Book Review: Amba Pande (Ed.), Women in the Indian Diaspora: Historical Narratives and Contemporary Challenges

Date01 July 2018
Published date01 July 2018
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Amba Pande (Ed.), Women in the Indian Diaspora: Historical Narratives
and Contemporary Challenges. Singapore: Springer Nature, 2018, xiv+
200 pp., $99.99 (Hardcover).
The book has a large canvas focusing on women in the Indian diaspora during the
colonial and contemporary periods. Pande’s edited volume adds to the growing
literature on the diaspora that is attentive to the experiences of women as being
different from that of the men. Pande repeatedly reiterates the need to discard the
tendency to study women from the lens of victimhood. It is, on the contrary,
important to look at their ‘agency’ even in the most difficult times. She observes
how until recently women’s experience and agency have been a missing element
of diasporic studies, ‘Women were unquestioningly and quiet thoughtlessly and
mindlessly subsumed under meta-narratives. This could be no further from reality
where in women’s experience were “different, unique and specific to them”’ (p. 1).
And it is equally important to be cognizant of the ways in which within the category
of women there were varied experiences.
In the first chapter, Pande unpacks what the concept of diaspora holds. She
provides a ‘clear and useful picture of different migrant categories whose move-
ments from “home” to “host” are variously sourced’. She shows how gradually
within the diasporic literature women and their experiences have come to be
acknowledged and studied. The first time when women came to be looked upon
as a separate category in migration research was during the late 1960s–early
1970s. By the mid- and late 1980s, ‘gender became the core analytical category of
the “Feminist Standpoint Theory”’. For these theorists, women’s experience was
radically different, if not superior. The third phase was in the 1990s of ‘post-
rational feminism’ wherein gender was not the basic criterion of difference, but
other differences such as poverty, class, ethnicity and race were equally important
(pp. 4–5).
The other 14 essays, divided in four sections, capture well the editor’s objective
of adopting a multidisciplinary perspective, given the ‘intersectionality’ of gender
with ‘race, class, religion, national and several other categories (p. vi)’ rather
than essentializing it. This work thus stands firmly in the realm of ‘post-rational
The first section, ‘The Context of Theory and Identity’, has three essays.
The first essay by Mehta carries forward Pande’s argument about the need to
International Studies
55(3) 278–284
2018 Jawaharlal Nehru University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0020881718796387

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