Feminist historians have particularly problematized the use of conventional archives by scholars, pointing to its dangers and limitations. They have made a strong case for expanding our archival arenas, to include material not conventionally regarded as archival. Shobna Nijhawan’s expansive book on women and girls’ Hindi periodicals in late colonial north India points precisely to the diversity and richness of such sources. She refocuses the scholar’s gaze on conversations and exchanges amongst upper caste, middle class Hindu women (and men), which shaped nationalist-feminist thought in early twentieth century United Provinces (present day Uttar Pradesh, henceforth UP). From the late nineteenth century, there was a rapid development of public institutions, libraries and print culture, with growing publishing houses, presses and periodicals in the region. This print explosion and the emerging vernacular materials are often not regarded as ‘serious’ and ‘authentic’. However, this book shows how they can provide us with multiple-layered understandings of women.
September 2012, volume 36, No 9