Archives at NCBS | Public Lecture Series
56th edition
Monthly talks framed around explorations in and around archives. Discussions by artists, archivists, academics, lawyers, teachers, journalists and others.
The Dying Lineage
Gender, Social History and the Mahabharata
Uma Chakravarti
Friday, Jun 23 2023. 5:00pm.
Lecture Hall – 1 (Haapus), NCBS
As a historian who has worked on various issues in women’s history since the 1990s, I was becoming increasingly aware of the manner in which history had developed as a discipline in the last century or so. Despite the many changes it has undergone, it made it almost impossible to meaningfully use gender as an analytical category in unravelling the past. 
History has an overwhelming focus on the public sphere, primarily on political power and production processes that leaves women out of its purview. Attempts to include women within the framework of history has ended up becoming what has been called the ‘add women and stir’ approach that then allows historical analyses to continue more or less unchanged. And there is an acute need to go beyond this limited approach.
In an attempt to understand the gaps in the existing paradigms of history, I began to explore the well known text, the Mahabharata. And in this lecture, I want to situate a conversation around gender and history by starting with the politics of reproduction and the making and unmaking of a lineage in the Mahabharatha. I use this text to contextualize social history and the place of gender, and through this lecture, for a meaningful incorporation of gender as a central axis in writing social history. 
Uma Chakravarti is a distinguished feminist historian who has taught at Miranda House College for Women, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the nineteenth century, and on contemporary issues. Among her many publications are: Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism, Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai, Gendering Caste through a Feminist Lens, and many edited volumes. She is closely involved with the women’s movement as well as the movement for democratic rights in India, and has been part of many fact-finding teams to investigate human rights violations, communal violence, and state repression.