Archives at the National Centre for Biological Sciences
Public Lecture Series
46th edition
Monthly talks framed around explorations in and around archives. Discussions by artists, archivists, academics, lawyers, teachers, journalists and others.
Feminism, the breath in the body, the fire in the soul
Urvashi Butalia
Wednesday, Apr 13 2022. 5:00pm.
Faculty Hall, Main Building, IISc
In collaboration with the IISc Archives and the Centre for Public History, SMI
In the talk I want to reflect on a life spent in feminism and feminist activism. I want to ask: what does it mean to be a feminist, to choose to live a feminist life, what happens when you know you are a feminist or when you realise what feminism means to you? What are the next steps? And the choices you make, where do they lead you, what are their consequences and what are the questions they raise. For me, feminism, becoming a feminist, living a feminist life, these have been like breathing, and I have chosen to walk parallel and interconnected paths that were not necessarily individual choices but came as a result of my involvement in a movement - so it was because the women's movement, or activists in the movement, felt so strongly the absence of any literature, any writing, any knowledge on women that I chose to work in publishing and to start my own publishing house. But how then do feminist ideals and beliefs transform in environments that are essentially hostile to them? What are the obstacles such ideas and their actualisation have to confront? I'd like to address these questions by focusing on our work as publishers, also on my work as a writer, and on the transformations our publishing practice has undergone in the years we have been at it. I'd like, sequentially I think, to address the question of trying to create and sustain a feminist legacy, trying to document, archive, make accessible feminist knowledge, trying to work inter-generationally and finally to ask the question, have we, as feminists and activists who have spent our lives in this 'movement' failed at doing what we set out to do? I'd like to draw a parallel with the discourse on sexuality, on lgbtq+ identities and how the communities have worked to 'normalise' their concerns, and I'd like to ask - have we failed to do this? Has it even been on our agenda?
Urvashi Butalia co-founded Kali for Women in 1984 and in 2003, Zubaan. With over 35 years of experience in feminist and independent publishing, she has a formidable reputation in the industry in India and abroad. She also has a long involvement in the women’s movement in India, and is a well-known writer, both in academia and in the literary world. She has several works to her credit, key among which is her path-breaking study of Partition, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India which won the Oral History Book Association Award and the Nikkei Asia Award for Culture. She has also taught publishing for over 20 years and is on the advisory boards of a number of national and international organisations. She has received many awards, among which are the Pandora award for women’s publishing, the French Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres and the Padma Shri. 
Source: Zubaan Books