Author Biography

Kim Berry earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University in 1997; currently she is Professor and Chair of Critical Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Humboldt State University in northern California. Since 1992, she has conducted research in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India, where she has focused on rural women’s movements for social transformation. Her research, teaching, and activist interests include transnational and intersectional feminisms; postcolonial queer theory; theories of space, place and identity; the gendered and racialized effects of neoliberal globalization; and the ethics of transnational feminist research.

Abstract

Across the northwestern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, never-married, divorced, separated, abandoned and widowed women have joined together across differences of caste, class, ethnicity and region to organize as members of Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan (the Association of Empowered Single Women). Until recently the term single woman (ekal nari) was rarely, if ever, used locally to describe a particular woman’s circumstances of living outside the institution of marriage. Yet since the emergence of Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan (ENSS) in Himachal Pradesh in 2005, over 9,000 women have become dues-paying members of the organization, re-identifying as single women, and struggling collectively to craft lives of dignity and respect. In this article I focus on the new subject position of ekal nari (single woman) and the formation of a collective identity. I argue that as “ekal nari” is deployed within the context of a new social movement, it becomes a new subject position into which persons are called forth, resulting in both emancipatory as well as disciplinary effects.

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