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Claiming Resources, Asserting Rights: Women's Collective Action at the Grassroots

Kalpana Karunakaran
April 12, 2024
2:30PM - 4:00PM
Dulles Hall 168

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Add to Calendar 2024-04-12 14:30:00 2024-04-12 16:00:00 Claiming Resources, Asserting Rights: Women's Collective Action at the Grassroots Weaving together field stories from research over two decades with women’s microcredit or Self Help Groups (SHGs) and trade unions that mobilize women domestic workers, salt pan workers, fish workers, street vendors and home-based workers, Kalpana shows how women of working poor households and communities creatively use opportunities to assert their rights and entitlements, negotiate with multiple (state and non-state) actors, claim development resources and strive to have a greater say in public matters and community affairs. As field stories from Tamil Nadu show, women have emerged as the visible face and voice of resistance to policies that rob them of their land and livelihoods; they are invariably at the forefront of  (state and NGO-led) welfare initiatives that seek to improve infrastructure and services for income-poor families and communities. Is this a sign of empowerment that we must cheer? Is this an over-burdening of women that we must be more cautious about celebrating? How do we read what appears to be a feminization of efforts and struggles to hold the state accountable for the survival of the poor?Kalpana Karunakaran is Associate Professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, IIT Madras (https://hss.iitm.ac.in/team-members/kalpana-k/). Her research lies in the domain of gender and development and, more broadly, Women’s Studies. Her published papers are in the intersecting fields of gender, labour, microcredit (Self Help Groups), women’s work in the informal sector, women’s trade unions and collective action in solidarity-based movements. Her book ‘Women, Microfinance and the State in Neo-liberal India’ was published by Routledge in 2017. She was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) (https://iaws.co.in/) from 2014 to 2017 and will serve again from 2024 to 2027.A bilingual public speaker and writer in Tamil and English, Kalpana conducts workshops and participates actively in campaigns for gender equality, labour rights and human rights organized by women’s movements, trade unions and rural development NGOs in Tamil Nadu. She also writes on women’s lives with a focus on the intersections between the personal and the political. Her Tamil book, a memoir, ‘Comrade Amma: Magal Parvaiyil Mythily Sivaraman’ (Comrade Mother: A daughter’s portrait of Mythily Sivaraman) was published in 2018. Kalpana’s forthcoming book ‘A Woman of No Consequence’ that re-constructs a woman’s life and times in the Madras Presidency will be published by Westland Books later this year. Kalpana is currently working on an English translation of the memoir of Lakshmi Amma, a social and political activist from a small peasant household in Tamil Nadu. This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the South Asian Studies Initiative, and Department of Near Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures. Dulles Hall 168 Department of Near Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures nesa@osu.edu America/New_York public

Weaving together field stories from research over two decades with women’s microcredit or Self Help Groups (SHGs) and trade unions that mobilize women domestic workers, salt pan workers, fish workers, street vendors and home-based workers, Kalpana shows how women of working poor households and communities creatively use opportunities to assert their rights and entitlements, negotiate with multiple (state and non-state) actors, claim development resources and strive to have a greater say in public matters and community affairs. As field stories from Tamil Nadu show, women have emerged as the visible face and voice of resistance to policies that rob them of their land and livelihoods; they are invariably at the forefront of  (state and NGO-led) welfare initiatives that seek to improve infrastructure and services for income-poor families and communities. Is this a sign of empowerment that we must cheer? Is this an over-burdening of women that we must be more cautious about celebrating? How do we read what appears to be a feminization of efforts and struggles to hold the state accountable for the survival of the poor?


Kalpana Karunakaran is Associate Professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, IIT Madras (https://hss.iitm.ac.in/team-members/kalpana-k/). Her research lies in the domain of gender and development and, more broadly, Women’s Studies. Her published papers are in the intersecting fields of gender, labour, microcredit (Self Help Groups), women’s work in the informal sector, women’s trade unions and collective action in solidarity-based movements. Her book ‘Women, Microfinance and the State in Neo-liberal India’ was published by Routledge in 2017. She was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) (https://iaws.co.in/) from 2014 to 2017 and will serve again from 2024 to 2027.

A bilingual public speaker and writer in Tamil and English, Kalpana conducts workshops and participates actively in campaigns for gender equality, labour rights and human rights organized by women’s movements, trade unions and rural development NGOs in Tamil Nadu. She also writes on women’s lives with a focus on the intersections between the personal and the political. Her Tamil book, a memoir, ‘Comrade Amma: Magal Parvaiyil Mythily Sivaraman’ (Comrade Mother: A daughter’s portrait of Mythily Sivaraman) was published in 2018. Kalpana’s forthcoming book ‘A Woman of No Consequence’ that re-constructs a woman’s life and times in the Madras Presidency will be published by Westland Books later this year. Kalpana is currently working on an English translation of the memoir of Lakshmi Amma, a social and political activist from a small peasant household in Tamil Nadu.

 

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the South Asian Studies Initiative, and Department of Near Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures.