sexual harassment (one of the most pervasive forms of violence against women)” (1) has only received public attention post the notorious Nirbhaya rape case (2012) due to media coverage and international outcry. Likewise, keeping mainly the Nirbhaya rape case and the gang rape of a young photo-journalist in Mumbai (2013) as a contextual backdrop, Shilpa Phadke in her article “Unfriendly Bodies, Hostile Cities Reflections on Loitering and Gendered Public Space” argues that the “overarching narrative appears to be that [Indian] cities are violent spaces that women are better off not accessing at all” (50). Arguably, while empirical and data driven research has to some extent taken into account the issue of women’s travel experiences, theoretical research dealing with fictionalized representations of women’s road journeys in millennial India is palpably missing. The present edited collection attempts to bridge this unfortunate gap in scholarship.
Where international research is concerned, the issue of women’s safety within public spaces such as the road has been a central problematic for space theorists and feminist geographers such as Linda McDowell, Gillian Rose, and Doreen Massey who declare that spaces are governed by patriarchal power relations which exclude women. Doreen Massey, for instance, in Space, Place, and Gender (1994) claims that “spatial control, whether enforced through the power of convention or symbolism, or through the straightforward threat of violence, can be a fundamental element in the constitution of gender” (180). According to feminist geographers therefore public spaces such as roads are inherently gendered and exclude women with the threat of sexual violence. In a deeply patriarchal society such as India, spatial politics along with explicit and implicit threats of violence plague millions of women who try to accesses public spaces, beginning with the roads.
In neoliberal India, especially after Nirbhaya rape case, one encounters a growing engagement with women’s travel narratives most significantly on several OTT (over-the-top) digital platforms including Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos. Many fictionalized series telecast on these platforms have presented the problem of female vulnerability within public spaces to expose physical, mental, sexual, and epistemic violence that traveling women face. Here Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime proves to be a powerful case in point. Likewise, mainstream Hindi films such as Chhapaak (2020) in the recent past have also exposed how women are extremely vulnerable to the male gaze and to patriarchal violence, especially on the roads. Literature, too, has responded to this vexed issue and writers such as Janhavi Acharekar and Namita Gokhale have attempted to reveal how structural violence mars the outdoorsy experiences of many Indian women. Other fictionalized narratives that underscore women’s promising albeit perilous road journeys include films such as Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dor (2006), Leena Yadav’s Parched (2015), Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink (2016), Ashtar Sayed’s Maatr (2017), Ravi Udyawar’s Mom (2017), and Gopi Puthran’s Mardaani 2 (2019). In addition, there are also well-received web series such as The Good Girl Show (2017) and She (2020) which unravel the regressive rape myths, stigma, victim-blaming, and misogyny that are entrenched in Indian society and channeled against women exploring the world outside their homes.
The present volume entitled Promising Journeys, Perilous Roads: Women’s Journey Narratives in Neoliberal India hopes to inaugurate a much-needed scholarly discussion on women and their experiences on the road in the present times. By focusing on the complex negotiations that women make with the challenges posed by the gendered space of the road, this edited collection hopes to bring together critical and scholarly voices that together address a deep rooted and pressing problem fettering Indian women’s mobility today. It invites essays that attempt critically informed analyses of literature, graphic novels, films, web series, and other popular cultural representations of Indian women’s experiences on the road, and ultimately initiate localized feminist interventions against gendered violence.
Themes addressed may include, but are not limited to:
• Literary representations of Indian women’s vulnerability on the road
• Graphic narratives of female road journeys
• Films, web series, television, popular culture vis-à-vis violence and spatial politics
• Sororities and female bonding in the face of violent road journeys
• Wandering mothers: women, violence, and caregiving on the road
• Women’s aging, destitution, and violence of the road
• Rape myths, stigma, and sexual offences
• Intrusive male gaze and objectified female bodies
• Class, caste, female oppression, and violent roads
• Female fortitude, resistance, and survival on gendered roads
Lexington Books, USA has expressed a strong interest in publishing this edited collection. Please submit an abstract of 750 words and a short CV by February 10, 2021 to Swathi Krishna S. email@example.com and Srirupa Chatterjee firstname.lastname@example.org The final articles will be 6000-7000 words in the latest MLA Handbook format and will be due by August 31, 2021.
Swathi Krishna S.
Assistant Professor of English
Indian Institute of Technology Ropar
Rupnagar, Punjab, India