Book review: Shirin M. Rai and Carole Spary. Performing Representation: Women Members in the Indian Parliament

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 297
the overall elections took place in seven phases. Phases is also misspelled (p. 1). There is also the matter
of quoting facts incorrectly. In the J&K’s chapter, data referred to in the analysis do not add up to that
given in the tables in many instances.
The volume could have included chapters on Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, to draw parallels with
Madhya Pradesh, since the three exhibited identical trends in overturning Congress’s assembly winnings
in 2018, favouring the BJP in parliamentary elections a year later. Nonetheless, the book makes for a
compelling read. The chapters on Punjab and Kerala make noteworthy efforts to delve into the distinct
sociopolitical culture, political geography and electoral histories of these states, revealing why they
remained autonomous from the ‘national electoral wave’. A comparative analytical framework is applied
for studying Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The studies of Assam and of Maharashtra lean towards
explaining the verdict at the intrastate level, paving way for this approach in the future. Notwithstanding
the errors, the strength of the book lies in the thoroughness of the research on the state results, along with
being a rich reservoir of empirical information. This makes it an essential resource for scholars interested
in state politics in India.
Ishta Vohra
Ishta Vohra
Motilal Nehru College (Eve)
University of Delhi, Delhi, India
Shirin M. Rai and Carole Spary. Performing Representation: Women Members in the Indian Parliament.
New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 2019. 398 pages. `995.
DOI: 10.1177/23210230211043185
At present, Indian Parliament has the highest number of women MPs since 1952, but at 14% it is
appallingly low compared to other developed countries. The Women’s Reservation Bill, which proposes
to reserve 33% seats in the lower house and in the state legislative assemblies, continues to remain
pending in the Parliament. The questions around women’s representation in Parliament have usually
engaged feminist scholars to present the advantages and disadvantages of the reservation policy. Rai and
Spary move beyond these micro concerns to focus on the basic idea of engendering institutions
in structural, cultural and material manifestations. Their work is a rich repository of qualitative and
quantitative analysis with the strengths of a feminist participatory research model where the authors are
not neutral bystanders but deeply immersed in the process itself. Theoretical frameworks, historical and
spatial mapping, oral narratives and the delving into the numbers create a study not just of the presence
or absence of women in Parliament but of the very idea of representation in all its intersectional nuances.
The first part of the book lays down the nuanced methodological overview and examines the creation
of the Parliament in its colonial and spatial context, interrogating its role in the changing times. The
second part uses the imagery of bodies and gendered representation to examine the links between the
familial, social and the institutional. It provokes and teases out the idea of women’s representation in
Parliament, especially in terms of quantity and quality. In doing so it raises question on the complex
interplay of diversity and intersectional identities. The third part is the crux of the book: the analysis of
the presence and participation of women members in the parliamentary debates, stressing their exclusion

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT