Class, gender and reflexivity in Delhi: Young middle-to-upper class, upper caste feminists’ descriptions of self
Reflecting a year of ethnographic work in Delhi, the lecture approaches class, caste and gender in metropolitan India through young middle-to-upper class, upper caste feminists’ narratives of self, positionality and political engagement. Constantly renegotiating their difficult position as single (and thus “abnormal”) women in the city, the people interviewed have staked out their own corners and communities in the Indian capital. In the process of taking on oppressive patriarchy and mounting social expectations, class and caste privileges have often shielded from and been actively used by the women to deflect hardships met by many others.
For these feminists, this has created a difficult duality and an acute awareness of both the sexisms they tackle and the privileges they enjoy. In Harju's interviews, they reflect around power equations and positionality in relation to the city and the many other and radically different women in it. They fight feminist battles while questioning their voice and relevance in the classist and casteist social settings of contemporary Delhi. Their narratives reflect both strengths and anxieties, and give a candid insight into practical intersectionality and engagements with moral complexity.
Through this empirical material, the lecture approaches important questions around stratification and “middle-classness” in contemporary India, while allowing for individuality and difference beyond epistemologically violent generalizations. The talk is of relevance to anyone interested in class, gender, feminism or South Asian studies.
Otso Harju is a PhD candidate in gender studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland, working on a thesis around gendered family conflicts in Delhi.