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Negotiating otherness: dilemmas of a non-Western researcher in the Indian sub-continent

By Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert


This paper focuses on certain methodological issues that arose while interviewing Indian women activists in Uttar Pradesh, a state of North India. These activists had actively contributed to the anti-colonial struggle from 1920 till India's independence in 1947. This paper addresses two key issues. Firstly, the category 'Other' was not a fixed category. Its meaning was continuously negotiable, both, in my relationship with respondents and in terms of what I understood to be feminist methodology. Moreover, in the Indian context it was difficult to follow the precepts of what I understood to be feminist methodology because I could not write about the respondent's experiences by using their own language. At the same time, present feminist concepts such as gender-equality, oppression and consciousness had little meaning for women born at the turn of the century. Secondly, there were dilemmas around interviewing Indian women which made me aware of issues of class, religion, gender and generation. This paper is divided in three main sections. The first section focuses on other sources of evidence such as official and unofficial records, newspapers and magazines which provide the initial framework as well as help to locate the historical context of any research. However, they have to be studied in conjunction with oral narratives, which provide the crucial link between all the other sources of evidence. The second section deals with the dilemmas of 'Otherness' and the third section focuses on the dilemmas that arose while conducting interviews

Topics: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1080/095892399102823
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:7520
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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