Reading Against the Grain: Gender and Modernity in the Colonial 'public Sphere' in Maharashtra, India
With British colonialism many new institutions including judiciary and modern educational institutions were inaugurated in India. With spread of English education circulation of knowledge and exchange of ideas on a large scale became a felt need for the newly educated class. During early nineteenth century printing press was established first in Bengal and then in Maharashtra. Many newspapers and pamphlets were published at subnational level since the 1830s. Following this a vast array of periodicals were published in many 'native' languages including Marathi during the first 100 years itself.
This paper is based on a project that aimed at tracing, documenting and critically analysing the complex terrain of print culture in Maharashtra by focusing on periodical publications in Marathi language. Though newspapers have been numerous and significant for development of nationalist ideology in general, the scope of this paper is limited to mapping formulations of gender and modernity through popular monthly magazines from 1850s to 1950s. I have attempted to re-read the chosen texts with the complex Sociological lens that privileges the intersectionality of caste, class and gender based perspectives.
While doing so I have analysed selected magazines from Marathi Dnyanprasarak initiated in 1850 to Stree magazine established in 1930. The questions that I ask are who were the main actors in this print world in Maharashtra? Can we term this print world as the 'Public Sphere' in the same way as Habermas and later scholars identify European print world in eighteenth century capitalist societies? Was it bifurcated into binary opposites of hegemonic and the counter-hegemonic or public and the counter-public? Which themes emerge from the discourses generated in the print world in Maharashtra from 1850 to 1950?