Dr S.N.Singh/ Feminist Research Methodology: Indigenous Indian Context and Emerging Issues at the Threshold of New Millennium

Dr Sudhir Narayan Singh,

Assistant Professor,

Department of English and Communication Skills,

The Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences, Bhiwani, Haryana, India.

Dr Allen

English Faculty, Department of English, Kerala Public School, Rewari, Haryana, India.


Research Methodology has always been a pivotal concern for the analysis and assessment of the great literary and non-literary discussions. Marxism, Feminism, Gyno-criticism and Post-feminism had been emerging critical jargon upon which modern, post-modern and new literary criticism grew and they altogether constituted pivot for creative literary practices and their assessment. The present paper is an attempt to discuss and highlight the use of feminism in indigenous Indian context for addressing Indian issues. Classical Feminism is coined, propounded and propagated by the theorists like Simon de Beauvoir, Elaine Showalter and Kate Millett but here we attempt to look at the Feminism which asks for the departure from the Classical Feminism and stresses upon the need of the derived form of indigenous Indian feminism.

Keywords: Feminist Research Methodology, Classical Feminism,                                    Derived Indian Indigenous Feminism.


To analyse, evaluate, asses any artistic and creative works of art have always been critical concerns for the erudite critics, scholars and thinkers since the very dawn of literary horizon. While glancing at the application of commonly available theories, available research methodologies in practice, and the methodologies practiced by the researchers of the physical, natural and basic sciences, the present study reaches to ultimate inference that these methods also cannot be applicable to the explorations of literary knowledge and can neither be realised, witnessed and experimented in literary works, nor the environment of artificial laboratory conditions fit into the literary studies. The principle framers and evaluators of literary works are supposed to consider the very inherent and varied nature as well as the type of any proposed and given work and its limitations.

In various specific circumstances people are projected, and in some cases subjected to series of unexpected and unforgettable experiences which they pen down in their creative ventures. Such creations are more personalized and less generalized in nature. Many a times a person’s experience owes to specific circumstance at specific geographical location. Such forcible subjection to a series of highly secluded experiences, and conversion of those unforgettable experiences into a literary form at times demand a specific literary tool for the study of the same. Thus, in such cases the emerging ‘Literature of Their Own’ leads to the need for the advent of Research Methodology of ‘their own’.

In a nutshell, this study attempts to discuss and highlight the use of feminism in indigenous Indian context for addressing Indian issues in particular, and South Asian context in general. Classical Feminism is coined, propounded and propagated by the theorists like Simon de Beauvoir, Elaine Showalter and Kate Millett but here the paper is an attempt to look at the Feminism which asks for the departure from the Classical Feminism and stresses upon the need of the derived form of indigenous Indian feminism.

 Feminist Research Methodology: Emerging Considerations

Even before opening any dialogue on the need and development of indigenous feminist theory, it must be considered that a person cannot be seen in isolation as he or she is a cultural construct. He is influenced by a lot many stimulants viz. socio- cultural, psychological, spiritual, emotional etc. Mentioning the same complexity of the human behaviour that is playing a pivotal role from back stage in the projection of human persona Dr. Sudhir Narayan Singh in his article English Studies in India asserts that:

A debate is still open on the future of English studies in India. Critics are in denial mode to practice further the western critical tools like catharsis, fancy, imagination, impressionism, expressionism, new criticism, formalism, structuralism, neo-historicism, post- structuralism, deconstruction, reader response theory etc.(1)

 Feminist Movements: West Versus East

Feminist movement as propagated by west is divided in three waves namely First Wave Feminism focussing on overturning legal inequalities of Suffragist Movement ranging from Nineteenth to early Twentieth Century; Second Wave Feminism spread over the decades of 1960’s to 1980’s trying to uproot the cultural inequalities, gender norms and establishing the egalitarian role of women in society; and the Third Wave Feminism of 1990’s to 2000’s presently referring to the diverse strains of feminist activities which, in turn, may be seen and perceived as both a continuation of the second wave and also as a response to its perceived failures. Eastern feminists seem to be projecting them in denial mode and trying to raise their voices by opening a novel and pivotal debate based on the origin and history of feminist voices.

Origin and History of Feminist Voices: A Novel and Pivotal Debate  

There are audible voices to develop the indigenous Indian Literary Theories of ‘their own- Indian Bred’ to assess the Indo-Anglian Literature in English where this study may be trying to demark its boundaries and thus, finally, the scholar’s attempt is to be marveling the work in the preview of feminist periphery but not of the Classical Feminism rather of the Derived Feminist perspectives, as long before the advent of First Wave Feminism of the Western European nations in the decades of 1870’s and 1880’s, a struggle for women’s emancipation in India was initiated both ‘in life and in literature’ by Meera Bai, (1498-1557) a Hindu mystic poet and devotee of Krishna when she raised her struggle of spiritual autonomy against the organised bastion of feudal patriarchy prevailing in sixteen century India of middle ages but the later centuries in India feminine voices were inaudible or hard to hear except a few exceptions and practitioners from life and literature who were able to voice their soul viz. Laxmi Bai (1835-1858), Tarabai Shinde (1850-1910), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Gauri Vishvanathan and Krishna Rayan etc.

 Feminist Research Methodology: Indigenous Stressors

The last four decades have witnessed a rapid and considerable change in both economy and technology, so personal and social life couldn’t remain an exception. Western literary critics are now claiming that feminism is over for their society and propagators of new literary theories of the modern era are declaring the dawn of Post-feminism in their sociological, cultural and literary practices whereas for the woman who belongs to Indian society dowry, honour killing, bride-burning, child marriages and domestic violence against woman, preference of male issues, sex-determination tests, choice based abortions of female foetuses, negligence of girl issues in child care, and very recently another alarming concern of notability in the form of acid attacks are projecting a different panorama of so called liberal Indian society. She is still distant away and far behind from becoming an independent decision making authority.

Feminist Research Methodology: A Psycho-Socio-Cultural Evolution

Like Marxism, Feminism also primarily came to be known as a sociological movement than a literary tool for assessing a creative work of art. Social, psychological and personal knowledge are as real as the knowledge obtained through experiment and so the same cannot be denied. Knowing a thing through experiments and knowing it through experience involves altogether a different process. Thus, it would also be highly relevant here to note that primarily all the existing research methodologies applicable to social and literary spheres were male centric. Describing above mentioned limitations in her paper entitled Feminist Research Methodology, Chandrakala Padia proclaims that:

Feminist Research cannot be methodological in the sense of scientific method as presented above. It does not believe in seeking abstract generalization and in maintaining the existing schism between the subject and the object. It alleges that the existing science methodology is abstract, male centric, and neutral. Research methods which overemphasize quantification force the researcher to concentrate only on structural question about action and totally ignore the subjective dimension of behaviour. It also overlooks the contradictions between action and consciousness. Such an approach further ignores the fact that women simultaneously oppose and conform to conditions that deny their freedom. (2)

Feminist Research Methodology: Formulating Principles

Furthermore, describing the principles of Feminist Research Methodology Chandrakala Padia stresses upon different methodology to be opted to know the ‘split between confirming behaviour and consciousness’ where the ‘overreliance on recording behaviour fails to tap the private terrain of consciousness’ and consequently ignore “the most important area of women’s creative expression of self in a society which denies that freedom in behaviour.”(3)

Feminist Research Methodology: Distinguishing Key Factors

In brief, Feminist Research Methodology can be concisely summed up under the following distinguished key factors:

  1. Acknowledging the Pervasive Gender Influence
  2. Focus on consciousness-Raising
  3. Rejection of the Subject/Object Separation
  4. Examination of Ethical Concern
  5. Propagating Women’s Emancipation
  6. Emphasis on Women Empowerment and Transformation

 Feminist Research Methodology: Indian Indigenous Concerns

Describing the gender based discrimination and violence against woman a feminist author Urvasi Butalia, Director, ‘Zubaan Books, an Imprints of Kali for Woman’ observes that:

The moment the doctor says, it is a girl, a struggle begins. For survival, for equal opportunities, and for letting the social needs cut her to size. In a male sociological order where she is meant to play a peripheral role she is trying to change the matrix. Hundred years back the largest revolution for women’s liberation began which took the road to woman’s emancipation. (4)

 The Threshold of New Millennium : Indian Pivotal Consolidations

Considering the issues of female foeticide Ms Urvasi Butalia further remarks critically that “there is no other country in the world where female fetuses are killed in the womb in such large numbers as in India”. Very recently another alarming concern of notability in the form of acid attacks is projecting a different panorama of Indian society that otherwise had tall towering claims of having equality and liberal democratic social set-up. Indian woman is still distant away and far behind from becoming an independent decision making authority. For instilling the decision making power and other psychological, sociological, cultural and spiritual empowerment of women the single mandatory thing to be incorporated in the holistic feminine persona of women is ‘Focus on Consciousness-Raising’ and thus, the consciousness-raising technique is stressed upon by Catharine A. Mackinnon. In her Feminism, Marxism, Method and the State, Catharine remarks that:

Consciousness-raising is the major technique of analysis, structure of organization, method of practice, and theory of social change of the women’s movement. (5)

It would also be appropriate here to imbibe the views of Maria Mies to make the life of women more visible and successful. Considering the up-gradation, improvisation and integration of the ‘repressed unconscious female subjectivity’ for having a ‘holistic feminine consciousness’ Maria Mies feels it mandatory for every feminist:

Feminist women must deliberately and courageously integrate their repressed, unconscious female subjectivity, i.e. their own experience of oppression and other discrimination, into the research process….if women and exploited groups are forced, out of self-preservation, to know the motives of their oppressors as well as how oppression and exploitation feel to the victims, they are better equipped to comprehend and interpret women’s experience. (6)

 The Threshold of New Millennium : Indian Indigenous Paradigm

For any author this is definitely a debatable subject to be contemplated and exploited as a theme and the same cause was coined by many feminist authors of the post colonial India because after independence equal right for the woman who comprises the rest half of the planet was yet to be given and so a new front for the freedom struggle was declared open. The backdrop against which the novels Arundhati Roy‘s The God of Small Things and Kiran Desai‘s The Inheritance of Loss can be read—located as they are in Kerala and West Bengal respectively, the two states in the Indian Republic which are the strongholds of Communism. The God of Small Things and The Inheritance of Loss on a close look appear to be engaged with critiquing of the ideological reality translated at the ground level. The present paper deals exclusively with my reading of the Booker Prize Winning authors, reflection and fictionalization of issues pertaining to the working of political ideology in India with reference to the representative characters like Velutha, the Parvan in The God of Small Things and the cook’s immigrant son Biju- returned to India in The Inheritance of Loss; it shows communism in the background, of communist ideology imported from Russia and China, at grass root level, at work on the lowest members in the society for promoting personal interests of local leaders. Both the novels vividly present of painful human stories.

These novels, both by women, also speak of a deep ingraining of the political clime on their creative faculties and the political frames that have shaped them. The working of political ideology woven into the texture of the social life that is questioned in the novels requires deep and intimate understanding to the decipher significance of the surface reality of the political credo manifest in communism.

 Feminist Research in Indigenous Indian Context, Marxism and Beyond: Miles to Cover and Methodologies to Uncover and Perpetuate

Marxist thought gave rise to the emergence of trade unions and working-class political parties in late nineteenth century Europe. Subsequently, growth of trade unionism, consciousness of workers as a class, and mass movements of workers and peasants are due to the spread of communist ideology in the world which rose to liberate the poor from the inhuman conditions leading to a life free from want and invested with human dignity. Twentieth century world history saw the rise of communist ideology as a political power and force which dominated the countries for the liberation of a great number of people from economic and social oppression. It won’t be an exaggeration to assert that the most of the feminist thinkers and modern propagators and prescribers look at the Marxist theories as the guiding diktats for them. In a nutshell, the journey of Indian woman from twentieth to twenty first century has been a long journey from innocence to experience, from ignorance to professional realism, from weakness towards empowerment in life and literature, advancing towards meeting and leaving various milestones behind, scaling new heights and going on a long way ahead.

Works Cited

  1. Singh, Sudhir Naryan.English Studies in India.” Virtuoso:A Referred Transnational Bi- Annual Journal of Language and Literature in English.2.2(2013):123-127.Print.
  2. Padia, Chardrakala. Feminist Research Methodology, Proceedings of the Third Orientation Course in Women’s Studies , March 23- April 9, 2001. p. -p. 3-5.
  3. Weskott, Marica. Feminist Criticism of the Social Sciences, Harvard Educational Review, p 429.
  4. Butalia, From Emancipation to Consumerism The Tribune International Women’s Day (Tuesday) March 08, 2011, New Delhi.
  5. MacKinnon, Catharine. Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State, in Feminist Theory, Ed. Nannerl O. Keohane, Michelle Z. Rosaldo, Barbara C. Gelpi. Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1982. p.5.
  6. Mies, Maria. Towards a methodology for feminist research, In G. Bowles and R. Kilen (Eds.), Theories of Women Studies, Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983. p. 121.



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